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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fumbling



Summoning Police Director Benjamin Magalong, chair of the Board of Inquiry (BOI) into the Mamasapano incident, to the Palace is so clearly in bad taste and in bad form. But bad taste and bad form seems to infect every move the Palace made since the Mamasapano incident.
Magalong is among those shortlisted to be chief of the PNP. The President makes the appointment. If this fine police officer was overcome with ambition, he could be vulnerable.
What, in Heaven’s name, impelled the Palace to invite the chairman of the BOI to visit the President? Could it be to massage the report or redirect the spin so that the President is treated in better light? That seemed to be the thrust of Palace propagandists.
By inviting Magalong to see the President, the Palace made him suspect. Immediately, his visit became the subject of intrigue. Magalong had to come out stating strongly that the BOI Report stands unaltered.
This is so unfair to the man. 
Palace spokesmen have since claimed, before a scandalized public, that the purpose of the “visit” was merely to thank the BOI for the yeoman’s job it did. If that was the only reason for summoning an officer in the eye of political controversy, the Palace should have simply sent him a Hallmark greeting card.
Days before this happened, word leaked that President Aquino had been dating one of the contestants in a beauty contest. The contestant won the contest. The judges were all allies of Aquino. The poor contestant, who very likely won entirely on her merits, became the subject of intrigue.
It is good the President goes out on dates at this critical moment where the turn of events has been unkind to him. The dating might help him find proportion and perspective in dealing with the challenges. Unfortunately, those he dates are quickly hounded by derogatory speculation.
These days, everything Aquino touches turns to dust.
When the President disappears from public view, every sort of rumor runs amuck. When he materializes to deliver his uniformly sophomoric speeches, he is bound to tell lies. When he tries to explain himself, the public tunes out.
Aquino has been fumbling his way through this worsening crisis of confidence in his rule. He has not, it seems, mapped out a clear strategy for political survival. He is unable to say anything with conviction or appear in public without being heckled.
The Pulse Asia survey released this week shows Aquino’s political capital evaporating at extraordinary speed. No President, since Pulse Asia started doing surveys, has fallen so much and so quickly.
The erosion of public confidence in Aquino is clear. His strategy for containing this crisis and winning back some ascendancy is not.
The massive erosion of public support for the sitting president is alarming. It translates into a dissipation of Aquino’s political capital. Without political capital, Aquino could not imaginably reconsolidate his rule.
One thing about the dissipation of political capital is that it is nearly always irreversible. This is especially true when leaders become prone to fumbling as they scramble to reverse the trend of public rejection.
In the case of Aquino, post-Mamasapano, fumbling seems to be the norm.
When the decided not to proceed the Villamor Air Base to meet the remains of the Fallen 44, his excuse was that the event was not on his schedule. In fact, it was on no one’s schedule. No one expected this bloody debacle.
The opinion surveys confirm that his non-appearance is a major factor in the tsunami of public rejection that happened.
When he tried to obscure his role in the disastrous law enforcement operation, the whole thing backfired. Citizens felt they were being lied to — by their President no less.
  As he continues to refuse making a public apology, he courts only further alienation. The more the dead commandos are elevated to the status of heroes, the more Aquino is seen as heel.
Aquino’s obsession with getting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) passed as soon as possible only aggravates a crumbling public relations position. The last survey shows a majority of Mindanaoans reject the BBL.
After Mamasapano, a majority of Filipinos now completely distrust the MILF. In an instant, the constituency for BBL evaporated. The more the Aquino administration embraces this proposed legislation, the more disdain they will reap from an agitated public.
Read Barbara Tuckman’s brilliant classic The March of Folly.  It recounts with abundant insight how empires were lost because emperors followed what seemed to make sense to them — but appears a total folly to others.
Passing the BBL makes sense to Aquino and a handful of his closest allies. Should he attempt to railroad this polarizing bill, the whole thing could spark a civil war. Those profoundly convinced this bill should not become law, and there is a great number of them, are not about to be bullied into surrendering their opinion.
Over the past few days, according to reports, parachute journalists have been dropping in. They are attracted by the prospect of a government crumbling under the weight of idiocy.
Over a dinner of very passionate Filipinos the other night, I was pointedly asked about the prospect of this government crumbling. I said the prospect is probably a distant one — as long as Aquino resists his own propensity for shooting both his feet.
Any collapse will be self-inflicted.
The greater likelihood is that Aquino — confused, “hurt” and feeling completely betrayed — could throw everything up in the air and simply walk away from his post. He strikes me as that sort of personality.

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