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Philippines: The new government under President Aquino - an analysis

Philippines: The new government under President Aquino - an analysis

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Published by: Mises Fan on Jul 30, 2010
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The strengthening of democratic and legal institutions could be the great legacy of the Aquino government. For this government to be successful would give an important boost to democratic forces across the developing world, and a concerted effort especially by Europe to support the Aquino administration is therefore called for.
 
Philippines
:
The new government under President Aquino– an analysis
Berlin, 22
 
 July 2010
Report on current political eventsN° 40/10
 Jules Maaten
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For more information please visit:www.southasia.fnst.orgOn June 30th, 2010, the new President of The Philippines,Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was inaugurated followingan election victory that was as decisive as it was, just acouple of months before, unexpected. Noynoy Aquinowas as reluctant a candidate as he was popular, being afirst-term Senator and the son of Liberal Party SenatorNinoy Aquino, who was famously assassinated, very likelyat the instructions of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in1983 upon his return at the airport that is now namedafter him, which caused the people’s uprising thatbrought Ninoy’s widow (and Noynoy’s mother) Corazon“Cory” Aquino to the Presidency in 1986 and by the waywas of great influence to other democratic revolutionsacross the world in the late 1980s including Latin Amer-ica and Eastern Europe.Cory Aquino’s Presidency and that of her Christian-Democrat successor Fidel Ramos brought a period of relative democratic stability, and some economic growth,to a country that had been plagued for decades by the
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Designated FNF-Project Director Philippinesplunder and undemocratic rule of Ferdinand Marcos andhis cronies. However, Ramos was succeeded by theincapable populist and former film actor JosephEstrada, whose rule was plagued by accusations of corruption and plunder. He was soon replaced in yetanother people’s uprising by his seemingly skilled vice-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (daughter of a pre-vious President), whose administration then descendedinto even worse misrule, cronyism and corruption partlyat the behest of her husband Mike Arroyo. The Filipinopeople seemed to carry this burden with resignation,with the upcoming Presidential elections focussing oneconomic issues, in particular the fight against poverty.The Liberal Party had just about survived a split a fewyears earlier, with some members joining the Arroyocamp, and made their competent leader SenatorManuel ‘Mar’ Roxas (son of a previous President) theirPresidential candidate.When the funeral of Cory Aquino, a few months beforethe elections, led to a massive reawakening of thepopular revolutionary sentiments of the 1980s thepeople’s call for the candidature of Cory’s only son
 
 
 
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2Noynoy became unstoppable and Mar Roxas steppedaside to make way for his reluctant Senatorial colleague.Mar became the Vice Presidential candidate on the Lib-eral Party ticket.
President Aquino at his inauguration
The May 2010 elections focused on the issue of corrup-tion. Campaigns centred on projecting the candidates asthe anti-thesis of GMA. Aquino duly won the electionswith unprecedented support, with the government’scandidate ending fourth and barely reaching doublefigures. Aquino ended with 42%, followed by formerPresident Estrada (26%), Senator Manny Villar of thePartido Nacionalista (15%) and only then GilbertoTeodoro of Lakas Kampi CMD (11%). Mar Roxas, althoughleading for much of the time in opinion polls, lost the Vice-Presidential election on a knife’s edge: Makati Citymayor and Estrada running-mate Jejomar Binay 42%,Mar Roxas 40%, Manny Villar’s running mate SenatorLoren Legarda 12%.Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration was a massive affair withover 100,000 people present, a sign of the enormousexpectations that the people have of his Presidency. Hisinaugural speech did not disappoint. He stressed “Nomore influence-peddling, no more patronage politics, nomore stealing. No more sirens, no more shortcuts, nomore bribes. It is time for us to work together oncemore”. In fact, the leadership by example of Aquino isalready paying off as traffic enforcers are now noticingfewer cases of road abuse “wangwang" (sirens and blink-ers).And:
“Although I was born to famous parents, I know and feel the problems of ordinary citizens. We all know what it is like to have a government that plays deaf and dumb. We know what it is like to be denied justice, to be ignored by those in whom we placed our trust and tasked to become our advocates.” 
 Mr. Aquino acknowledged the need to make the Philip-pines "attractive to investors," pledged to cut red tape,combat corruption and create a level playing field forcompanies.The inauguration was attended by a number of foreignguests, among them Timor President Ramos Horta,Spain was represented on ministerial level, and alsoattending were Liberal International President Hans vanBaalen MEP, FNF Regional Director Rainer Adam and alarge group of Asian Liberals representing the Councilof Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD).A good speech, however, does not yet make a goodPresidency, and Aquino’s first appointments and policydecisions were awaited eagerly.Soon after the inauguration the administration an-nounced an executive order fleshing out the constitu-tional guarantee on the people’s right to information.This is a 180-degree change from the secretive, furtiveatmosphere that surrounded Mrs. Arroyo, who used"executive privilege" - a gag on officials of the execu-tive branch - to mask corrupt practices.The national deficit, expected to reach record levels thisyear, is a major problem. For the first five months alone,the country's budget shortfall has already reachedP162.1 billion ($3.49 billion), exceeding the govern-ment's target. It is looking at a full-year deficit of P325billion ($7 billion) or 3.9 percent of the Philippines'gross domestic product. Aquino promised not to raisenew taxes but instead run after tax evaders. FinanceSecretary Cesar Purisima and Budget Secretary Floren-cio ‘Butch’ Abad (a former LP chairman who has alsobeen active in CALD) announced that a crackdown ontax cheats and the cleansing of revenue-collectionagencies would help plug the deficit. Purisima sentnotice to wealthy professionals (lawyers, doctors, con-sultants) who make up only 10 percent of all personalincome taxes collected. That is going to make some of his middle class supporters uncomfortable. But as thePresident himself stressed, he expected his own peopleto provide the right example. Charges against suspectedtax evaders and smugglers have already been filed.The new president has assembled a generally seasonedcabinet comprised in large part of old faces from hismother’s administration, former Arroyo associates whoresigned when the electoral scandal came to light in2005 (such as Cesar Purisima and Dinky Soliman), aswell as Liberal Party allies. Alberto Romulo returns asForeign Affairs Secretary. Former Human Rights Com-missioner Leila de Lima is the new Justice Secretary.Mar Roxas is likely to be appointed to a prominentcabinet position, and Senatorial candidate (and CALDsecretary general) Neric Acosta to get the high profileposition of Environment Secretary. LP member ProcesoAlcala is the Secretary of Agriculture. The capable NagaCity Mayor Jesse Robredo has been appointed head of 

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