By Rigoberto Tiglao
The late Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s predecessors all made huge errors and even committed crimes against the nation. But Aquino’s were so incontrovertible and even horrible that his thank-you-Noynoy fawners do not even bother to contest most of these allegations.
What I find so despicable is that several of these crimes were disguised as noble projects, which Aquino and his cabal managed to get the media, the Church and Congress to support.
Journalism, as they say, is a rough draft of history. I am presenting my draft, and I dare the Yellows to contest this, and I commit to presenting their responses in this space.
These crimes and hoaxes, just one of which would be enough for history to condemn Aquino, are as follows.
The political assassination of Chief Justice Renato Corona. On the very flimsy pretext that Corona would be blocking his “Daang Matuwid” reform since he was appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Aquino in 2011 undertook a massive effort to remove him from his post.
Aquino’s real reason for removing Corona was that he blocked the Cojuangco clan’s demand for government and the Supreme Court to pay it a P10-billion compensation for putting – two decades after it was supposed to do so – its Hacienda Luisita under agrarian reform. The Corona-led Supreme Court found that it was entitled to only P300 million, the estate’s market price, when its owners refused to put it under a real land reform program. That impeachment was a hoax and a crime. Never before Aquino had the Supreme Court been so brazenly assaulted, not even during strongman Marcos’ rule.
Despondent, since even his and his family’s bank accounts were ordered frozen by the Aquino regime that they had to rely on friends and relatives’ help, Corona died in April 2016 from complications of a heart attack.
The Disbursement Acceleration Program. The very extraordinary and unprecedented project to remove a chief justice from his post required extraordinary forms of bribing the Congress to impeach and find him guilty. Such money was raised through the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which Aquino and his budget chief Florencio Abad claimed was intended to accelerate the release of government funds in order to stimulate the economy.
That was a hoax and a crime, as the DAP threw to the dustbin the budget law, with Aquino like a monarch determining how to spend taxpayers’ money. Most of the senators got P1.2 billion in DAP funds to finance their pet projects. But the DAP also funded such projects as a P1 billion infrastructure program for Aquino’s home province Tarlac, bribes to the Muslim leaders to convince the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front to agree to a peace settlement.
The loss of Scarborough Shoal. Because of his hostile stance against China, Aquino provoked the standoff with China in what we call Panatag Shoal, which is the closest to our mainland among the many features also claimed by China. His pro-American officials, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and our ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, very gullibly believed US assistant secretary for Asia Kurt Campbell’s claim that the Chinese had agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal from the shoal. There was never such an agreement: Aquino ordered our vessels to leave the shoal, ending the standoff – and turning over that area to China.
The Philippine-China arbitration. This Aquino move has been one of the biggest hoaxes ever foisted on the nation, which to this day is believed by many, even officials of the Duterte administration, as a “landmark” ruling favoring the Philippines. That is total nonsense. The arbitration did not order China to vacate the seven reefs and Panatag Shoal that it occupies. It didn’t rule that China’s claim of sovereignty over the Spratlys, which it calls its Nansha archipelago, was illegal.
Yes, it did rule China’s nine-dash line was without basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). But China’s claims in the South China Sea are not based on the nine-dash line but were made decades and even centuries ago, challenged only after World War 2, when it came to be controlled by the communists.
The arbitration was an American plot that benefited the US and Vietnam.
For the US, it became the core of the propaganda to depict China as not complying with “international law” and it gave the US Navy some legal, if doubtful, basis to patrol the South China Sea to project its hegemony.
There is one clear, incontrovertible proof that the arbitration is a hoax. Even if it upheld the Philippines’ claims in the Spratlys – which it didn’t – those islets and features are far from being ours.
Vietnam also claims the entire area, with many international law scholars believing that Vietnam has the most valid claim, as its French colonizers that had claimed and occupied it the 1930s, very clearly turned it over to its former colony. If ever China withdraws from the Spratlys, battle hardened troops of Vietnam will be rushing in, and we can’t cry to the world it is bully pushing as out of “what is ours.” The US certainly won’t intervene in a conflict between us and Vietnam.
Is it purely coincidental that the brains of the arbitration and foremost champion is Antonio Carpio, who is married to a Vietnamese?
The restoration of US military bases. Aquino believed the US state department’s and even his foreign affairs officials’ claim – that China will use Scarborough Shoal as its jumping-off base to invade the Philippines, or the other islands and islets in the South China Sea. China also was allegedly very angry at the Philippines for filing the arbitration “suit” against it in 2013.
The only way to frighten China not to invade the Philippines, the Americans said, was to restore US military bases in the Philippines, which the Senate kicked out despite his mother Cory’s all-out campaign among the senators, most of whom were her supporters.
