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Like nothing happened

APOLOGISTS for former President Benigno Aquino III have come to his defense after President Rodrigo Duterte called him an idiot, using a four-letter Filipino word that is never used in polite company.

The trigger for Mr. Duterte’s outburst was a remark by the former president that there was no difference between the statistics on the number of drug addicts in 2015 and in late 2016, when Duterte was already in power.

“It’s like nothing happened,” Aquino told ABS-CBN News.

This occasioned a swift and angry reply from the President.

“Aquino said it’s as if nothing happened. Go ahead, get into drugs and I’ll cut off your head,” he said, addressing Aquino in Filipino. “What do you mean nothing happened? You’re an idiot.”

Aquino’s former spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said Duterte’s use of the word “gago” was a reflection of the President’s boorishness.

“Cursing never elevates public discourse,” Lacierda said in a Twitter post.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of Aquino’s Liberal Party, added that there was no need to insult the former president, simply because he didn’t support the current administration’s war on drugs.

“We don’t need to curse and insult others if we don’t agree with what they’re saying,” he added in Filipino.

Perhaps sensing some validity in these observations, the Palace came back with some statistics that countered Mr. Aquino’s conclusion that “nothing happened.”

In the time Mr. Duterte started his war on drugs, an unprecedented 1.3-million drug users surrendered, the Palace said.

In the same time, 96,703 drug users or pushers were arrested—compared to 77,810 who were arrested in the six years of the Aquino administration.

Moreover, police seized 2,445.8 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in Duterte’s first year, which compares to 3,219.07 kilos seized during the entire six years under Aquino.

These numbers suggest that Mr. Aquino knew not of which he spoke when he said “it’s like nothing happened.”

But Mr. Aquino is an expert of sorts in nothing happening. Under his watch, nothing happened to improve the sorry plight of commuters who had to suffer rapidly deteriorating public transport services. Almost nothing happened, too, under Mr. Aquino’s ambitious Public-Private Partnership program that targeted more than 60 major infrastructure projects. In all of Mr. Aquino’s six years in office, his administration managed to complete only three of the 37 projects it had awarded.

And faced with his first crisis—a failed hostage rescue that resulted in eight dead Chinese tourists and deteriorating relations with China—Mr. Aquino ignored a Justice department report that laid the responsibility for the fiasco at the feet of his friends and allies—as if nothing happened.

Finally, Mr. Aquino’s apologists can hardly talk about tact, when their former boss once told a businessman fearing for his safety amid looting in post-‘‘Yolanda’’ Tacloban City: “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”

In this instant, Mr. Duterte may have been boorish, but we don’t think he was wrong.

Topics: Benigno Aquino III , President Rodrigo Duterte , Apologists , Edwin Lacierda , Senator Francis Pangilinan
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