I read the sniping and carping done at Get Real Post or Anti-Pinoy about the President of the Philippines. Well, these two sites are run by guys who enjoy the perspective of cushy chairs in, respectively, Australia and the United States. These are armchair quarterbacks, and their chairs are far removed from the playing field. They couldn't toss a wobbly pass 10 yards and hit a tight end 6 feet 6 inches tall. Yet they demand the President toss pretty spirals 50 yards on the fly to a wide-out speeding downfield in zig zags like a big bumble bee on steroids.
Get real, indeed.
I'm sure these critics drive slick cars of vintage no older than three years, polished and perfect. They certainly rag on Jeepneys enough, as if every Filipino is substandard unless he is cruising in his Lexus, like get real men. And the woman amongst them. Her, too.
I have a nice car. A Honda civic, bought in Pampanga in 2008. It is finally starting to develop personality. First of all, the inside stinks. The upholstery has absorbed the aroma of too many sweaty people and cans of paint, bags of cement, and all the other shit the car hauls when it substitutes for a truck. All the air freshener in the world will never get rid it of that peculiar smell. Fortunately, the human nose is magnificent, and adjusts to malodorous air in precisely six minutes.
The lid to the center storage container between the front seats is busted and flops on its springs like granny's false teeth when they've lost their denture adhesive.
The outside is a piece of work, with scratches on three of four fenders. When the car is in heat it avidly seeks to mate with flower pots, curbs, pedicabs and concrete bridge walls. The front license is forever smashed, carrying the indentation of a dog's head. The dog bit the dust after biting the bumper of the car which was going 70 KPH. That little bit of canine murder cost me P15,000 to replace the shattered air conditioner condenser. The left front bumper flops a little, as it lost its connection to the fender metal after about the 12th time I creased the concrete fence post leading to our narrow driveway.
I've had the vulcanizing shop fix around 15 flat tires the past two years. Nails, bolts, slices of metal. One nail intentionally bent by the neighbors to do damage. Envy in action.
I am definitely attached to the car. I'll own it until it expires somewhere along the road between Naval and Tacloban. I'll roll it down the mountain to rest in rusty peace at the bottom of the gully and hitch a ride home in a van.
President Aquino is like that, to me. I'm fond of the dude.
Here is a guy who had no plans to be president. He was, and remains, a soft guy. Not dynamic and outgoing. An introvert. The son who grew up to be passive. Unmarried. Just minding his business and keeping the family name in the Senate. Then, in six short months, he was thrown into the highest and most difficult job in the land by the passions of a people who longed for the goodness of his Mom.
Early on, he had a decision to make. Did he have that kind of ambition or not? He went to a retreat by himself. Reflected. Returned and said, "Okay, let's make the Philippines a less corrupt place."
He didn't have to say much more than that. Mom did the rest, from her grave swathed in yellow ribbons and flowers.
Now he has been in office a couple of years and the cushy armchair quarterbacks, angry that their guy got defeated by an adored dead woman, STILL are complaining that President Aquino is not Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and JFK rolled into one, with a little Jesus Christ sprinkled on for spice.
Well, you know what, I like my President the way he is. With character.
I like his face because it can be a smile or a sneer, and no one really knows for sure. Hong Kong thought he was laughing when he was suffering from indigestion caused by the incompetence of the police who, unfortunately, report through about five layers directly to him. So he was stuck explaining to Hong Kong why a bus massacre was botched and what was going to be done about it.
I like the way he walks, kind of stooped and with a hitch in his gait like his boxer briefs may be one size too small. He wears those formal Filipino shirts, the see-through kind that are cool. In more ways than one.
People say he plays computer games and sleeps in and has girlfriends and likes a nice car himself. I wouldn't know because I couldn't care less. I hope he does all those things. Like a real person, you know? Not some plastic dummy like Mitt Romney who is forever posturing like a robotic mannequin whose batteries are over-juiced. Talk about silly putty, molding itself to the shape of the electorate's latest poll numbers.
No, President Aquino is real. Like me. Like you.
The thing is, he is doing so much RIGHT. It just gets buried in the media obsession about conflict and confrontation.
He has visited all the key Asian neighbors to open up lines of communication. He has achieved a firm balance with China, neither rolling over nor being belligerent, and always with an eye toward the greater value of robust trade between the two countries. The relationship with the US is in balance. Mutually beneficial. Copasetic, man, copasetic. He has stabilized the finances of the nation and attracted a lot more investors to the Philippines. The Philippine stock market is roaring, the peso is stronger than it has been in years.
And although the anti-corruption agenda looks like so much directionless confetti floating through the air, it has a decided drift, and the direction is down. Down with sloppy SALN's and people with their hands in the public cookie jar, or pork jar, come to think about it. Down with illegal kickbacks on government projects. Up with expenses for transportation infrastructure.
I laugh when people cast the presidents of the US and Philippines as responsible for the prices they pay at the gas pump. These are people who believe the pillow they smash against the wall in anger is responsible for their problems. No. The pillow just happened to be at hand. Just like the President.
Here are some intractable problems. The solution will require many administrations. Electricity. Water. Congestion. Global warming. Corruption. Education. Gas is a commodity, in short supply; it is not infrastructure. You ought to pay what the market demands, not some subsidized, regulated price that warps the true economic value of the stinky useful stuff.
Gloria Arroyo did not do enough. She was too busy chasing President Obama for photo ops, and arranging favors like Chief Justice appointments, plotting to re-write a perfectly good Constitution, making sure her face was plastered on a million road-construction signs across the country, handing out bags of cash to legislators, and (allegedly) scheming with her husband for kickbacks and rigging of elections.
President Aquino is not such a wayward man. He is serious about improving the Philippines. He is content to let his sister work on the family name's flair. He has no need to get richer, illegally.
Does he do everything I wish?
Does my car? Stupid demanding piece of junk requires that I haul its ass across the mountains to Ormoc for service every six months. And those flat tires. If there is a wayward piece of metal in the road, my car swerves toward it. The floor mats are really cheap and tend to want to sit on the gas pedal. I wish they wouldn't do that.
I wish the President would make a manly statement about the RH Bill and use his influence to get it passed. For the women of the Philippines. And to shout lima charlie (army for loud and clear) to the Catholic Church, "help us manage the Philippines to less poverty or get left behind". A divorce bill should be right behind it.
I wish he would not have let the Chinese scavenger boats escape without arresting someone.
I wish he would clean up Customs, a den of thieves thicker than the huddle around the heroin hookah in a dark alley of the Kasbah.
But look. He is my President.
I want him to succeed. I don't want to try to look superior by inspecting him for everything that goes wrong. Just what in God's great blue orb does that accomplish? These critics would tell you not to buy a Van Gogh painting because the artist was nuts. Let me tell you, the Philippines looks better than it has in a long long long long time, and no malcontent in Florida or Australia is going to tell me the picture is not worth buying, or investing in.
If the President were in my foxhole, I'd watch his back, like any private is smart enough to do. If he is in the Palace, I'll do the same.
That's because I trust that he is watching mine.
I KNOW he is watching mine.