FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2015 - 12:00am

A “zombie presidency.” That is how Walden Bello described the remaining months of the Aquino administration.

Bello resigned last week from his congressional seat representing Akbayan, the party-list group aligned with the administration and sometimes called the “Palace communists.” He could no longer, in principle and in conscience, support this presidency.

Bello has, since then, outlined the reasons he withdrew his support for Aquino. Some of those reasons were policy differences. The more interesting, of course, is his narration of the arrogant and vulgar manner Aquino treats his allies and camp followers.

We have seen glimpses of that arrogant and vulgar attitude in the President’s public utterances. Bello’s detailed account of those emotionally bruising encounters with Aquino makes us wonder why those around him, some expressing disdain for the man in private conversations, continue to hold on to their appointive posts.

If one cannot respect the President, how could one continue to serve him? Serving a president is always a test of one’s honesty to one’s self.

In the days after the Mamasapano incident, there were calls for Mar Roxas to resign his post. The Interior Secretary was excluded from the loop on a matter that is in his area of responsibility. That means he was distrusted by his boss.

Mar Roxas, of course, did not resign. After the Board of Inquiry released its report on the mess that is Mamasapano, Roxas even attempted a feeble defense of the President who had less than full trust in him.

If the thought of resigning ever crossed Roxas mind, or continues to infest it, it is now too late for him to do so. Bello’s resignation stole the thunder from the act of withdrawing political support for Aquino. If Roxas repeats that gesture, he will be dismissed as a copycat.

All of politics is timing. The moment for Roxas to surprise us with an uncharacteristic show of moral courage has long passed.

The political window for leaping out and emerging an independent political giant passed by Roxas. From hereon he could only be another gnome laboring in the ruins of a crumbled presidency. He will be as forgettable as the superfluous presidency he chose to continue serving in exchange for what is possibly a meaningless electoral endorsement. 

On hindsight, Roxas is probably as guilty as Aquino in allowing the heroic police commandos to die. Early in the morning of January 25, he was in the loop, having been appraised of the unfolding tragedy in the cornfield. He did nothing, just as Aquino did nothing, to prevent the bloodshed from worsening.

There were telltale signs leading to precisely this sort of calamity. Recall Roxas camped out with Aquino in Zamboanga when armed members of the MNLF occupied seaside villages. The two seemed to be playing generals, overriding the chain of command. The result was horrible devastation and an intolerable loss of life.

The lives of our fighting men and those of the other side were taken lightly in both Zamboanga and Mamasapano. That put blood on all their hands.

The Mamasapano incident, along with the indecision, the inaction and the lying that went with it from the highest quarters, marked a sea-change in the political fortunes of the Aquino administration.

It was a rude awakening for our people. It unmasked the voluble, boastful and self-righteous leadership as a fraud. The men at the top of this government could not manage a crisis in real time and could not face up to the consequences. Under fire, they retreat into denial. Under duress, they lie to us.

In 2010, Joker Arroyo warned us that a “student council” was taking over. We did not expect the consequences to be quite so bloody.

 After Mamasapano, the Aquino presidency was reduced into a tolerated leadership. If it is not ousted from office, it is only because doing so will be a shameful waste of time and effort. It is a presidency at its sunset and people would rather await the new day take its due course.

After Mamasapano and all the lying that ensued, this administration has lost the ability to inspire our people. Every speech the President delivered since then seemed intentionally designed to court popular contempt.

Aquino’s mother was understood as incompetent; but she was not despised. The son, who is in constant difficulty choosing the right words, is now seen as despicably inept.

Political leadership is always exercised through well-crafted words. That makes Aquino’s constant difficulty choosing the right words politically fatal.

Distrusted but tolerated, the Aquino presidency met its political death January 25.   But Aquino himself has not yet realized that. He will go through the motions of leading the nation without effectively accomplishing that.

For this reason, I find Walden Bello’s description of the closing months of the Aquino II presidency so poetically precise. Zombies are mythical beings, dead men walking, exercising their malignant presence because they failed to realize they are already dead.

This is the problem with providing elected national leaders fixed terms. Sometimes, like today, they are effectively politically dead before their terms end — condemned to continue mounting rostrums, delivering lousy speeches to a public already tuned out.


For the second year running, Meralco bagged several Quill awards from the advertising community. Among Meralco’s award-winning entries is an infomercial designed to inform as well as empower electricity consumers.

This, too, is so apt.

As we enter a long, hot summer threatened with power shortages, our consumers can help mitigate government’s failure to strategically plan our power sector by exercising better consumer economics. We have no other choice.


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