The five Cs of governance

When deciding the fate of the country in 2016 and beyond, Filipinos will have to remember four things—all of them starting with the letter C—competence, corruption, criminality, and competitiveness.  They are the main elements of what is called good governance.

And a fifth C may be added—climate change. While the Philippines is among the least polluting countries in the world in terms of carbon emissions in volume and per capita, it is No. 5 among Top Ten countries most affected by climate change whose biggest victims are the poor.

The person who will grapple with or solve the five Cs is called the candidate. He or she will be elected on May 9, 2016. That is the president of the Philippines.  The CEO of the land is given six years to make a difference.  He or she can work hard, adopt a vision, design a mission and deliver on two basic things—solve or alleviate rising unemployment and reduce systematically, nagging poverty. One of every four employable Filipino either has no work or is only partly employed.   One of every four Filipinos is poor, earning just $1.25 per day, the international definition of poverty.

On the other hand, the next president can turn his or her term into a walk in the park, taking the path of least resistance, which is—do nothing.  

This hews close to the formula of the incumbent, Benigno Simeon (BS) Cojuangco Aquino III. He did nothing in the first five years and three months of his six-year presidency.   Of course, he claims to feed and give cash to as many as 4.2 million families, the dirt-poor Filipinos, with his conditional cash transfer program which has an annual budget of P60 billion.   He has spent P250 billion for this people in the last five years.  But what is that compared with the P670 billion cumulative amount already appropriated in his annual budget but which he did not spend in the last five years?  That’s incredible incompetence. Either he padded his annual budget so he could generate savings that he can divert for electioneering in 2016 or he has serious problems with project execution. 

BS Aquino simply fed his people a fancy slogan—matuwid na daan (straight path).  Ordinarily, matuwid na daan means a clean and honest government. So far, BS Aquino III is clean, personally. There is no report that he amassed awesome personal wealth through shady deals and transactions. But there is also no record of what he did with rampaging corruption under his very feet—the corrupt deals of his subalterns, including a few of his Cabinet members.

Not only are BS Aquino’s men corrupt. They are also grossly incompetent. Hence, you have a decrepit mass transit system that breaks down with predictable regularity.  You have infrastructure that is the lowest quality and quantity in a rapidly rising region called the Asean. You have the worst international airport in the world, the Naia, which unhappily was named after his fallen father, Ninoy Aquino, because he died there in 1983. You have the worst traffic in the world, according to one survey. An Aquino Cabinet secretary shrugged off the anger of commuters with the region’s worst mass transport and worst traffic by saying they are not fatal. Aquino himself considers the huge mass of humanity descending on the metro railway daily and the traffic as signs of progress.

As if inadequate or absent roads and terrifying traffic were not problems enormous enough, you have surging criminality—big-time and petty.  Commuters and pedestrians are routinely robbed at any time of the day and night.  People are being murdered on the streets, in their homes, and in battlefield sieges like Zamboanga and Mamasapano.

As a president, BS Aquino III was almost successful. But for a number of problems. Like sloth, lack of focus, a mean vindictive streak, lack of vision and mission, incompetent Cabinet, and a venal and corrupt circle of friends and subalterns.    Corrupt officials, from top to bottom.

The Philippines is a country with a huge population, talented and resilient 100 million or 24 million families, with enormous natural resources, strategic location, very good economic fundamentals,    $80 billion reserves, and $26 billion in overseas remittance income—five to 10 times foreign direct investment in a good year.  Despite those fundamentals, BS Aquino has failed.

It could be that Aquino didn’t pocket money from the treasury. That is the traditional notion of corruption—stealing taxpayers’ money. By this definition, however, Aquino’s friends and a number of Cabinet members are guilty—either of direct graft or under the principle of command responsibility. 

Yet, in his State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2015 Aquino praised these people—instead of announcing their firing.  Like the Agriculture Secretary, Proceso Alcala for failing to modernize agriculture on which most of the poor depend and for being linked to all kinds of rackets, from rice and garlic smuggling and overpricing.    

Or his Department of Transportation and Com-munications chief, Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya. Despite his Annapolis credentials, Abaya is guilty of gross incompetence and graft—for giving the maintenance contract of the MRT 3 to a nondescript company, one of whose owners is related to the general manager. For allowing the Land Transportation Office to change all car plates into a new series that is inferior to existing plates and charging car owners P450 for it. For buying inferior driver’s licenses. For allowing the Naia to be enshrined into the hall of  shame as one of the worst airports in the world.  For abetting the highest telco rates despite offering the slowest internet speed.

There is another notion of corruption. This is abuse of power like rampant violation of laws and the Constitution.

Aquino commandeered billions from the budget, P442 billion in the 2015 budget, for using the money at his whim, bribing politicians and people in the Judiciary.  That is against the Constitution.

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