Eventful start for 'P Noy'

The Phillipines' new president is just days into his term, but his first decisions in power suggest the country is in for an interesting few years.


    So the first two days under the much anticipated new government have come and gone, and what a start it’s been.

    Newly installed President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino’s first order was to pretty much get rid of all non-career appointees of the previous government.

    As heads were still reeling from the whiplash and Filipinos were preparing for the possibility of having the entire administrative structure collapse, the memorandum was recalled and "revised".

    It needed to be “fine-tuned”, the new officials explained, as sighs of relief echoed through the emptying government hallways.

    The first official presidential order was then reissued with a more detailed definition of who could stay and who would go. 

    Then there was the matter of arriving late for the leadership turnover rites at the armed forces headquarters.

    No sirens, please

    Just as he promised at his inauguration, President Aquino, aka P Noy, remained “one with the people” by refusing to use his motorcade’s blinkers and sirens to cut through the notoriously heavy-morning traffic in Manila.

    Politicians here are known for abusing sirens and escorts just to get around the city faster - even if not on official business.

    It’s a source of constant annoyance for Manila's commuters, so Aquino was wildly applauded at his inauguration for announcing that it would no longer be tolerated.

    The agency responsible for traffic management has now promised to strictly enforce more stringent measures to make sure traffic flows more smoothly.

    When P Noy finally showed up at the military camp, it wasn’t in the official presidential car, but in his personal 4WD. He said he was more used to his own vehicle.

    He also still lives in the Aquino family home, at least for now. He will be moving closer to the official presidential palace at some point in the future - but has said he won’t be living in the mansion itself. 

    It’s the same thing his mother did when she took office in 1986 - leaving Malacañan Palace as a museum open to the public, and a testament to the excesses of the deposed Marcos dictatorship, and choosing to reside in a smaller place close by.

    Flying start

    Members of the new cabinet have also had to hit the ground running. They have two weeks to assess the state of their departments and report back to the president before his State of the Nation address on the 26th of July.

    Leila de Lima, a former human rights commissioner and now justice secretary, was warmly greeted at her new office, even as she promised to clean house first as part of the new administration’s campaign to stamp out corruption and restore faith in the system.

    “I am tireless,” de Lima told the justice department staff, “and so I will ask as much from all of you.”

    Meanwhile, Gloria Arroyo, now a congresswoman, did exactly what many feared she would: immediately filing a resolution to change the country’s constitution. 

    While she was president, many feared her support of charter change was merely a ploy by which she could orchestrate a move from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary one.

    Her detractors feared doing so would see her installed as prime minister, and extend her hold on power.

    But Arroyo no longer enjoys the same support in congress she had when she was president.

    As has become typical in Philippine politics, there's been a mad rush to change allegiances now that there’s a new leader in town.

    The battle for charter change isn’t the only one Arroyo has to face in the coming days.

    Now that her immunity as head of state has lapsed, cases are already being filed against her by various groups for corruption and wrongdoing while she held the presidency.

    Marcos return?

    Up north in the former dictator’s stronghold, celebrations were under way as former First Lady Imelda Marcos turned 81. She was also celebrating her family’s return to power.

    Despite almost a thousand cases of corruption filed against the Marcoses, some still pending, they were never convicted.

    Now Imelda has won a seat in congress,  her daughter Imee is provincial governor and her only son, Ferdinand Marcos junior, is in the senate.

    Political analysts say he could be very well positioned after his six-year senatorial term to run for president when Aquino’s stint is over.

    “I didn’t realise how much they still love me…,” congresswoman Marcos said jubilantly about the crowds.

    “I thought with Marcos gone, everything was gone ... but now we’re back."

    Strange bedfellows

    And as if any more evidence is required of how politics in the Philippines can throw up strange bedfellows, on hand to greet “Madam” on her special day was the newly installed vice-president, Jejomar Binay.

    Also present was the re-elected senator, Juan Ponce Enrile, her late husband’s defence secretary who turned against them in 1986 and was instrumental in the People Power revolt that toppled Marcos regime.

    Many Filipinos will tell you it’s odd no longer having Arroyo in charge.

    Just like their new leader, it seems the whole nation is taking it one tentative step at a time.

    They know things won’t change overnight. But they reassure themselves in the belief that no matter what, it’s going to be a very interesting six years.



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