What a difference a day makes, twenty-four little hours
What a difference a day makes, and the difference is you
– Stanley Adams, What a Diff’rence a Day Makes
What a difference a day makes indeed. President Benigno Simeon Aquino (BS Aquino) should have been getting good publicity for being featured on Time’s 100 Most Influential People List for 2013. Critics and supporters alike would have been talking about him.
The former would have been discussing how incredulous they are that he is part of that list, how undeserving he is, or even how it didn’t come as a surprise as Cory Aquino was featured on Time a few years ago as well. They would, as usual, have been taking this development with a grain of salt. They would also have been pointing out that Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Ayatollah Khomeini were featured on that list as well.
On the other hand, BS Aquino’s supporters would have been proclaiming all over that this is a validation of his “daang matuwid”, his “good governance”, and his anti-corruption drive. They would have taken an opportunity to shut BS Aquino’s critics up for a while, at least until after the elections. Imagine how the feature on Time would have been used to prop up the Liberal Party (LP) campaign. “Vote for the party who counts among its members one of the most influential people in the world!” Or something to that effect.
Instead, the discussion that now dominates the chattering classes is how the President’s Dose (of) Idiocy, sorry, I mean Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), in its haste to feature it on the front page, fell for a meme of the Facebook group Showbiz Government. They unwittingly used a picture of a Time magazine cover showing BS Aquino with his mouth open wide. Regardless of one’s view of BS Aquino, one would agree that that picture puts him in a most unflattering light.
And just like that, BS Aquino’s propaganda machine succeeds in turning him from hero to zero, probably not the first time either. As we say here in the Philippines when golden opportunities are squandered very close to the point of fruition, tinapay na, naging bato pa, literally bread turned to stone.
Quoting a chorus from “Stupid Girl” by Garbage:
You stupid girl
You stupid girl
All you had you wasted
All you had you wasted
Let’s go back to the very beginning. Okay, so BS Aquino was featured on Time’s 100 Most Influential People for 2013.
Did the world around us change? Did the condition of the Philippines suddenly and miraculously change for the better? Does “influential” necessarily mean “competent leader”? Does “influential” necessarily mean “force for good?”
I think if BS Aquino’s supporters were to use the Time feature as validation of the good the president is supposedly doing, then they would have to come up with a convincing case that “influential = competent leader”.
Time (not the magazine) has proven that the support that BS Aquino supposedly enjoys is hinged on popularity. The surveys launched by polling firms SWS and Pulse Asia, for example, though purportedly owned by Cojuangco relatives, claim to be accurate representations of the President’s persisting popularity among the Filipino people. Media outfits owned by the President’s family’s relatives are relentless in their insistence that the Filipino people owe the “freedom” that they currently enjoy to the Aquino family, namely Cory Aquino, BS Aquino’s mother. When she died in 2009, Filipinos overwhelmingly showed support for her, and allies of the Cojuangcos and Aquinos quickly saw this as an opportunity to place BS Aquino in Malacañang through the sympathy vote.
When someone is influential, by my definition, that person is worth emulating. He/she has characteristics that are admirable and that have been proven to be a big benefit to other people. He/she makes a positive impact on other people’s lives. So tell me: what traits does BS Aquino have that are worth emulating? What tangible and quantifiable benefit has BS Aquino left? What lasting positive impact has he had?
So let’s look at the Time magazine entry.
The sputtering economy stabilized and became hot? The economy stabilized because of his predecessor’s (GMA’s) initiatives ; the economy appears hot due to the stock market’s rally. The stock market is a self-contained system, and the influx of hot money into the Philippines can be described as such: (1) because other markets, namely the US and Europe, aren’t looking as hot right now in light of bland global economic conditions, and (2) only a minority will be able to enjoy the gains of the stock market, those who have stocks. Tell me: do the majority of Filipinos even have stocks? Where is this “inclusive” growth that BS Aquino is claiming if majority of Filipinos still live below the poverty line, and there still exists a lack of jobs for an unstoppably growing population?
