, July 16, 2024

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“The Good that Men Do Lives After Them…

  •   4 min reads
“The Good that Men Do Lives After Them…

By Greg B. Macabenta

Of course, Mark Antony, in his eulogy for Julius Caesar, actually said the opposite. He declared, with undisguised sarcasm, "The evil that men do lives after them - the good is oft interred with their bones."

But the unfortunate demise of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, about whom I, as a newspaper columnist, had few positive things to say during his incumbency, prompts me to give him the credit that is due him as head of our country.

This positive write-up on the late president is not because of our people's charitable tendency to extol the virtues of even the devil incarnate at his funeral. I have two reasons for this:

Firstly, I believe that a head of state must be held to a much higher standard than the average citizen.  There is nothing personal in my criticism of Aquino or any public official. I believe that it is the responsibility of an opinion maker to expect excellence from the president and to leave the function of sycophancy to the office of “Praise” Secretary.

And, secondly, on the weighing scale of presidential history, Aquino compared favorably with his predecessors and with the current Malacanang occupant, in certain key aspects of governance.

But just to clear the air: what did I consider Aquino’s principal failing as president? He passed the buck. He did not subscribe to the mandatory dictum of a leader that  “the buck stops” at his desk, to quote President Harry Truman.

Noynoy Aquino was as much the leader of the members of the police Special Action Force, who were slaughtered in Mindanao, as he was of the executives of the Mitsubishi plant, whose inauguration he chose over paying respects to the Fallen 44 when the remains of 42 of them were flown back to Manila. In contrast, former President Fidel Ramos found the time to pay his respects to his comrades-in-arms.

On the other hand, Aquino proved himself better as an anti-corruption president than his predecessors, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her predecessor, Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

Unfortunately, Aquino’s otherwise unblemished record was spoiled by allegations of a “presidential pork barrel” in the wake of the exposure of the stinking pig sty that the “pork barrel queen,” Janet Napoles, maintained among the thieving swine in the Senate and the House.

Aquino presided over a sound Philippine economy that averaged a 6% GDP growth during his tenure - although much of that his administration owed to the sound economic policies of the Arroyo government, who managed a 4% growth in the face of the Asian economic crisis.

In comparison, Duterte has virtually run the Philippine economy to the ground. A recent report by the International Institute for Management Development, based in Switzerland, ranked the Philippines 52nd among 64 countries (13th among 14 countries in Asia) in terms of competitiveness, ie., in terms of economic performance, government and business efficiency and infrastructure.

The coronavirus pandemic was just one more body blow to a weak economy that had been deprived of foreign aid - aid rejected by Duterte because of criticism of his bloody war on drugs.

In contrast, according to one media report: “Since President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III was elected into office in 2010… donors have revitalized their relationships with the Philippines believing that better governance will result in more impact and value for aid money spent. World Bank President Robert Zoellick recently affirmed the international community’s commitment to the Philippines during a visit in late October and highlighted the World Bank’s support of the country’s conditional cash transfer program.”

Duterte has also been a sore disappointment in the face of the Dragon-bully China. Aquino, who never pretended to be tough, stood up to China over its territorial incursions in the South China Sea.

And his foreign office, led by Secretary Albert del Rosario, won the case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague - a  victory that Duterte dismissed as irrelevant, but is now, invoking through Foreign Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin.

For sure, Aquino depended on Big Brother America to back him up, but he was a more respected international leader  than Duterte has been (besides, guess whom Duterte is now counting on to back him up, as he has learned to talk tough to China?).

Indeed, Noynoy Aquino may not have been the finest president that our people have elected, but he holds his own in the pantheon of Philippine leaders, compared to the ones who served before him and the one we currently have.

In truth, it was not for any special qualities or achievements that Aquino was drafted for and won the highest office in the land. It was out of exasperation with the Arroyo government and because of the heroic reputations of his mother, President Cory Aquino, and his father, Senator Ninoy Aquino, that he was drafted as a reluctant candidate.

Come to think of it, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had her achievements, too, along with her flaws. Even President Rodrigo Duterte will be remembered for the good he has done.

Mark Antony was wrong. In the Philippines, the good that men do can live after them and the evil interred with their bones.

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