Saturday, May 15, 2010

The challenges facing the new Philippines president

The expected victory of leading candidate Benigno Simeon Cojuangco “Noynoy” Aquino III has raised the hopes and expectations of the people of the Philippines. The people judged him to be the most worthy of trust and the best one able to realize their hopes and most likely to fulfill campaign promises to end corruption and work to end widespread poverty.

His greatest challenge if proclaimed president will be to resist the power, influence and pressure of the vested interests of the powerful dynastic families and foreign corporations and governments that have dominated Philippine politics and the economy for generations. The people have spoken through the new fairly effective electronic voting system that has minimized cheating and brought a swift result.

Noynoy has the commitment and the heart to change the country but it is not one man or administration that will bring change, it is the support of individual citizens working together to heal the wounds and pain of the nation and make it a just society. However, some of his own relatives are traditional politicians and have been accused in the past of self-enrichment and cronyism in the administration of his mother Corazon Aquino, who herself had an unblemished and exemplary presidency but was unable to control her own relatives.

Coming from such distinguished parents, the president-elect has a great legacy to live up to. His father, Ninoy Aquino, opposed the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was jailed and exiled and when he returned to the Philippines was murdered allegedly on Marcos’ orders.

His mother, affectionately called Cory, was truly loved by the people and seen as the incorruptible selfless leader who lived a simple life that contradicted the pomp, grandeur and adulation favored by most politicians who considered themselves a superior and privileged moneyed class.

Considering that the roots of poverty and suffering of millions of Filipinos stem from the plundering greed of these powerful political families and their corporations, it will be a tough battle if Aquino is to fight corruption and actually serve the poor and the best interests of the nation. The vested interests with military connections will not tolerate such reforms and might instigate a coup as they did against his mother. It is time for people power to support the positive efforts for reform.

The surprise success of former President Joseph Estrada, who came in second in the election, is an indication that his popularity lives on among the poor as their movie star champion however flawed. His popularity was undiminished by his overthrow by street demonstrations and conviction for plunder by his elitist vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, some ten years ago. Her own father was president. Estrada was resented by the elite as the upstart outsider that challenged them. They believed that they alone should rule.

The future has many challenges, Aquino must act to end irresponsible mining that is destroying the environment and the indigenous people. He can implement existing laws that protect human rights.
Besides working on strengthening the economy in such a way that will improve the lives of the poor, Aquino has to address the rampant lawlessness and culture of violence and assassination of social reformers and justice and peace activists.

Prison reform has to be a priority to end the misery, inhuman conditions, and rampant violation of human rights of children and adults in prison. His administration will have to act decisively to oppose and reduce greatly the widespread sex industry that promotes the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children.

There are an estimated 60,000 minors in the sex industry. Implementing existing laws will call for an overhaul of Department of Justice where good prosecutors are marginalized and the corrupt take bribes to block and delay prosecution of rapists and child abusers. Even some courts are corrupt and fail to allow the serving of sentences of well connected convicted felons. It will not be easy for the new president and public support will be essential. Manila Times, Shay Cullen

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