Manila Standard Today - Playing to the base

16 October 2011

By Jojo A. Robles | Manila Standard Today

Lowdown-Jojo-RoblesSay what you want about President Noynoy Aquino, but he certainly seems to believe that he’s not in office to make friends and, in that way, influence people. His declaration that he will not allow the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos with any sort of official or military honors and his continued efforts to force the Judiciary to submit to his authority are just the latest examples of this strange belief that he doesn’t need anyone who is not of the Yellow persuasion.

Of course, Aquino is merely being consistent in his black-and-white way. After all, his administration has invariably shown that it will always protect its own and simultaneously never fail to antagonize everyone else.

In the case of Marcos’ burial, how important is it, really, for Aquino to show that he will never forgive his and his family’s political enemies, whether those made in the sixties or in the last administration? Why does he believe that he will commit an injustice if he gives honor to a dead President even if he is not a judge assigned to rule on the cases filed against the Marcoses?

Speaking of judges, why does Aquino allow his budget secretary and his sycophants in Congress to oppress the Judiciary by making a mockery of that branch’s fiscal autonomy and with threats of impeachment? Why does he fail to understand that his power as President, while immense, has its limits?

Allowing a burial with full state honors for the late President Ferdinand Marcos is not “the height of injustice,” regardless of what President Noynoy Aquino says. Justice is granted by the courts, not by any occupant of Malacañang—not even one as ignorant of the separation of powers of co-equal branches of government as Aquino is.

Whatever Aquino does in connection with the controversial plan to bury the body of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani has nothing to do with justice. For that, the people who have claims against Marcos, his family and his associates have gone to the courts, which dispense justice by their interpretation of the law.

What Aquino has in his power to do, as President, is to make a political statement regarding the disposition of Marcos’ uninterred corpse. And that is certainly different from meting out justice.
And Aquino could have chosen to do the statesmanlike, conciliatory thing—or at the very least followed the recommendations of Vice President Jejomar Binay. Aquino, after all, had tried to distance himself from the controversy by ordering Binay to study the matter of how and where to bury Marcos.
Because Binay possesses more political smarts than Aquino could ever dream of developing, the Vice President sought a middle way. He recommended that Marcos should be buried with full state honors, as befits a former President—but in his home province of Ilocos Norte, instead of in the heroes’ cemetery.

This week, we hear from Aquino that there is to be no attempt to end the Marcos-Aquino war that began half a century ago. There will be no move to heal the divisiveness, even through a mere gesture that is certainly not binding in any court where the cases against Marcos are still being tried.
As an understandably bitter Senator Bongbong Marcos said, it’s difficult to deal with someone who cannot be held to his promise and who keeps changing his position. “He has wasted a good opportunity to unify a nation,” the younger Marcos said. “He obviously does not want to heal the divisions. He wants to widen the divisions.”

Aquino may disagree with Marcos’ assessment of his motives. The President may have merely wanted to play to his base of anti-Marcos Yellows.

But as far as the results of Aquino’s decision to pander to his captive supporters, Marcos was certainly correct. The President missed out on a chance to act like a statesman—a charge that, after all, has never been leveled against him before.