“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John C. Maxwell
By Alex P. Vidal
When President Noynoy Aquino visited Iloilo City last June 27, Senate President Frank Drilon did not have to repeat the mea culpa he made in July 2005 when he asked then President Gloria Arroyo to relocate Malacanang to Iloilo because of heated anti-administration rallies in Metro Manila.
It may be recalled that a week later, Drilon and his fellow members of “Hyatt 10” withdrew support from Mrs. Aquino, but failed to topple the diminutive but wily Pampangena from the presidency when calls for withdrawal of support made to other governors in the country failed to snowball.
Ilonggos hated graft and corruption, poll cheating and the country’s lack of direction in the socio-economic and political spheres, but they were not ready to risk the country’s future in the hands of homunculi political adventurists.
The Brutuses, who were mostly members of the Arroyo cabinet, turned their backs from their lady boss and decided to cut and cut clean in a foiled bid to install Vice President Noli De Castro as new president and Drilon as new vice president.
All governors in Western Visayas, however, ignored Drilon except Iloilo Governor Neil Tupas Sr. Iloilo City mayor and now Rep. Jerry Trenas sided with Mrs. Arroyo, his former college professor. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. and son, Rep. Raul Jr., also prevailed over the Ilonggos to rally behind the embattled Mrs. Arroyo.
In Bacolod City, then representative and now Mayor Monico Puentevella, Mrs Arroyo’s chief ally and regular companion in foreign trips, moved heaven and earth so that Negrenses wouldn’t jump ship despite his stormy relationship with then mayor and now Rep. Evelio Leonardia. Western Visayas – Antique, Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros, Guimaras – rescued Arroyo from FPJ’s Mindanao juggernaut in the 2004 presidential polls.
The political atmosphere when Mrs. Arroyo was in Iloilo in July 2005 was different compared last June 27, 2014. The nation at that time was like a brewing cauldron with opposition leaders, including some disloyal Arroyo minions, concealing a hatchet in their chests in the heat of the “Hello Garci” tumult that refused to die down months after Mrs. Arroyo put away the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the presidential elections.
President Aquino is not a hated figure compared to Mrs. Arroyo. Despite the skullduggery committed by some of his cabinet men and his bizarre mannerisms, President Aquino is still perceived by most Ilonggos to be incorruptible.
Rallies in Metro Manila ripped him not because he amassed unexplained wealth and murdered critics, but because of perceptions that he reenacted the same policies adopted by his predecessors that impoverished the nation and empowered the oligarchs.
When he made that infamous invitation to Mrs. Arroyo to transfer Malacanang to Iloilo in a speech, Drilon probably did not anticipate the tidal wave of negative reaction from the public. Without the “Hyatt 10” mutiny, the invitation would have been dismissed as a mere consuelo de bobo (an idiot’s recompense) for a woman leader who appeared to be fast losing a mass base as a consequence of that ill-advised “I’m sorry” spectacle.
Malacanang does not need to be transferred elsewhere literally. Malacanang is the president himself. A good president makes a good leader and leaves an indelible mark in the hearts of the people.
A bad president can never be absolved by any relocation of the seat of power. His incompetence and inefficiency will haunt him whether he holds office in Metro Manila or in Visayas and in Mindanao.
Aquino was in Iloilo City to inaugurate the P4-billion worth of infrastructure projects that included the P2.1 billion Iloilo circumferential road, the ongoing construction of the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center, the P550-million Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue, and the P170-million Iloilo River NHA Subdivision Phase I in barangays Lanit and Camalig in Jaro district.
Judging from the support shown by local leaders led by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, we don’t see any tell tale signs that some Iloilo and Bacolod leaders will ditch President Aquino now that the choice for his successor in 2016 has become crystal clear.
Western Visayas governors and mayors, however, did not prevent some of their factotums to escort and spend precious time with Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was also in Iloilo City attending to other activities.
It was a rare occasion where the country’s top three leaders were present in one city to inaugurate and attend to different activities. Their presence in Iloilo City immediately caught political fire and brimstone in the national level.
It is said that in politics, when Western Visayas growls, the whole nation listens.