It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Thus was the first year of the Aquino Administration.
The dichotomy is reflected in the economy. Our credit standing has improved even as more people go hungry.
The dichotomy is evidenced in our leadership.
As a candidate for President, Aquino was said not to be competent, not to be a leader, to be running on the strength alone of his DNA.
Four days before the election I wrote: “ Noy may be quiet and unexciting but he is honest, thoughtful, and of good will. Conferred with the mantle of power, he could well surprise us as President”.
With a year to show, which side has been vindicated?
The Aquino Presidency started with a bang. It held the promise of high hopes and common purpose.
On a warm summer day, with banners flapping in the wind, the President called us his boss and banned wang-wangs. The people lapped it up. We stood on the threshold of a dream.
He formed a Cabinet that, by and large, met our expectations for honesty and competence.
At the SONA, he set out the case for the prosecution, the tales of mischief of the past Government, the empty coffers, the bloated bonuses of GOCC directors, the warehouses overflowing with rice gone bad. Yet not to worry, he assured us in the vernacular, all would be corrected. As a nation, we could not wait to get to work.
These were the best of times.
It is not clear when the disappointment started to set in.
The Luneta fiasco was a milestone but not in itself. It was a baptism under fire so the incompetence was almost excusable. The warning sign was in the events that followed.
Despite an exhaustive inquiry pinpointing responsibility, the President took no action especially against one close to him, a shooting buddy. It became evident Aquino had a chink in his moral armor, the loyalty to his friends.
But even this weakness was not the greater issue.
What was more disconcerting were two strains that surfaced in the President’s persona, one a product of his social status, the other of his view of his historical self.
Aquino is a man born into aristocracy. He exhibits the traits of the elite, particularly the sense of entitlement. He believes he is entitled to act as he pleases within the bounds of morality and social mores. To this day he does not understand why buying a fancy sports car with his own money is politically unseemly.
He does not appreciate he is the President of the Philippines with the responsibilities and restrictions of role model and leader.
There is not the statesmanship, the vision of what is possible, the passion to make the nation better than it is. The Presidency is a job, not a mission.
It is not a measure of his competence, of his intelligence or his courage. It is simply a measure of his limited historical perspective. He is, ideologically, seemingly a small man.
It was the worst of times, the realization the man was not the candidate promised us in the campaign. The journey to Camelot was not to be. The product carried no warranties.
With 5 years left in this Government, we are still hopeful if only because of the absence of better alternatives. In fact we are starting to see slivers of an epiphany in the President.
He has stood staunchly against the Church on reproductive health.
After some equivocation, he has come out firmly against the burial of Marcos as a hero.
On the Spratlys, Aquino is showing unexpected bravado. This could well be his 9/11 moment, the event that rallies the nation to a common cause.
The President has dispatched our lone battleship to assert our sovereignty. This is the equivalent of bringing a pitchfork to battle a nuclear Goliath but that is not the point. The image of David with his slingshot is the gumption that we seek in a leader, the same hackles that stirred us when nuns fronted Marcos’ army in EDSA.
The President may finally be displaying the fortitude that the nation has been expecting. If he can couple this with a vision for the country and the ambition to carry forth, the promise of May 10 2010 may still be fulfilled.
Knowing what I know, would I today vote for Aquino? The answer is yes but I would then hold my breath.
Call me a hopeless optimist.