YEAREND 2011: Beyond Political Spectacle, is Real Change in Sight?
The country still needs fundamental changes in its agrarian reform, agricultural and industrial policies to resolve long-standing poverty and inequities. The country’s oligarchic, patronage and anti-nationalist politics are likewise deeply entrenched.
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The Aquino administration started losing steam in 2011. The economy was slowing, social pressure from high unemployment and poverty was mounting, and even the government’s flagship public-private partnership (PPP) program was a non-starter. There was little sign of a determined drive to hold former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her cronies accountable, human rights were still being violated, and the country’s Communist and Moro armed conflicts remained unresolved.
The post-election Aquino euphoria was clearly fading and people were starting to look for tangible results. There was an apparent growing public sense of listlessness, indecisiveness and even incompetence in Malacañang itself. But then the administration rallied in the closing months of the year with a political offensive that included the arrest and detention of former president Arroyo and the impeachment of the Supreme Court chief justice. It is by any measure a political spectacle involving heads, past and present, of two of the three branches of government.
The momentum carried on into 2012 which started with a historic impeachment trial placing not just the Chief Justice but in effect the highest court of the land under unprecedented scrutiny. There is even more to come as the cases against the former president, her husband and her cronies are brought to court. On one hand, there may yet be real and important progress in holding the previous administration accountable for its extensive crimes. This is long overdue. But the unfolding political show may also divert the country from addressing its persistent social and economic problems. Worse, they may even be used as a smokescreen to keep or make policies that exacerbate these problems.
In some respects the Aquino administration’s recent political offensive should not be underestimated. Though not exactly an all-out effort – the cases lodged against the former president are still relatively minor, for instance – it is still a considerable one. But neither should the magnitude of the country’s problems be underestimated. The country still needs fundamental changes in its agrarian reform, agricultural and industrial policies to resolve long-standing poverty and inequities. The country’s oligarchic, patronage and anti-nationalist politics are likewise deeply entrenched.
Measured against these problems the anti-Arroyo drive is important,undoubtedly popular and can be quite a spectacle. Yet the country can still legitimately ask: has the process for real change started?