Sunday, April 26, 2015

Inevitable decline

By Jojo Robles 
It’s practically inevitable: All Presidents since 1986 have experienced drops in popularity as the end of their terms approaches. The current Chief Executive is no exception to this phenomenon.
For instance, the wildly popular Cory Aquino, upon her assumption to the highest office in the land, could get away with declaring a revolutionary government to basically do whatever she wanted. Nearing the end of her tumultuous reign, Cory could not even summon up a fraction of the early crowds of supporters that were a hallmark of her rallies when she took on the task of calling for the extension of lease of the US military bases in the Philippines – a job that her government miserably failed to accomplish.
Cory’s successors, for various reasons, suffered the same fate. Fidel Ramos was hobbled by the first Asian currency crisis, which wiped out the economic gains that his term had ushered in.
Joseph Estrada, while he failed to complete his term, quickly turned from a popular populist leader upon his election into a bad parody of himself, until he was ousted for his alleged involvement in the illegal numbers game of jueteng, among other sins. And Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was helpless to reverse the perception of her term as corruption-riddled, which caused her survey numbers to dip into negative territory.
President Noynoy Aquino seems to be suffering the same fate of his predecessors, for yet another reason entirely. The second Aquino has been stuck with the “noynoying” tag, which has led to the widespread belief that he has done nothing of significance after unreasonably raising expectations that he could deliver everything from good governance to basic infrastructure as he enters the sixth and last year of his term.
Of course, like other Presidents before him, Aquino is fighting the waning of his once-stratospheric popularity with everything that he’s got. And like those who went before him, he seems doomed to fail.
Aquino’s reason for resisting the decline has to do with ensuring that he stays out of jail when he steps down. This is why he repeatedly declares these days, when he attends even the most insignificant of public functions, that he is not a lame duck and that his power to make his chosen successor win in next year’s elections remains undiminished.
The reality, as survey after survey has shown, is that Aquino is just barely keeping his head above the waters of negative acceptability and popularity. And there is nothing that he can do, it seems, to reverse the trend.
It is significant that Malacanang seems to have abandoned the strategy of pretending to ignore the results of the surveys which show an irreversible decline in his popularity. Where once the palace shrugged off survey data with dismissive statements about just continuing to do the work of governance, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma now says that “there is significant room for improvement and... [a] need to continually ascertain the needs of our people.”
What Aquino seems hell-bent on doing is to continue making public appearances to prove that he is still working, very much in control and the possessor of game-changing endorsement powers. If subsequent surveys show that Aquino’s poll numbers are continuing to plumb new, unfamiliar depths despite his efforts, I expect the campaign to further intensify.
There is no other option for Aquino, really. But history and the “stickiness” of the popular perception that he is a failure as President are against him.
I see no reason why Aquino’s numbers would improve in the coming days, despite his denials and Johnny-come-lately activity. It’s just not going to happen.
* * *
The decision of the Supreme Court voiding the government’s P268.8 million contract between the Commission on Elections and its favorite technology provider Smartmatic to repair and refurbish the controversial Precinct Court Optical Scan machines should spur the poll body to look for other ways to ensure that next year’s electoral exercise will continue as scheduled. There is simply no reason why Comelec should just throw up its hands and warn darkly that a “no election” scenario is in the offing, like a child who has been denied some coveted candy.
After all, it’s perfectly possible that Comelec itself is to blame for the fix that it’s in, when it delayed action on the refurbishing contract until the very last minute – or at least mere months before the retirement of former Chairman Sixto Brillantes. It stands to reason that Smartmatic, right after the 2013 elections, sought approval for the contract, to give itself time to inspect and fix its PCOS machines.
But the poll agency didn’t appear to have any sense of urgency about the matter. It was as if the Brillantes commission fully intended to present the public (perhaps with the cooperation of Smartmatic itself) with a fait accompli, a situation where there was nothing any more that could be done about the deal.
If a new bidding for the refurbishing contract is required, Comelec should do that, double quick. It should no longer pine for the time when it was getting everything it wants and having its contractor provide it – especially since Brillantes is no longer there.

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