Part 2: Did Aquino deliver on his promises?

AT A GLANCE

 

MANILA, Philippines – In his 2010 campaign, President Benigno Aquino III made a 16-point social pact with the Filipino people, which eventually became the cornerstone of his administration.

Rappler divided the 16 points of his Social Contract with the Filipino People into 7 clusters – Corruption, Economy, Poverty, Justice, Overseas Filipino Workers, Peace and Order, and Environment.

 FIVE YEARS. Relatives and supporters of victims of the infamous massacre visit the site where 58 people were killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, in Mindanao on November 21, 2014, ahead of the 5th anniversary of the worst political massacre of the country. File photo by Mark Navales/AFP

JUSTICE

From justice that money and connections can buy to a truly impartial system of institutions that deliver equal justice to rich or poor.

Aquino earlier vowed that the Maguindanao massacre case, one of the world's worst cases of election violence and media killings, will be completed before his term expires in 2016. But with only less than a year left, this seems impossible.

Ordinary criminal cases take years to resolve in the slow Philippine justice system. How much more the Maguindanao massacre case that is beyond ordinary with 58 victims and 198 suspects?

Aquino tagged the Maguindano massacre trial as the litmus test of the Philippine justice system. Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said if no conviction will be obtained by 2016, it would mean the “wheels of justice in this country really grind so slowly." 

And so they do. The trial now faces further delay, as Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes applied for a vacancy at the Court of Appeals (CA).

The case moved so slowly that the prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Sr died even before getting a sentence. Unlike the victims who were murdered mercilessly, Ampatuan was given a proper burial and was treated a king until the very end. (READ: Ampatuan Sr, Maguindanao massacre suspect, buried)

ARRIVAL. Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sru2019s body arrives in his hometown Shariff Aguak noon of July 18. Hundreds of relatives and supporters attend his burial this afternoon. Photo by Althea Herschell Ballentes/Rappler

ARRIVAL. Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sru2019s body arrives in his hometown Shariff Aguak noon of July 18. Hundreds of relatives and supporters attend his burial this afternoon.

Photo by Althea Herschell Ballentes/Rappler

This recent development only means one thing for the families: justice delayed is justice denied, while the suspects, both those in and out of prison, continue to live like lords. (READ: Ampatuan son released after posting P12M bail)

Meanwhile, in the New Bilibid Prison, VIP prisoners enjoy freedom and luxury, as prison cells are fully furnished with a recording studio, cash vaults, large flat screen televisions, and even a jacuzzi.

This is not a new sight in the NBP. But what is appalling is the extent with which wealthy criminals enjoy freedoms within the very institution that should be carrying out their sentences. They continue to live like kings while other inmates make do with the meager supplies they are given. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Drug lords, murderers, and high living in Bilibid). 

Malacañang admitted the administration has known about these illegal activities for a long time; but said the "deep" problem cannot be solved in "just one moment."

De Lima has vowed that heads will roll after a full investigation into how these prisoners were able to smuggle in high valued goods and drugs into their cells.

It has been a long-standing issue in the agency. To this day, no one has been prosecuted. Time and again, officials are relieved, new heads are appointed, investigations are conducted but the ultimate problem persists. 

  

OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS

From a government that treats its people as an export commodity and a means to earn foreign exchange, disregarding the social cost to Filipino families to a government that creates jobs at home, so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity; and when its citizens do choose to become OFWs, their welfare and protection will still be the government’s priority.

Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFWs) remittances accounted for 8.4% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2013, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando Tetangco.

Malacañang claimed the number of OFWs has significantly been reduced during the time of Aquino, from 10 million to 8.4 million Filipinos. They attribute this to the supposed increasing number of local jobs.

Despite the administration’s claims, many OFWs still brave the risks of a life outside the country. The recent case of Mary Jane Veloso highlighted the issue and, consequently, put the government in the spotlight. After 5 years of being in line for execution, it was only in 2015 when her case made headlines, pushing the government to exhaust all means possible. (READ: FAST FACTS: The case of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso) 

FINAL APPEAL. Mary Jane in court in Yogyakarta during the hearing for her judicial review request in March 2015. File photo by Bimo Satrio/EPA

FINAL APPEAL. Mary Jane in court in Yogyakarta during the hearing for her judicial review request in March 2015.

File photo by Bimo Satrio/EPA

The Veloso family, as well as different civil groups, denied that the Philippine government helped them in their fight. While some citizens said the government’s efforts were insufficient, it was Aquino's call that eventually saved Veloso.