Aquino ordered his defense secretary to sign the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in April 2014 just hours before US President Obama landed on Philippine soil. That harmless-sounding agreement actually authorized US troops to be deployed and their war materiel stored when they mobilize for war in five of our military camps.
Dubbed “lily-pads” in Pentagon jargon, these represented the more cost-effective form of US military bases around the world, from Afghanistan to Romania.
The massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos at Mamasapano. In January 2015, Aquino kept secret his operation to capture a jihadist terrorist Zulkifil Abdhir even from Interior and Local Government chief Mar Roxas who had authority over the police and even from the defense secretary. He gave the command of the operation to his former bodyguard during his mother’s administration, Alan Purisima, who however was at the time under suspension by the Sandiganbayan on corruption charges.
Aquino was informed by Purisima early that morning, that while the terrorist was killed, the SAF troopers were pinned down by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, with the rice fields affording no protection. Aquino refused to send reinforcements to rescue the SAF troopers, and has never explained why, whether he simply froze or whether he was told by his top peace negotiator Teresita Deles not to as this would endanger the peace talks with the MILF that was close to being signed.
Aquino was in Zamboanga City, since in his script was to immediately proceed to Cotabato City to congratulate his troops. Instead, the SAF forces were picked off one by one by MILF snipers, with their bodies even mutilated. Reinforcements came at dawn, just in time to place the slain SAF 44 in body bags.
Glenda Gloria, the managing editor of the rabidly pro-Aquino Rappler, couldn’t help but write just before he stepped down from power in 2016: “Occurring at the tail end of his presidency, Mamasapano unmasked Aquino’s worst weaknesses as a leader and what power can do to a man: the distance from reality, the stubborn sense that he knows best, the false notion that things will blow away, the bad news thatCartoon by Steven Pabvalinas he chooses to set aside, and the friends that he prefers to keep.”
Gross mismanagement of the Yolanda super typhoon. Warned for days that “Yolanda” could be one of the most powerful typhoons to hit the country, expected in November 2013, Aquino gave total responsibility to address it to his close friend Mar Roxas and to his defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin, his “kuya” of sorts as the latter headed his mother’s Presidential Security Group.
Roxas and Gazmin went to the expected epicenter of the typhoon, Tacloban City, and then went to bed in their usual bedtime schedules. Aquino reportedly also went to bed early, after a round of his favorite Xbox. Roxas and Gazmin were rudely awakened in the wee hours of the following morning, with the storm surge flooding their rooms and nearly drowning them.
The typhoon killed over 6,000 Filipinos, one of the biggest casualties from a natural calamity. Aquino ordered on November 21 his national disaster agency to stop releasing the number of casualties, when it reached 4,011.
Whether Aquino as in the Mamasapano episode was stunned and froze, government relief efforts were excruciatingly slow. It took him 11 months to formulate a rehabilitation plan for Leyte and Samar. Aquino’s close friend, Senator Panfilo Lacson, who had been appointed to lead the rehabilitation efforts in December 2013, resigned a year later, obviously to evade the backlash over the government’s failure in that task from hurting his political plans in 2016. He decried the lack of funds for the rehabilitation efforts as his excuse for resigning.
Illegal drug proliferation. We Filipinos have such short memories that few have forgotten Aquino’s biggest failure, whether of negligence, incompetence, or whatever.
By the time his term ended, we were on the verge of becoming a narco-state. Illegal drugs proliferated so much there were so-called shabu tiangge (such as the one in Pasig) in the metropolis. Manila was set to become the drug capital of Asia, with the shabu-producing Hong Kong triads already having a foothold in the country.
Our Bilibid national maximum-security prison, of all places, was a nerve center for the big-time drug lords, with the then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima even allegedly receiving bribes from them, according to the drug lords’ testimonies.
The Mexican Sinaloa cartel was about to set up camp here, undertake distribution of marijuana and shabu in Southeast Asia. On a highway near where I live, there was a stretch of what looked like fruit stands but actually was a drive-through meth market, dubbed “Mercury Drug” by locals.
Police had given up going after the drug dealers since the day they are arrested, they’re out on bail, with the arresting policemen often killed or shot at a week later.
In Aquino’s six State of the Nation Addresses (SONAs), never did he ever mention the illegal drug problem in the country. Why?
Contrast that to Duterte’s five SONAs (as well as inaugural address), in which the illegal drug problem was the first topic he discussed and even expressed frustration over the difficulty of ending it. Of course, the clerics like Socrates Villegas in his Archbishop’s palace and the señoras running media never heard that drug dealers were even in their own gated villages,
That is the real reason why the Yellows with their American allies (or bosses) have waged an all-out propaganda campaign against Duterte’s war on drugs.
That by itself reveals one of Aquino’s biggest crimes.