Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has many obvious advantages over our very own President Noynoy Aquino. One of them, highlighted only recently with the beheading of a Canadian national by a gang of Moro bandits in Jolo, Sulu, is quick reaction.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile once famously described Aquino as a “three-day president,” a thoroughly unflattering sobriquet referring to the incumbent’s distressing predilection of disappearing for that long whenever a crisis situation develops. In the case of the beheading of Canadian John Ridsdel, Aquino was determined to max out all three days Enrile had allotted to him.
It took Trudeau only hours to condemn the killing of Ridsdel, after the former mining executive was killed in cold blood Monday night because his family and his government were unable to raise the P300 million in ransom demanded by the Abu Sayyaf Group. And when he finally emerged to comment on the atrocity yesterday, Aquino could only come up with something typically bizarre.
According to Aquino’s account, the Abu Sayyaf has recently escalated its kidnap-for-ransom racket in the hopes of catching the attention of the Islamic State and getting funding from the Middle Eastern Muslim extremists who run it. As Aquino tells it, ASG has also hatched plans to kidnap and kill not only foreigners like Ridsdel but also him, his sister Kris and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
I am not, as the satirist Dave Barry used to say, making this up. And I’ll have whatever powerful stuff it is that Aquino is having, please.
It only took Aquino three full days to come up with this fantastic theory about Kris and Manny. Time he could have spent acting like a real head of state right after the Canadian’s beheading, to both reassure the citizenry, the jittery expatriate community and even his fellow leaders like Trudeau.
Only last week, Malacañang reacted sharply to calls that Aquino cut down on the time he’s been spending to campaign for his candidates Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo. His spokesman, who always reminds me of the dwarf Sleepy, said basically that Aquino is on the ball and that everything is under control—which, as we know from sad experience with our monomaniacal president, almost always isn’t the case.
The people calling for Aquino to focus on his job in the remaining days of his administration were speaking in the context of the so-called Kidapawan Massacre, of which the administration basically washed its hands after allowing a farmers’ protest to degenerate into a violent and fatal police dispersal operation after just four days. So that took more than three days—maybe Aquino was trying to disprove Enrile’s theory.
Of course, the surveys tell us that Aquino’s full-time focus on the campaign isn’t doing his candidates any good. But if he wasn’t stumping, I don’t think Aquino can be forced to act like a real president and work on the pressing problems of the day—his whole six-year record of burying his head in the sand militates against that.
I get that Trudeau is such a good-looking head of state that he made even supposedly hard-nosed Manila journalists write front-page fluff pieces about him when the Canadian PM was in town for the recent Apec summit. And there’s really nothing the appearance-challenged Aquino can do to beat Trudeau in the looks department.
But I really wish sometimes that Aquino were half as focused on his job as any other head of state. After all, if only he’d shown a little more caring and competence, then maybe he wouldn’t have to campaign so hard for his candidates, just so he doesn’t end up in jail after his term, in part for doing almost nothing and for always reacting too slow.
* * *
I apologize for asserting in my last column that polling company Social Weather Stations conducted a traditional survey when it came up with that now-famous “jump” that put Leni Robredo in a statistical tie with the frontrunner in the vice presidential race, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. It turns out that SWS used another unusual method in their last survey—a “secret balloting” method.
Nothing wrong with that, really, except that SWS also acted like the Commission on Elections in its survey when it invalidated a percentage of the respondents’ votes for improper shading. If the government ever decides to outsource the entire electoral system, I expect SWS to make a serious bid for the contract.
By not counting five percent of its “ballots,” SWS came up with mostly the same results as other polling firms in the presidential race. But when it came to the VP contest, Robredo’s numbers suddenly and inexplicably jumped.
Someone reminded me that SWS also conducted that 2004 exit poll which had Gloria Arroyo beating Fernando Poe Jr. in Metro Manila in the presidential contest that year. The actual, official balloting found that the reverse was actually true.
Again, I’m not making this up. Then again, I’m not SWS, either.