The Philippine economy fared better than those of other members of the Association of Southeast Asian nations. Foreign direct investments (FDI) exceeded government targets. Remittances from overseas Filipino workers, as usual, increased. Additionally, the business process outsourcing, construction (private), and mining sectors performed well. However, economic growth in 2014 has been below expectations and projections. Unfortunately, what some economists said about the economy picking up because of the Yolanda rehabilitation efforts failed to materialize. The Aquino government has forgone many opportunities because of underspending.
So why did President Aquino underspend? It won’t be surprising for him to claim that it was due to the Supreme Court’s ruling on DAP. However, he is already running out of credible excuses. How can he justify the failure or refusal to spend the budget his government asked for 2014 when DAP, to begin with, was not part of that budget? Also, certainly, Gloria Arroyo and the barely there opposition politicians can no longer be blamed for Aquino’s economic lapses.
Interestingly, there are insinuations that the underspending for 2014 is deliberate. President Aquino could be trying to throttle this year’s economic growth to make it easier to achieve more impressive figures next year. Of course, if 2014’s economic performance isn’t stellar, a better performance next year will easily translate to more impressive growth rates. Impressive economic numbers will be useful in trying to prevent Aquino from becoming a lame duck. It may also lend him some credibility as he anoints his successor.
An even darker side of Binay
This year, the Vice-President graduated from being taunted for his dark skin to being assailed for his even darker secrets. One by one, allegations of corruption and serious misdeeds against the second highest ranking official of the country are surfacing. From the allegedly overpriced Makati Parking Building to the so-called Hacienda Binay and the recently investigated Makati Science High School overprice, it seems the worst is yet to come for the former Makati mayor who wants to become the next president of the Philippines. There’s something darker in the Binay who cheated on his wife, refused to heed to President Aquino’s call to shun the wang-wang, raised and defended children who don’t respect protocols, and backed off from a debate challenge he himself posed.
Definitely, these revelations could only be considered advantageous for the country. Thanks to 2014’s forte of highlighting the negatives, the public is now forewarned of the dark side of the 2016 presidential elections front-runner. It’s dismaying to find out that Filipinos voted for a gravely corruption-tainted politician to become the country’s vice-president but it’s rather consolatory that all of these are slowly being revealed more than a year before the presidential elections.
The luxurious lifestyle of high profile criminals in Bilibid
Neither surprising nor shocking: The New Bilibid Prison has VIP inmates who enjoy luxurious lifestyles. More than just the access to mobile phones and computers, these inmates have wireless Internet connection, Jacuzzis, entertainment systems, and hotel-like rooms with full furnishing and myriad appliances. Some even managed to build a recording studio and a concert stage. Others have copious wads of cash that they need money counters to have these accounted for. It’s not surprising to find drugs and guns but all of these exist inside Bilibid in amounts and forms that can still be shocking. Just imagine your reaction to a machine gun being hauled out of one prison cell.
You just have to “bilibid.” All of these were found and confiscated inside the prison cells of what is supposedly the country’s main maximum security penitentiary after Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima conducted a surprise inspection inside the New Bilibid Prison compound. Disappointingly, this inspection wouldn’t have happened had there been no exposé from one leading media network. Nevertheless, the open secret is now made more open so the government should just do its job and put things in their right order.
Another offense by a US serviceman and VFA issues
Many Filipino politicians have always wanted to have the VFA reviewed or even cancelled. This year, another reason adds to the need to have the Visiting Forces Agreement reevaluated. The death of transgender Jennifer Laude allegedly caused by American Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton shows how the Philippines is being treated as an inferior party in an agreement with the United States.
The death of Laude is not just a simple case of murder. It is even more than just an issue of prejudice or hate against homosexuals or transexuals. It is a case that highlights the kind of treatment Americans accord to Filipinos. This year has shown how vague the VFA is in its role in helping the country deal with foreign forces that are intruding into Philippine territory, in addressing the Chinese incursion into Philippine waters in particular. After the Laude-Pemberton case, it is becoming even clearer that the Philippines is not given the kind of respect it deserves as an ally.
Malacañang’s budget maneuvers and deception
Again, President Aquino can brag that the country will not be having a reenacted budget next year. The President signed the 2015 National Budget Law before the year ended. But behind this feat being touted by the Aquino government as an indication of efficiency is the multitude of deception and maneuvering to retain the shadow of Aquino’s DAP practice. The 2015 National Budget is viewed as an attempt to legalize DAP by introducing a new definition of savings (which contradicts the ruling made by the Supreme Court). Moreover, there are appropriations deemed suspicious like the irrigation projects for LGUs (which should be under the National Irrigation Administration), as cited by Aquino ally Senator Miriam Santiago.
2014 has shown how easy it is for a popular president to deceive people to avoid disturbing the political status quo. Hopefully, the remaining principled politicians of this country realize how Aquino is already overusing his popularity to further the same old patronage politics that he supposedly wants to quash with his Tuwid na Daan theme. Thankfully, the country has promptly uncovered the darkness behind another extremely popular would-be presidential candidate. Voters should have learned enough from President Aquino’s term. Popularity rarely depicts the true nature of a person’s character. Instead, it is a very effective tool for deception and a long-lasting fuel for detrimental egocentrism.
2013 ended with a Binay news item that eventually led to opinion columns buzzing with unflattering pieces about the Binays as 2014 started. Let’s hope 2014 is not going to end with another Binay issue. Better yet, let’s hope that the year culminates with something good even if it’s about the Binays – like more solid evidences on their alleged corruption.
Stock photos from POC. Some rights reserved.