by Rigoberto Tiglao
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” the British statesman Winston Churchill wrote in his variation of the Spanish philosopher George Santayana’s famous repeating-the-past aphorism. Former president Benigno Aquino 3rd’s death is an occasion for us to learn from history.
What made up for Aquino’s lack of qualifications for the presidency, created the illusion that he was a good president and which covered up for his crimes and hoaxes were four attributes of his presidency. These, however, were seriously detrimental to us as a nation.
First, Aquino had a tight hold on media, whose influence on people’s minds was even stronger than during Marcos’ strongman rule because of its expertise in clothing lies as truths.
This was not because this media believed in Aquino, but because they not only were owned by oligarchs who saw Aquino as their own but were managed by “yellow” cultists who saw him as the son of their saint, whom they had the sacred duty to protect.
ABS-CBN was the most powerful broadcast network at the time not just because of its TV behemoth but because it had the biggest network of radio stations throughout the archipelago. It was owned and managed by the landlord-oligarchic Lopez clan, the Aquinos’ closest ally next to the Roxas-Aranetas.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, inarguably the most influential newspaper, was run by the late Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, who herself had declared that the newspaper as the “torchbearer” of the EDSA Revolution. The Prieto-Rufino oligarchic clan that owned the paper raked in probably hundreds of millions of pesos in rentals from the Mile Long commercial complex in Makati starting in 1985, paying only a pittance lease to government.
The Philippine Star group of publications, until it was sold in 2014 to the Indonesian-controlled First Pacific, was run by the diehard Yellows, the Belmontes. The clan’s patriarch Feliciano Belmonte was the House Speaker during Aquino’s entire term, the third most powerful (and most lucrative) elected position in the country. How could his newspaper be objective about Aquino’s rule?
Because of the US strategists’ view of Aquino as malleable, even if dimwitted president, as he proved in his belligerent stance against the US’ biggest rival, China, they mobilized such CIA-linked entities as the National Endowment for Democracy, North Base Media and Omidyar Network to fund social media outfits Rappler and VERA Files as well as the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility to go after the Aquino regime’s enemies.
Aquino’s tight hold on media makes all of the glowing polls, especially by the Social Weather Stations, about him and his governance very suspect. People’s perceptions come mainly from media in this day and age. It even makes doubtful authenticity reports from foreign entities such as the country’s rankings in the Global Competitiveness Report and Worldwide Governance Indicators. These outfits rely on media reports, never actually on on-the-ground investigations by their researchers.
Never again should we have a president with such a tight hold on media.
Duterte an authoritarian suppressing the press? Just read the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star and Rappler.
Second, the Philippine Catholic Church had been Aquino’s prime defender and supporter, not too far from the medieval ages when it was the bastion and defender of monarchies. We in the intelligentsia naively think that the Church has lost the power it had of molding people’s minds during Spanish colonization. It hasn’t, although it is quickly diminishing.
The clerical educational institutions like Ateneo, La Salle and UST had emerged to be Aquino’s defenders then and now, as they have been experts in translating Church’s dogmas in forms more acceptable to the modern mind.
It would take several columns to explain the hold of the Church on people’s minds. Suffice it to point out that among the many reasons for this, is the fact that Philippine Church – because of the late Cardinal Sin – had practically canonized Cory Aquino as its saint, and their mythology of course extends to the son.
A second reason is that the Church essentially is an institution of the elite, without which it couldn’t have survived after Spanish colonization. The Archbishop of Manila for instance is one of the minority stockholders of the Ayala Corp. and its parishes are supported by local elites.
Never again should we have a president that the Catholic Church fanatically supports. This is the only country in the world where the Catholic Church insists on being a kingmaker that meddles in politics. That should be ended if we are to usher in a modern state.
It is refreshing indeed that we have a President now whom the Catholic Church detests.
Third, the US had solidly backed the Aquino presidency. US strategists after all love unquestioning puppets, as they are most easily fooled. The big reason the US supported Aquino so much is that exactly at the start of his presidency in 2010, the Obama administration launched its so-called “Pivot to Asia” program, a thinly veiled campaign to reassert its hegemony in Asia, contain the rise of its adversary China, and drive a wedge between it and Southeast Asia.
