Much had been said about PNoy’s impact on the social, economic, and political life of the nation. When he passed away nine days ago, we did not foresee that his death would trigger considerable reflection and soul-searching. But soon enough we did, when people from various walks of life started coming together to express their grief, and appreciation mostly about the values he represented – humility, honesty, decency and integrity, traits, they say are seldom seen anymore among public officials. But he was not the typical politico. All throughout his years in public office, he surprised many by his demeanor – simple, unassuming, unaffected by the trappings of power.
As one examines what he had accomplished as president and legislator, what is now beginning to surface and sink into our collective consciousness is that the six years were some of the best times in the life of our country. Public morale was very high, according to a Social Weather Stations Survey which also described optimism about the economy’s GDP which remained at an average of 6.2 percent. Crime rate was lower and marginalized sectors were given priority response through increased social investments such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4P’s where 7.7 million were lifted up from poverty. Long-term trends in poverty and hunger had gone down.
The “daang matuwid,” “wang-wang” and “tong-pats” and similar anti-corruption initiatives restored people’s faith in government.
Before his term ended, he was able to complete five Public Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects. While a legislator, he co-authored the Climate Change Act, and at the Paris meet, he stood up for the most vulnerable countries. He brought China to court for its encroachment in the West Philippine Sea and won the arbitral ruling. This, to many, could be his most important legacy.
An analysis of the bills he authored as a legislator and endorsed or vetoed when he was president, reveals a distinctive development philosophy and decision-making process.
Among the bills he endorsed were the Foreign Investment Act, the establishment of the Department of Information and Communication Technology, Cabotage Law, Tax Incentives, Management and Transparency Act, Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, Philippine Competition Act, Philippine Lemon Law, Micro-enterprise Development Act, National Health Insurance, National Electrification Program, mandatory PhilHealth coverage for Seniors, measures on multi-sectoral reforms, fight against criminality, money laundering, and terrorism; and landmark legislation which includes Sin Tax, K-12, Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, and AFP Modernization Act. He signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (CAB) in March 2014.
He vetoed 81 bills over a period of six years, the most number of bills by a president after martial law. Among the vetoed bills are a three-year fixed term for the AFP Chief of Staff; the Magna Carta for the poor and the SSS pension increase.
This, after careful study, characteristic of his management style. He is meticulous, data-driven, and consistent. He always situates every decision within a larger picture, and within his major concern – that it benefits the majority and the common good.
He had a clear and comprehensive development framework, one that weighs costs and benefits, ensures inclusivity, and that everyone “wins” or that “no one is left behind.” As he deliberated on the above during many a decision he had to make, he considered not only economic costs but the social, cultural, and environmental costs as well, the needs not only of the present but also of future generations. He was criticized for his veto on the Magna Carta for the poor and the SSS pension but he explained that if he endorsed these bills, the coffers would eventually run dry.
His respect for women’s leadership was shown when he appointed Maria Lourdes Sereno, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in what is regarded as an unpopular decision even if she is very much qualified. Teresita Q. Deles and Miriam Coronel Ferrer were the top Philippine officials in the peace process and negotiations on the comprehensive agreement on the Bangamoro. His deep concern on upgrading our human resources is shown by his having endorsed a number of bills on education, appointing young, talented youth to responsible positions, and the focus on responding to the needs of our information and knowledge society.
He envisioned our society within the global context, to put country first, but also to relate to neighboring countries and the world. In his role as a leader, he did not allow himself to be pressured by personal ties and affiliation. He endorsed the Reproductive Health bill and the Sin Tax bill, even if it displeased the Catholic Church. He decided in favor of the option to distribute land titles to the farmers in Hacienda Luisita, rather than offering stock options, because he knew that the former was the right decision to make.
And he made sure that every decision adhered to the rule of law and the Constitution. An aide carried a bag with a copy of the Charter which he consulted every day.
But during the last two years of his presidency, Yolanda and Mamasapano happened. Disinformation, lies, fake news from trolls thrown at the leaders of the administration became widespread. PNoy was not the type to fight back.
I value my having had the opportunity to see him evolve as a political leader during at least two decades of having been fellow members of the Liberal Party’s Execom.
Today, the question that comes to most people’s minds is: What next?
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