On Holding Binay Accountable

If Vice President Binay cannot explain his wealth, he must be held accountable.

In 2012, the nation watched as then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, was convicted by the Senate (sitting as an impeachment court) of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution. The reason? He did not fully disclose all of his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

The decision was an interesting one. It meant that misdeclaration of SALN would from that point be considered an impeachable offense- a culpable violation of the Constitution. In that one decision, the Senate raised the standards of conduct for public officers.

The senator judges who voted for conviction were unanimous in sentiment. Senator Escudero said: “…mula ngayon, pwedeng nang tanggalin sa pwesto ang punong mahistrado pati na rin ang pangulo at ikalawang pangulo at iba pang impeachable officers kapag meron silang di dineklara sa kanilang SALN.” Senator Pia Cayetano: As a lawyer, to me, minor inaccuracies in the SALN, such as parking lots or a unit whose ownership is under contention, would not amount to betrayal of public trust… But, the failure to declare 2.4 million dollars and some 80 Million pesos is not minor.”

The Vice President is now hounded by the implication that he has billions in undeclared wealth: “Considerable amounts of US dollars were transferred from Philippine to Canadian banks in the years of 2008 to 2014.” The AMLC further noted that the transactions “were not commensurate to the income declared by VP Binay in his SALN for said years.”

It would be the highest form of double standard if Vice President Binay were not held to the same standards applied to the Chief Justice. The Vice President must explain his wealth. If he cannot, he must be held accountable.

2016: The Meaning of “Continuity”

“Continuity” is the Aquino government’s key word heading into 2016.  “Let’s pick a leader,” says President Aquino, “who will continue and further improve on the reforms we’ve made.”[1]

But what exactly does “continuity” mean? Does it mean that the next President should be a robot who governs only according to PNoy’s command?  Of course not. This is continuity in appearance, conformity in reality. This is what I call “conformative continuity”, a blind kind of continuity. This is the kind of “continuity” that Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay expected from his Vice Mayor, Ernesto Mercado:

“Sometime in September 2009, just when Mercado thought he was already the presumptive bet of the Binays… (Gerry) Limlingan allegedly relayed the Binays’ conditions before (Mercado) could be anointed as their mayoral bet.The conditions, according to Mercado were three-fold:

  • That he would not remove any personnel in City Hall
  • That the SOPs (bribes) would continue
  • That he would do whatever they please

Mercado found the 3rd condition difficult and impossible to accede to. Weeks later, Junjun Binay was annointed to succeed his father.” [2]

What we need in 2016 is not “conformative continuity” but “innovative continuity”. Innovative continuity means continuing the Aquino administration’s reforms, while  avoiding its mistakes, missteps and mismanagement. After all, the Aquino administration has implemented reforms, but it has been saddled by missteps (Yolanda, Mamasapano, Zamboanga) and political baggage (the DAP affair). Innonative continuity is not templated, cookie cutter governance, but innovative, independent governance.

For “innovative continuity” to work, the next President be receptive yet independent. She (or he) should not only be receptive of PNoy’s guidance but also be able to learn from his mistakes, avoid his missteps and improve upon his lapses.

[1] Guiterrez, N. “Aquino: Next president should continue reforms” Rappler (05/01/14). http://www.rappler.com/nation/56908-aquino-next-president-continue-reforms

[2] Rufo, A. “The Jojo Binay that Mercado knew” Rappler (11/03/14) http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/investigative/73766-jejomar-binay-ernesto-mercado

3 Decades: 2016 is Philippines’ Tipping Point

SETTING THE MOOD

Few days ago I heard over a radio program a commentary from a woman regarding the bicameral meeting on PNoy’s emergency powers. She says, “Kung meron mang dapat ibigay kay Noynoy Aquino, hindi emergency power kundi emergency exit.”

I am not a fan of PNoy. I make no secrets of my disdain about how he handled national concerns. In 2010, soon after he sits in Malacañang, he blamed the media for the failure of the rescue operations during the Manila hostage crisis. His promise of justice for the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre  is still unapparent.  The 2013 Pork Barrel Scam remains vague and unresolved. And recently, he opted to attend a car plant inauguration in Laguna over the Heroes’ Welcome for the victims of the Mamasapano clash.

