PHILIPPINE NEWS – President Benigno Aquino III celebrated his 55th birthday on Sunday, yet found himself facing the biggest challenge to his Presidency so far.
Aquino has not been a popular president in the Visayas since the governments response in the Yolanda aftermath was found seriously wanting. However, in recent days the blame for the deaths of 44 Special Action Force commandos at Mamasapano has also been placed at his door. The damage then made worse by his no show at Villamor Air Base when the remains of the fallen were brought home. As a result, the calls for his resignation have been growing.
A rumor, spread through a wave of SMS messages on Saturday, suggested that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense, were preparing for a military coup, based on the many expressions of dissatisfaction made in the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy.
This prompted AFP public affairs head, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, to respond that there was no truth to these rumors. “The AFP is a professional organization which is committed to perform its constitutional mandates,” he added. “We will not participate in any political exercises.”
DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez, also said: “There are indeed rumors, but that’s all they are rumors.” He also urged the public not to spread unconfirmed information. “This is why we are calling on our people not to fall prey to such gossip by passing on text messages and posting the rumors, thus becoming unwary instruments of disinformation,” he said.
However, there is no smoke without fire, and the current level of dissatisfaction with the President cannot easily be dismissed. Though is it really enough to warrant his resignation or oust him from power in a coup d’état? Are the current alternatives really any better?
What if Aquino is forced to resign? What we would be left with is Vice President Jejomar Binay taking over as President!
Whatever failings Aquino may possess, he has never been tainted with charges of corruption or unexplained wealth. On the contrary, he has based his policies on eliminating corruption. Regardless of whether or not this policy has been totally successful, the international standing of the Philippines has grown considerably as a result.
Despite the ravages of recent natural disasters, the Philippines economy is stronger than it has ever been and under Aquinos stewardship, has become second only to China in the leading economies of Asia. Although there is a very real argument to say that this economic boom has yet to make its way to the typhoon ravaged victims of Yolanda, Ruby and Seniang, could we really rely on Jojo Binay to do any better for the Visayas?
And what impact would a military coup have on the Philippines? We are on the verge of an historic agreement to bring peace to the Southern Philippines. Although severely rocked by the events of two weeks ago, with the good will of all concerned, the peace process can still achieve its aims of peace and stability and all the benefits that would bring to the region. A military coup would do nothing to aid in this process and could so easily tip the region back into conflict.
Even the threat of a coup could risk all the economic advances the country has made in the last few years. Political stability brings international trust and investment, a benefit that the Philippines is only just starting to reap after many decades of turmoil and uncertainty.
Look at Thailand, a once solidly democratic country which held the same Tiger economy status, currently enjoyed by the Philippines. Following a coup d’état in May 2014, their economy immediately crashed by -2%. They ended the year with just 1.1% growth in the 4th quarter, compared to 6.9% in the Philippines. We would be foolish in the extreme, to consider support for an armed overthrow of a government which has finally started to tap the true potential of this country, that has been stifled for so many years.
Whether you love or hate the Aquino presidency, and undoubtedly he has made some bad mistakes, until a true peoples champion emerges from our politicians, to take us beyond the 2016 elections, the current alternatives do not look great!
We should be careful what we wish for, or we might just get it!