Aquino pushed through a reproductive-rights law that many said was impossible in the fervently Catholic nation – right, and he supposedly, and not surprisingly, strong-armed Congress into pushing for it to be passed. The RH Law, originally about population control, had become mangled by Pinoy-style discourse and totally lost the plot from the original and fundamental purpose. He supported a law that only gives more avenues for corruption by government officials, and one that has very vague quantifiable metrics of success. Oh, it is also a law subject to a status quo ante by the Supreme Court which BS Aquino isn’t too shy about making more favorable to him.
Most important, he became the face of the regional confrontation with Beijing over its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea. Yup, he is the face that launched a thousand ships (towards the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal). And what happened? Despite his “defiance”, Chinese ships continue to go in and out of that area as they please. BS Aquino has shown that he has very poor diplomatic skills; instead of settling things one-to-one with China and engaging them as equals, he instead went the saber-rattling route and insisted that getting popular support for the Philippine claim would be better. Guess what? Nothing has happened, and that move, as well as how BS Aquino handled the Sabah incident, has only served to alienate the Philippines from the very allies that it needs, the ASEAN.
Oh let’s not forget “quickly making his own name.” So why is his “influence” so dependent on the Mama and the Papa? Why does he still feel the need to mention them if he’s “made his own name”, hmm?
The following verses, again from Garbage’s “Stupid Girl” capture the essence of BS Aquino’s popularity well:
You pretend you’re high
You pretend you’re bored
You pretend you’re anything
Just to be adored
And what you need
Is what you get
What drives you on (what drives you on)
Can drive you mad (can drive you mad)
A million lies to sell yourself
Is all you ever had
I, and many other critics take the Time entry with a grain of salt. This doesn’t necessarily mean we think we’re better than Time writers or editors, we’re just different. Unfortunately, Filipinos don’t like different.
If you guys want to feel good about BS Aquino getting featured on Time, go ahead. It’s Pinoy Pride, isn’t it? Just do remember, after you come back from the clouds, that the work needed to rebuild our society is proceeding at a lethargic pace. Do also remember to substantiate and quantify all the good BS Aquino has done that his critics haven’t rebutted yet at this point. And tell us when he’s back from campaigning for the Liberal Party and actually doing real work.
Now, on to Inquirer’s journalistic booboo. There’s not much really left to say that hasn’t been mentioned by other people. The quality of journalism here in the Philippines has just been so appalling for so long that people have just learned to live with it. I’m sure everyone can remember the unflattering pictures that the PDI ran of Demetrio Vicente, one of the witnesses in the Corona impeachment trial.
But let’s use a little common sense, people: how many instances are there where a picture of a person agape cannot be misconstrued? Didn’t PDI notice the other parts of that picture, Beauty Tips, Walking Dead, and Blame Game?
I guess it’s true what they say, then. In news it’s important to be first. But do it right the first time; otherwise, first doesn’t count for beans.
Oh by the way, let’s not forget to mention the caption of that picture on the Inquirer: “I’m just the face of the whole country.”
Indeed. As GRP has said many times before, BS Aquino more than represents the Filipino; he is the quintessential Filipino who looks up to the sky with his mouth agape while waiting for the fruit to fall from the tree.
And now, the question that is just begging to be asked:
Is BS Aquino going to give the PDI a good tongue-lashing for its journalistic booboo?
I would say, probably not. For all we know, BS Aquino and Co. will simply brush off that look as his normal face.
In fact, it would be more unusual to see a picture of BS Aquino with his mouth closed. As someone said on Twitter, perhaps this applies to BS Aquino’s spokesmen too.
Guess what? If this picture is any indication, looks like Aquino’s PR machine is now on a campaign to reverse the mark his agape look has left on us. But life in the land of nganga goes on without a hitch. It’s more fun in the Philippines indeed.
[Nganga photo courtesy Showbiz Government.]