Our neighbors in the region though have developed enough economically to ignore US attempts at controlling them (Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand) or are very closely tied to China as in the case of Cambodia and Laos, or historically hate the Americans as the Vietnamese do.
The Philippines is left as the only country they can fool to be their proxy in the region.
The US certainly played Aquino brilliantly. The Americans gave him a refurbished warship which Aquino almost immediately deployed to arrest Chinese fishermen at Scarborough Shoal.
But that gave China the moral high ground to dig in and defend it resulting in the Scarborough Shoal stand-off. The US then fooled Aquino and his foreign secretary into losing the shoal, which US propagandists exploited to portray China as an expansionist power in the region.
They then prodded the Aquino regime, ostensibly so the country could recover Scarborough, to file an arbitration case against China, the results of which the Americans falsely portrayed as ordering the Chinese out of the South China Sea. Of course, it didn’t.
The arbitration was a hoax: if it did order China out of the Spratlys (and it did not) and China complied, rushing in would be the Vietnamese, who have exactly the same territorial claims in the area as China.
Aquino handed over back to the US what they lost in 1992, their military bases, in a more cost-efficient way geared towards modern technology-heavy warfare, through the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
The harmless-sounding term hides the fact that it authorizes the US to occupy five of our military camps and stockpile war materiel there when it mobilizes for war. That makes us a target for Chinese nuclear bombs if the US goes to war with it.
Never again should we have a president who is a US puppet. It is certainly a good indicator of our future as a nation to now have a president who has declared the nation’s independence from the American eagle’s claws.
And fourth, Aquino was the quintessential oligarchs’ president. The Lopezes, the Ayalas and the Indonesian-owned First Pacific have been just the most visible big-business supporters of the Aquino regime. Whatever Aquino Cabinet Secretary Jose Almendras’ reputation is as a professional and as a man of integrity, one can’t just gloss over the fact that he was the president of an Ayala company, Manila Water, and therefore the Ayalas had a direct line to the inner sanctums of the presidency.
Aquino was even so much the elite’s puppet that he adopted a belligerent stance against China to force it to give up its claims in the Recto, or Reed, Bank so the enterprise of three of the biggest oligarchs (Anthoni Salim, Enrique Razon, and Roberto Ongpin) could continue its extraction of hydrocarbons there.
Aquino’s myth-weaver, the anti-Duterte rappler.com indeed had a revealing piece the other day:
“Ayala Corporation’s businesses generally performed well during Aquino’s time. The conglomerate saw its net income nearly double in less than five years. Its net income surged to P22.3 billion in 2015 from P11.2 billion in 2010, anchored on the strong performance of its real estate, telecommunications, and power generation businesses.
Ayala won big-ticket public-private partnership deals, including the Daang Hari-SLEx Link Road (Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway), Automatic Fare Collection System, Light Rail Transit Line 1 Cavite Extension and Operations & Maintenance, and South Integrated Transport System, under Aquino’s watch.
Ayala Land also signed a P24-billion purchase agreement with the government for the sale of the 103-hectare Food Terminal Inc. complex in Taguig City. This was one of the largest deals in the history of privatization of government assets.”
The writer of course didn’t mention the fact that the station that would have linked the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit encircling the metropolis therefore — which was to have been constructed near the Sys’ SM North City — was ordered by Aquino in 2014 to be built instead beside the Ayalas’ Trinoma Mall. The Sys of course sued, and it took eight years for a compromise to be reached and for the station to be built starting in 2017 — under Duterte’s administration.
Who really were Aquino’s “bosses,” the commuters or the Ayalas?
Never again should we have an oligarchs’ president.
At least, as Duterte himself declared, he “toppled one oligarchy, without even declaring martial law,” obviously referring to the Lopezes.
At least the term oligarch was in Duterte’s negative vocabulary. Never once did Aquino utter or write that word.