In an unprecedented move, Indonesia delayed Veloso’s execution, after her supposed recruiter surrendered to authorities that day. Veloso’s future, however, is still uncertain. The battle does not stop with Veloso, as at least 93 other OFWs are on death row.  (READ: Mary Jane Veloso and being on different sides of the elephant)

 

PEACE AND ORDER

From demoralized but dedicated civil servants, military and police personnel destined for failure and frustration due to inadequate operational support to professional, motivated and energized bureaucracies with adequate means to perform their public service missions.

A few months into Aquino’s presidency, his administration was rocked by the Manila hostage crisis, when a disgruntled police officr hijacked a tourist bus in Manila. The bungled rescue effort by the Philippine security forces killed 8 Hong Kong nationals and wounded 7 others.

The Philippine and Hong Kong governments both concluded that local officials erred in the handling of the situation. The Hong Kong Government, in turn, issued a "black" travel alert for the Philippines. Amid the demands of the HK government, Aquino refused to apologize, even until four years after when the two countries reconciled. (READ: HK apology? No way, says Aquino

The problem here is two-fold. The crisis highlighted the deficiencies in training and operational support of local security forces. The other one was corruption and arbitrary undertakings in the government.

Seven months after the incident, Malacañang's investigation revealed that there was unjustified delay in the resolution of the suspect's appeal on his dismissal from police service. The suspect alleged he was asked P150,000 for the speedy disposal of his case.

 

Greatest crisis?

The Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao was an ugly stain on the Aquino administration’s record. The botched “Oplan Exodus” was carried out to kill two terrorists purportedly coddled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It ended in a bloodbath, with the deaths of 44 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force and the injury of 11 others. (READ: EXCLUSIVE: Marwan’s ties that bind: Ren-Ren Dongon)

To understand the Mamasapano incident is to understand the very close ties of Aquino and former PNP chief Alan Purisima. It was Purisima who got the briefing on Oplan Exodus and escorted then SAF commander Getulio Napeñas to Malacañang, all this while under a preventive suspension order from the Ombudsman. 

Six weeks after the botched operation, Aquino delivered a speech clearing his name. The President blamed Napeñas and immediately relieved him from his post. (READ: No apologies from Aquino on Mamasapano) 

“Maybe the most generous way of looking at it is that there’s a lot of wishful thinking from Napeñas as opposed to reality. But it’s clear to me – he misled me. Now, what is my responsibility at this point in time? There’s a saying, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,’” Aquino said.

Text messages between Purisima and Aquino, however, showed the President knew the details of the plan. (READ: Mamasapano: Text messages show Aquino knew details) 

These events contributed to the low morale of the SAF troops. The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs released a report saying Aquino “must bear the responsibility” for the botched operation.  

The PNP Board of Inquiry, the official fact-finding body, said Aquino bypassed the chain of command in the PNP when he allowed Purisima to participate in the operation despite suspension. The BOI report also implicated Purisima for acting "without authority" before and during the operation. (READ: FULL TEXT: PNP report on Mamasapano) 

These results did not sit well with the President. He went on to accuse senators and the BOI of resorting to “guesswork instead of facts.” 

 

From a disjointed, short-sighted Mindanao policy that merely reacts to events and incidents to one that seeks a broadly supported just peace and will redress decades of neglect of the Moro and other peoples of Mindanao.

The Mamasapano incident happened at a critical time – less than a year after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government signed a landmark peace deal in 2014 and as lawmakers deliberate on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), seeking to create an enhanced Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with greater powers and resources. (READ: TIMELINE: The long road to the Bangsamoro region) 

After the highly publicized incident, the public clamor for the halting of the peace deal was very high. Members of Congress, in whose hands the fate of the BBL lie, also questioned the constitutionality of the measure while other people of Mindanao said they were not consulted.

The MILF, for its part, was quick to douse the fire, saying their troops only acted in self-defense in the Mamasapano clash and that the PNP-SAF did not coordinate the operation with them, as provided by its long-standing ceasefire agreement with the government.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, urged lawmakers not to delay deliberations on the draft law, as it would be counterproductive to restoring peace and development in Mindanao.

Lawmakers opposed this seeming threat. The BBL, to date, continues to languish at the committee level in the Senate, while its counterpart in the House is still going through a period of interpellation. The deadline for the bill’s passage has been moved several times. )

With only less than a year left and with the elections near, it is uncertain if the Congress can pass a law that is both constitutional and will ensure lasting peace in Mindanao. If the Aquino government fails, the next administration will have to do it. But will the next President be willing?

