By Chit Estella
October 10, 2010
MANY Filipinos might have been pleased with President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s performance in the first 100 days of his term—but not his former professor at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Unlike most teachers who would have been proud of their former students, Prof. Pablo Manalastas, math professor at the Ateneo, said Aquino has not yet done anything impressive. “I don’t see anything earthshaking happening yet,” he said, adding he is giving the president “barely passing marks” for the beginning of the latter’s six-year term.
Manalastas is with the Ateneo’s Department of Computer Information Systems and with the Automated Election System (AES) Watch, a project of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance.
Enumerating his economic achievements in his speech on Thursday, Aquino said investor confidence in the Philippines has returned. He added that more than $2 billion in foreign investments would be coming in and generating 43,600 jobs.
He also said his administration has prevented the misuse of millions of pesos by certain government agencies by removing the allowances and bonuses of officials of government-owned and -controlled corporations who were appointed by the previous president.
Likewise, negotiated contracts in agencies like the Department of Public Works and Department of Agriculture were reviewed to save more money for the government, he said.
Manalastas, however, said former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo might have even done better for the economy during her presidency.
“Although I did not support her, (I can say that) she enforced measures that helped the economy,” he said, stressing however that those measures—which included encouraging Filipinos to seek jobs abroad—remain controversial.
Manalastas also said Aquino’s achievements in fighting corruption are, for now, “just words.” “These should be accompanied by action,” he said.
He also expressed disappointment with Aquino’s behavior during the hostage-taking incident of Aug. 23 where eight Chinese tourists and the hostage taker were killed. Aquino’s speech on his first 100 days did not mention the incident which became the worst crisis to hit the fledgling presidency. China had criticized the Philippine government for the latter’s incompetent handling of the situation.
“I do not like Gloria but she would have taken matters into her hands,” he said, adding he had expected Aquino to be “visible” during the crisis. Instead, Aquino appeared on national television during a press conference at 12:30 a.m. the following day. He narrated the events that led to the bloody ending, blaming media coverage and the outburst of the brother of the hostage-taker for the escalation of the crisis.
Manalastas said Aquino should have been more hands-on in such a situation.
But the professor’s unfavorable assessment of Aquino should not come as a surprise.
“I did not vote for him for president,” he admitted. “All of Ateneo voted for him but I didn’t. I met so many priests and nuns and they were all for Noynoy. I could not understand why they were all for Noynoy.”
Explaining why he did not vote for Aquino, Manalastas said, “I had this idea that a president must be smart.” Resignedly, however, he said, “But as long as it’s not Gloria, it’s okay. But I did not expect much from him.”
Manalastas’s less-than-overwhelmed assessment of his former student may have something to do with Aquino’s performance at the Ateneo. Back then as a college student, he recalled that Aquino, though diligent, was an average student.
“I remember him very well because he got a C+ which allowed him to stay at the Ateneo,” the professor said. On a scale of 1 to 4 (with 4 as the highest), Aquino rated a 2.5.
“He was not among my best students; he just made it,” Manalastas said. Performing better than Aquino were his cousins Robert and Paul.
“The best Aquino student was Paul,” he said of the Aquino cousins who became his students at different periods. He had seen Noynoy’s sister Kris on campus but never became her professor.
Still, Manalastas observed that Aquino had certain things going for him. “He was never absent. He was very well-behaved and very silent,” he said.
And so, “I had no inkling he was ever going to be president,” the professor said.
In fact, no Filipino probably ever thought that the low-key son of slain senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late president Corazon Aquino would one day be elected to the highest post in the land. Aquino’s political star rocketed after the death of his mother who remained a beloved icon among Filipinos even though her presidency has been described as well-meaning but incompetent.
Now that Aquino is president, Manalastas said he would still like to see his former student do better for the country economically and politically.
“I am hoping he does well because our country needs a break,” he said, “We need a break, economically and politically.”
From Vera Files, (http://verafiles.org/2010/10/10/former-professor-unimpressed-with-pnoy/)