THE PEN| Legacy (Second in a two-part series)

PRESIDENTS Benigno Aquino and Barack Obama are both in a situation where the preservation of their respective legacies will be determined not only by their successors, but how their policy reforms have been entrenched into the bureaucracies, and how deep these have sunk into the consciousness of the people. President Aquino has openly endorsed Mar Roxas, believing that the man whom he has counted on for his loyalty and reliability, would be able to provide continuity to the administration’s “Daang Matuwid” battle cry. However, Roxas’ approval ratings still refuse to pick up despite the president’s anointment, a worrisome development which may perhaps be giving Malacañang’s occupants sleepless nights, as they now confront in earnest the prospect of either a Binay, Duterte, or Poe presidency. President Obama and his policy team, on the other hand, are placing their bets that the Democratic party, led by its front runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, will regain its lost momentum, and convince the American people that the liberals are still in a position to provide the most feasible, if not the best, solutions to the challenges the country is facing. Donald Trump is now making serious headway in the Republican polls, and there is now a strong possibility that he may become the next occupant of the White House, unless Clinton or Sanders convince the American people that their approach is more viable than the seemingly heavy-handed, outlandish proposals of Mr. Trump.

On the other hand, it would be safe to say at this point that the policy reforms initiated under the Aquino Government in the economic, social and political fronts have made their mark, and whose results are now being felt by the nation’s more than 100 million citizens.  The country is no longer viewed as the laggard that it used to be, as it has emerged as one of the most stable and fastest growing economies in Asia.  The Philippines is now considered to be in the same footing with its progressive ASEAN counterparts such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, although the nation’s economic fundamentals such as its ability to generate more local jobs and entice increased foreign investments need to be given more attention by development planners. Red tape has also been significantly reduced in key government institutions such as the Bureaus of Customs and Internal Revenue, although the collection efficiency and processes of these agencies can still be further improved.  The administration must also provide greater focus to the nation’s power sector, particularly the power utilities and ancillary industries that are operating in Mindanao. More private investments need to be channeled into the sector, as its major players try to move away from its heavy dependence on hydro-electric power which has, over the past two decades, fueled the island-region’s impressive growth. 

For its part, the Obama Administration has presided over one of the most difficult economic recoveries in the country’s history. Doomsayers even predicted that the collapse of the United States’ once robust financial sector signaled the downfall of one of the world’s remaining super powers. However, amidst the gloom and doom which had enveloped the nation, President Obama and his policy team crafted an ambitious economic recovery plan, which not only resuscitated an economy that was on the verge of collapse, but made the American people once again believe that their nation could still play a major leadership role in the world stage.  Obama’s two-pronged approach of creatively addressing the nation’s financial woes, while deciding to curtail its participation from two major wars, proved to be instrumental in putting the country’s economy back on track.  The President had, time and again, drawn flak from critics who believed that the White House’s decision to exit from Iraq at a crucial juncture was an unwise move, to say the least, as it would give the terrorist groups the opportunity to re-consolidate themselves and wreak further havoc in a region that was in virtual disarray.

But President Obama was determined to show that the United States didn’t have to play the role of the world’s policeman every single time armed conflict erupted. He would go on to argue that putting boots on the ground was not the only solution, but instead emphasized the need for the world to come together amidst their differences in foreign policy, and iron out a multilateral solution to address the growing terrorist threat. And as the ISIL continues to make its presence felt in the Middle East and beyond, orchestrating suicide bombings and armed attacks from the suburbs of Paris to the streets of Indonesia which have killed hundreds of civilians, the U.S. President has become the voice of reason, as he has repeatedly called on the world’s leaders to shun their go-it-alone attitude and work together to put an end to the atrocities of the Islamist groups. And in line with his seemingly pacifist ways, the president has also reached out to the leadership of Iran, and through Secretary of State John Kerry, brokered a deal that would put on hold, albeit temporarily, the nation’s nuclear ambitions.  The U.S. has likewise renewed its economic ties with Cuba, a move that has been viewed by policy experts as a strategy to win back the support of its former foes, and as a result, project a United States that was more attuned to political realities on the ground.   

During the course of his presidency, President Obama’s proposed policies – from health care, to gun control, to foreign policy – have encountered roadblock after major roadblock, as the Republican party, which now has virtual control of Congress, has apparently adopted a non-compromising stance which has made it virtually impossible for the White House and the legislative department to agree on issues of national interest. And although the President has the power to veto proposals coming from Congress, the current political dynamic in the U.S. has made policy-making an unfeasible exercise. It is therefore an amazing accomplishment for the Obama Administration to have  been able to pull off a dramatic economic recovery,  although the country’s major political parties were don’t see each other eye to eye. The U.S. still isn’t in the pink of health as compared to the highly robust state it was in during the 90s, but nevertheless, the nation is showing signs of a major economic recovery, as its much-vaunted middle class is now regaining the purchasing power it lost years ago. 

Though the political dynamics in their respective countries maybe poles apart, Presidents Aquino and Obama share a common sense of urgency and hope, as they try to push forward their respective policy agendas and achieve results, albeit in varying degrees of success. While President Aquino’s party controls the upper and lower chambers of Congress, enabling his administration to institute much-needed socio-economic reforms, the Democratic party of President Obama, on the other hand, is the current minority, which in American politics, means a very nil chance of policy initiatives emanating from the White House to get approval from Congress. In his State Of Union Address, the U.S. President admitted that he was partly to blame for the political standoff at Capitol Hill, and pledged that he will work harder in the remaining years of his term to improve White House-Congressional relations. In the past several weeks, President Aquino has called on the Filipino people to ensure the continuity of the gains achieved by his administration. Malacañang believes that supporting the administration’s official candidate will be the key in achieving this goal, although in the final analysis, it will be the Filipino people who will ultimately chart the nation’s course for peace and development.

President Aquino and Obama’s terms in office will therefore be remembered not only for their respective accomplishments at heads of state, but how the world views them not only as leaders, but more importantly, as human beings.


Posted in Opinion