I get it. We all get it. We don’t have an efficient president. But does it mean we need to…

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Grace under Pressure? : Crisis Management and 2016

I. Introduction

I outline the issue the implications of crisis management in Philippine politics. As I will show, crisis management has taken on a a greater role in today’s media-centric politics. I call this “Political Nudity”. The next president should be scrutinized on how they will handle crisis- their “grace under pressure”.

II. Six Shots that Rocked a Nation

March 30, 1981 was a chaotic day in American politics. At around 2:27 pm (EST) of that day, a man named John Hinckley Jr. aimed and fired six shots on the President of the United States.[1]

Then-President Ronald Reagan was immediately rushed to George Washington University Hospital following the attempt on his life. Accounts differ on how badly he was injured. His son, Michael Reagan, said that “It was the difference from the car making a left turn, to the White House, or a right turn, to the hospital.”[2]

However, the President managed to inject humor into the grim situation. He reportedly old his wife Nancy “Honey, I forgot to duck.” He also told his doctors “I hope you’re all Republicans.” And after surgery, he scribbled a note that said: “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

President Reagan eventually recovered from his injuries. In addition, his good nature despite his critical condition revealed something about modern politics.

III. “Naked Moments” or Political Nudity and Modern Politics

In his book Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen stated that President Reagan’s warmth despite adversity was a “naked moment” in politics.[3] A “naked moment”- or political nudity– is “(an) instance when people can see through the core of a public figure.”[4] Gergen cites Jackie Kennedy wearing a coat splattered with her husband’s blood, distressed yet poised; Richard Nixon insisting “I am not a crook”; and Bill Clinton lying about not having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky as examples of political nudity.

Political nudity reveals two things about contemporary politics. First, it demonstrates the importance of crises.  Crises are moments of political vulnerability. They can ruin, restore or maintain a politician’s image. Furthermore, political nudity also reveals the enormous role of the media. A public figure’s composure- or lack thereof- during crises will be broadcasted for all to see. For instance, President Reagan’s bonhomie during his assassination attempt strengthened his reputation as Good Ol’ Relatable Reagan, optimistic and always smiling his “Aw shucks” smile.

IV. Political Nudity During the Aquino Administration

There have been two prominent examples of political nudity during the Aquino administration. Both have been politically disastrous. The first was DILG Secretary Mar Roxas’ response to Yolanda. Sec. Roxas appeared prickly and blind to conditions on the ground during his interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper- balat sibuyas and bulag in Filipino parlance. He also appeared to be more concerned with bureaucratic niceties and political considerations in his argument with Tacloban Mayor Romualdez.

Another, more recent and more fatal example is President Benigno Aquino III’s response to the tragic events Mamasapano, Maguindanao. In his two televised speeches, President Aquino appeared stiff and lacking in empathy. This impression was reinforced in his audience with the widows of the 44 fallen PNP-SAF agents and in his impromptu forum with the rest of the PNP-SAF agents. He also appeared to be

V.  Implications for 2016 and Beyond

First of all, political nudity implies that crisis management is a crucial part of contemporary politics. Crises can be a pitfall or an opportunity, depending on how they are handled.  Second, it implies that no amount of spin or image making will save a politician from a bungled crisis. With this in mind, I believe that Presidential candidates should worry about how they will present themselves as capable crisis managers in 2016. They must learn to have Grace under Pressure

[1] The Learning Network. “March 30, 1981- President Reagan is Shot” New York Times (March 20, 2012). Retrieved from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/march-30-1981-president-reagan-is-shot/?_r=0

[2] Strober, D.H and Strober, G.S. The Reagan Presidency: An Oral History of the Era (Virginia: Houghton Muffin, 1981)

[3] Gergen, D.Eyewitness to Power: the Essence of Leadership from Nixon to Clinton (Simon and Schuster, 2000).

[4] Ibid.