 

ENVIRONMENT

From allowing environmental blight to spoil our cities, where both the rich and the poor bear with congestion and urban decay to planning alternative, inclusive urban developments where people of varying income levels are integrated in productive, healthy and safe communities.

The Aquino administration boasts of its supposed heightened disaster preparedness.

"Now, even before a typhoon comes, the government, through the NDRRMC [National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council], is fully ready to face dangers so we can attain 'zero casualties,'" Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma, Jr said in Filipino during a briefing on July 2.

But this was not the case in November 2013 when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated the Visayas region. As of April 17, 2014, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) confirmed 6,300 fatalities across the country, 5,877 of them in Eastern Visayas. The actual death toll, however, remains uncertain, as many claim at least 10,000 people died. 

Both local and international media reports criticized the Aquino administration for the apparent lack of preparation and coordination among government agencies. Up until five days after the typhoon struck, survivors continued to struggle with basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter while remote towns in Leyte and Samar were yet to be reached by aid.

In the immediate aftermath, first responders were not from the Philippine government. They were from foreign armed forces and various non-governmental organizations such as the Tzu Chi Foundation and the United Nations, among others.

The government, for its part, believed they dealt with the tragedy "quite well" but the response had been slow due to the breakdown of local governance in affected areas where officials and employees, who were usually the first to respond in these events, were victims of the typhoon themselves. 

WORK NEEDED. Fishermen prepare their fishing net along a shore in Tacloban on the eastern island of Leyte on October 16, 2014. Tacloban was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on November 8, 2013. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

WORK NEEDED. Fishermen prepare their fishing net along a shore in Tacloban on the eastern island of Leyte on October 16, 2014. Tacloban was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on November 8, 2013.

File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

With lack of access to clean water, some residents dug up water pipes and boiled water in order to survive. Thousands of people sought to evacuate the city via C-130 cargo planes. However, the slow process fueled further aggravation. Reports of escaped prisoners made it more critical to evacuate residents. Rescue and relief operations were made more difficult by the lack of electricity. There was simmering civil unrest days after the tragedy happened.

The government created the P167.9 billion Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) to address short to long-term needs of the affected areas known as the “Yolanda Corridor. The plan, however, was only approved on October 29, 2014 – almost a year after.

Victims paid the price for government officials’ blame game. Case in point, the heated word war between then Rehabilitation Czar Panfilo Lacson and Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez. (READ: 'Uncooperative' officials derailing Yolanda rehab?)

President Aquino’s absence from events in Tacloban during the commemoration of the first anniversary of Haiyan further heightened the issue. Tacloban, the capital of Leyte, is the stronghold of the politically influential Romualdez clan, that is related to the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. (READ: Aquino skips Tacloban on Yolanda anniversary) 

Survivors have reported a general sense of dissatisfaction and dismay over what they referred to as the absence and lack of government action as a result of politicking at the national and local levels. (READ: #DearPresident: Letters from Yolanda survivors

Instead of having interim agencies that lack police power, Lacson called on the government to create a permanent agency to oversee pre-disaster and post-disaster activities for all types of calamities. This may be feasible. After all, typhoons and other disasters are a common occurrence in the country.

From a government obsessed with exploiting the country for immediate gains to the detriment of its environment to a government that will encourage sustainable use of resources to benefit the present and future generations.

In an attempt to rationalize the risks and rewards of the mining sector, Aquino signed Executive Order 79 in 2012, which bars the granting of new mining contracts pending the passage of a law on the revenue sharing between government and mining companies.

The EO cuts mining contracts' term to 25 years from 50. The EO also provides additional areas closed to mining operations or “no-go” areas and prohibits the use of mercury in small-scale mining. (READ: EO: No new mining contracts) 

This order, however, did not sit well with some groups. Gabriela Party list Representative Luz Ilagan said Aquino should have supported the legislative efforts for the enactment of an alternative mining law, instead of issuing a mere EO. (READ: Aquino gov't 'lacks appreciation' for mining)

The negative impact on the economy of EO 79, however, was instantly felt in the 3rd quarter of 2012 as mining and quarrying contracted by 2.2%

Three years since the issuance of EO 79, the law on the new revenue-sharing scheme continues to languish in Congress. The legislature may run out of time to pass the measure, as Congress is set to resume deliberations in July, just a few months before the filing of Certificates of Candidacy.

With only less than a year left before Aquino steps down from office, there is no assurance the measure will be passed. Further, since the EO is not institutionalized into a law, the next administration will not be compelled to adopt it. The process, if such happens, will start from scratch. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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