After noting the achievements of the Aquino administration, we now tackle in our third and final installment the darker chapters of his six years.
Anyone in a higher position is subject to a number of criticisms. When you commit mistakes, you will definitely be under fire by the public. And President Aquino was no exception.
Manila Hostage Crisis
Roughly two months after Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010, a dismissed policemen Rolando Mendoza hijacked the bus of Chinese tourists from Hong Kong. The negotiations went on for 10 hours, ending in a 90-minute gun battle between the police and the suspect. The open fire resulted in the death of Mendoza and eight Hong Kong tourists.
The battle sparked a major issue in the competence of our police force. The world witnessed the coverage of the media and they saw how the uniformed men poorly handled the situation, and some even believed that the hostages were killed by the bullets of our own police.
Super Typhoon Yolanda
In November 2013, the Visayas Region was devastated by the strongest typhoon in recorded history, Yolanda (Haiyan). The government claimed that they were prepared for this calamity prior to its ruins, but the death of over 6,000 Filipinos attested otherwise. Several foreign countries and private groups around the world helped in rebuilding the cities in its aftermath through an overflow of financial aid. Months after the typhoon, Aquino apologized for the turtle-paced relief services. The shortcoming of the Administration resulted to major flak towards the government. Netizens seldom say in jest that Roxas used the allocated Yolanda funds in his presidential campaign.
Peace in Mindanao
In 2014, Aquino pushed for the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which if passed will be the key to the creation of a Bangsamoro State. The Palace sees this move as a milestone in Mindanao’s peace talks, but others fear that this may be a jump board for too much power and even split the region in two. Whatever the case may be, the bill is still pending today in the legislative.
Meanwhile, the Zamboanga siege in 2013 shook the Philippines due to a faction of MNLF declaring self-independence in the city. The siege lasted six days, and the government forces were successful in fending them all from the city. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the operation resulted in the displacement of over 100,000 civilians from their homes.
And at the end of January 2015, days after the momentous visit of Pope Francis, the Mamasapano massacre took place. The secret operation by members of the Special Action Forces of PNP was victorious in killing the terrorist Marwan, but their evacuation plan failed. The group was heavily overpowered by the MILF and BIFF who brutally killed them in action. The country wept for the 44 members of SAF who did not see their way home. People called for Aquino’s liability as the commander-in-chief of the National Police to take responsibility, which Aquino failed to satisfy.
Even today, the person to blame in this clear encounter remains elusive in the eyes of justice. As years keep piling up, so is the justice waning.
Commuters of the Metro Rail Transit 3 knew very well the struggle in riding this transport. Frequent train breakdown, non-operational elevators and escalators, poor facilities, broken air conditioning and queuing that stretch to kilometers—these are some of the burdens that doomed the passengers each day. An MRT challenge even rose in the social media, inviting politicians to ride MRT at peak hours to discover the harsh experience themselves. Under Aquino, the fare of train tickers rose, but for the cost of buying a new set of ticketing system and 48 new train coaches for MRT.DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya received the criticisms of his department for doing nothing to address the citizen’s woes, but he denied all of them. Still, the MRT struggles to make ends meet, and its patrons riding everyday hope that no major damage will happen in the foreseeable future.
DAP and PDAF
Perhaps the most controversial and the biggest scandal in Aquino’s term were the pork barrel scam and the Disbursement Acceleration Program. Two different projects with one issue: corruption. Following the revelation of star witness Benhur Luy, Janet Lim Napoles turned out to be the mastermind behind numerous ghost companies where public funds were allocated, which ended up in the pockets of politicians.
In the end, Napoles and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla, along with others conniving in the said project, were imprisoned. This success was short-lived, for Enrile was allowed to post bail due to his health, as well as Napoles, even though plunder is a non-bailable offense.
The DAP, on the other hand, was a prerogative of the president to transfer funds of the government to special projects. Aquino firmly stood that DAP is constitutional despite the Supreme Court’s opposite ruling. He also defended Budget Secretary Butch Abad when he was called to step down. Later on, he abolished DAP and PDAF, but the people remained watchful to the funds of the government, as this may happen again in a different face only.
These controversies will forever haunt not only Aquino but the history of our nation. Let this be a reminder to never repeat the mistakes committed and learn various solutions to the problems our country shall face. (Luke Godoy)