Thursday, April 2, 2015

Outdoing Cory

By Jojo Robles
The creation by President Noynoy Aquino of a “peace council” to spread the good word about his proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law has given me a serious Cory Aquino flashback. And the more I think about it, the more I remember how Cory tried to pressure the Senate during her term to extend the use by the Americans of their military bases in Clark and in Subic by calling for mass actions which took the issue outside of Congress and onto the streets.
The problem confronting Cory’s son these days is that he can’t very well call for protest actions to push for his pet law. That course of action is no longer open to the current Aquino – unless he really wants to find out if the people support his peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or not.
Because like Cory’s pro-bases rallies near the end of her term, Noynoy’s peace council is nothing but a propaganda ploy and a pressure tactic. His creation of a so-called council of elders to look over the law’s provisions should be understood as nothing more than the seeking of a second opinion – or a third, actually, now that both the police Board of Inquiry and the Senate have given their verdict on the Mamasapano Massacre that blew away whatever chances Aquino had of having Congress give its usual rubber-stamp approval to the BBL.
Aquino desperately needs someone to be on his side because he feels, with a lot of justification, that he only has the MILF itself and a handful of benighted loyalists like Senator Antonio Trillanes still rooting for him. This is why any careful inspection of the membership of the proposed council will immediately reveal that the President wants it packed with people who will basically agree with whatever he says.
Why, for instance, would Aquino nominate businessman Jaime Zobel de Ayala to his council, if he is not counting on Ayala’s family to “reimburse” him for all the contracts awarded to a conglomerate that never had it so good since the time Cory was President? Why would Aquino even consider appointing former Ambassador Howard Dee to this body, if he didn’t believe that his sister’s father-in-law would support him no matter what?
And why, if Aquino wanted true peace, would he name to his council the two Catholic bishops most identified with his administration, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas? What’s wrong with real independent senior clergymen like retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz and even Father Eliseo Mercado, who has made it his life’s work to live among the Moros even if he is a Catholic priest?
Malacanang has declared that Aquino’s peace council will merely provide inputs to Congress and the people, so that they will better understand the BBL that he desperately wants approved. This is a laudable motive, surely – except that it should have been done long before the Mamasapano incident, when most people and even most lawmakers had not even heard of BBL.
So what is the value of any recommendations that will be made by Aquino’s handpicked council? Nothing except propaganda.
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But given how the people have sunk Aquino’s once-stratospheric popularity ratings to record lows mainly because of his mishandling of both the BBL and the Mamasapano carnage (the two issues are conjoined umbilically), I really understand why he can no longer appeal to the people, like his mother once did. Then again, we all know how Cory’s last-minute pitch to save the American bases ended – with the refusal of the Senate to extend the bases’ leases.
I also cannot understand why Aquino has decided to hitch his entire presidency to the BBL, with its one-sided provisions eagerly approved by his negotiating panel even before Congress was given a copy. And even after the fiasco in Mamasapano, Aquino has refused to give an inch, warning the people even to start counting body bags if his proposed law is not approved.
So be it. But Aquino must realize that there is a huge chance that the BBL will not pass, and especially not within the deadline that he and the MILF want it passed.
So I guess we will have to bear the pathetic sight of Aquino doing everything he can to have his pet legislation signed into law, over and above the objections not only of Congress but of the entire populace that has grown tired of his monomaniacal obsessions.
At least Cory still had some popularity left near the end of her term to muster crowds to back her up when she sought the continued stay of the US bases. Noynoy doesn’t even have a popular following anymore, as proven by his failed call for people to wear his talismanic yellow ribbon in support of his presidency, at a time when his popularity had not even sunk to the abysmal depths that it now occupies.
By the end of her term, Cory was as lame a duck politically as any President who had lost relevance in just a few short years. But judging from the hatred that her son now faces, I think it’s safe to say that Noynoy has finally outdone his mother.

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