In Philippines, Benigno Aquino's political honeymoon intact at 100-day mark
Philippines President Benigno Aquino is enjoying an extended political honeymoon despite his government's bungled handling of a deadly bus hijacking and criticism he is moving too slowly on reforms.
Elected in May by a landslide on an anticorruption platform, Philippines President Benigno Aquino is enjoying an extended political honeymoon. Polls show that “Noynoy,” as he is known, remains popular despite his administration’s missteps, including the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists during a bus hijacking.Skip to next paragraph
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But as Aquino marked his first 100 days in office on Thursday, questions remain over how far he can overhaul governance in a country that has seen many false dawns. Critics say that Aquino, a scion of a political dynasty, is surrounded by family loyalists and presides over a factionalized cabinet.
Congress has yet to see any substantial legislation, such as details of how he will deliver on a pledge of two extra years of mandatory schooling. Nor has he explained how he plans to pay for his initiatives without raising taxes, another campaign promise.
Administration officials say that money will be found by cutting graft and waste in public services. Aquino said Thursday during a televised speech that he had suspended suspicious projects and cut salaries of public officials, and took credit for a strengthening economy. “We are spending wisely,” he told an invited audience at a college in Manila.
Aquino didn’t mention the Aug 23 incident in which a former police officer hijacked a busload of tourists to protest his dismissal from the force. The standoff ended with the gunmen killing eight tourists as police stormed the bus. An official report castigated government officials and senior police officers for mishandling the emergency, which drew strong criticism from China over the deaths of its citizens.
In recent weeks, Aquino has dithered over the report’s recommendations to punish those held responsible, including Rico Puno, a shooting buddy who is undersecretary of the Interior. An announcement is expected Friday, and aides insist that disciplinary action will be taken where appropriate.
“There is going to be accountability,” says Ricky Caradang, a presidential spokesperson.
Needs to show he can deliver
Prospero de Vera, a public administration professor at the University of the Philippines in Manila, says Aquino has emerged largely unscathed from the hijacking crisis, as the public saw that officials failed to follow his orders and showed poor judgment in the field. He says the shine on the new president has yet to fade. But he warns that Aquino has to show that he can deliver more than feel-good speeches.