President Benigno Aquino III finally demonstrated in 2011 his political conviction to clean and make government efficient and transparent. The President stood his ground on his pronouncements and ably commanded the national administration and his political forces and allies to march accordingly to his positions. P-Noy pushed his political leverage and forced Merceditas Gutierrez to resign as Ombudsman. The President risked his political capital by pushing for the cancellation of the ARMM election in August 2011 and synchronizing it with the 2013 local elections. He broke diplomatic protocols by meeting MILF Chair Murad in Japan and defied traditional role of being Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces by pushing for the peace negotiations with the MILF immediately after the ambush and killing of 19 military personnel in Basilan. Despite persistent criticisms and threat of economic slowdown, the administration pursued reorganizing budget and fiscal policies and procedures of the national and local governments. The last quarter of 2011 saw the P-Noy administration using available presidential powers and resources to put Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos in detention, impeached Renato Corona from the highest post of the Supreme Court and issued a warrant of arrest on retired Gen. Jovito Palparan.
It was not easy for critics and opposition politicians arguing against the early December SWS survey where P-Noy gained a +58 net satisfaction rating, two points over his +56 last September. According to Mahar Mangahas of SWS, “It is his bosses’ gift holiday gift to him.” (Social Climate, PDI 12/24/11) Garnering the highest majority vote in 2010 elections and having a high net satisfaction rating from across socio-economic classes and from almost all other demographics, serve as political capital for the President to pursue what he wants. Even the public is giving benefit of the doubt of the economic program of government as long as it perceives that the President and his administration are doing the right thing.
The credibility of the political resolve for government reform demonstrated by P-Noy last year now demands consistency. For one can maintain credibility by being consistent and continuity of actions. Here lies the uphill challenge in 2012. How substantial and how soon can P-Noy pursue his actions against the “big fishes”? Especially now, that the arena of political contention are in the courts. It is wishful thinking that the trials of Gloria and Abalos are resolved within the year, but can the administration keep the two in detention while in trial? Will the trial of Corona be pursued in the Senate given the legal hurdles filed against the impeachment initiative of the House of Representatives? Will the Senate trial reach conclusion within the year? Will Palparan be arrested and put on trial?
The process and dynamics that will surround the trials and their resolutions will contribute to how the political environment conducive to reforms is determined in 2012 and beyond. How far can the P-Noy administration pursue the trials and convictions of GMA, Abalos, Corona and Palparan without weakening, but actually enhancing institutional reforms needed by the courts themselves, in a situation that the courts have their own disposition independent of the President and the executive branch? The trials should not only make GMA, Abalos, Corona and Palparan accountable of their misdeeds, but also strengthening the justice system. The substance of the contention is not only the trial of said individuals but equally important in the long run is reforming and strengthening the institutions in particular and the government in general.