Noynoy Aquino was at it again last night, describing himself as a “fiscalizer” in an interview with CheChe Lazaro on ABS-CBN’s “Probe Profiles” program. The term, which has its roots in the Spanish word fiscalizar, is described in David Chan-oong Kang’s 2002 book Crony Capitalism: Corruption and Development in South Korea and the Philippines in this manner:
“…a unique Filipinism that means one who keeps criticizing the party and providing exposés of fiscal corruption. The ‘fiscalizer’ acts as social safety valve even though he may well have taken graft previously or may simply be waiting for his turn.” (emphasis added)
Kang explains that the process by which one becomes a ‘fiscalizer’ is the pendulous nature of Philippine politics: losing an election puts one in the ‘opposition’ role, while the oligarchs and vested-interest hangers-on flock to the smorgasbord of favouritism represented by the winner. Eventually, the demands of favour-seekers on the leadership become too great, providing an opportunity for the ‘oppositionist fiscalizer’ to counter-offer favours to win parts of the leadership’s influence base to his side, swinging power back in the other direction.
Thus, Aquino’s describing himself in the present-tense as a ‘fiscalizer’ is probably accurate, but his assertion that he will continue to be one when President – and even worse, his campaign manager Butch Abad’s implication that this characteristic is precisely the reason why Aquino will be a good President – is fallacious. If anything Noynoy the President, as one of my colleagues pointed out, will be the one being “fiscalized” rather than being the “fiscalizer”. The most distressing aspect of Aquino’s constant use of the term, along with his frequent referral to his birthright, is that it does nothing more than portray him as another trapo – one who is simply “waiting for his turn”.
This is the danger of political rhetoric based on buzzwords and sound bites and vaguely-sinister hand gestures rather than clear and constructive issue-based platforms. The golden phrases of the campaigner are either meaningless – terms like “political will” and “level playing field” – or mean something quite the opposite of what the speaker wishes us to believe. In either form, they are demagoguery: insipid pseudo-intellectualisms that harm the national debate by diverting all attention from real issues.