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Aquino: Liar, inept, or both?

Read on, and you yourself judge whether President Aquino is: (a) An inveterate liar, who thinks Filipinos are so gullible he can fool them even at this time when his mask as the saint of democracy’s son has melted in the light of day; or (b) an inept President without the basic mental skills and too lazy to check the content of the speeches he reads.

One or both could explain why Aquino would boast in his State of the Nation Address last week: “My administration has built roads that could stretch from Manila to Los Angeles.”

That is what Aquino, in effect, said when he claimed that the length of roads built under his watch totals 12,184 kilometers, which is the distance as the crow flies between Manila and Los Angeles, USA.

His staff, or his speechwriter, though, appears to have been careful for Aquino not to doubt the figure when he put in the speech only a local comparison—that it is equivalent to four roads from Laoag City to Zamboanga City—which doesn’t make it seem so long.

We are reporting it so plainly here. Aquino in his speech actually so excitedly bragged about the length of roads built under his watch, like a brat boasting about something, which turns out to be false:

“Hanep po talaga: …(N)aipagawa (ng DPWH) na kalsada mula nang maupo tayo, umabot na sa 12,184 kilometro. Nung nakita ko po itong numerong ‘to, napag-isip rin ako: Paano ko ba maipapaliwanag ‘yung labindalawang libo? Sabi po sa atin: katumbas ito ng apat na kalsadang nag-uugnay sa Laoag hanggang Zamboanga City. National roads lang po ito; wala pa rito ang mga local farm-to-market roads o tourism roads.”

Why on earth would he say that when his claim can easily be checked on the website of the Department of Public works and Highways (DPWH) or those of the ASEAN Secretariat, and the Asian Development Bank?

If 12,000 kms of roads were built in the four years of his term he would rank as the greatest President we ever had that we should make him dictator for life: 12,000 kms of roads are more than a third of the country’s existing 32,227-km network, built gradually even starting during US colonial rule.

How many national roads were built under Aquino’s term so far?

According to data posted on the DPWH website, the length of national roads (which Aquino emphasized in his speech as what he was referring to) increased from end-2009 to 2013 by only 2,328 kilometers.

However, the biggest annual increase of 1,344 kilometers was in 2010. But half of that year was still during President Arroyo’s administration.

And most of the road construction work was during Arroyo’s half of the year. Infrastructure activities typically slow down during the rainy months of July to August. Aquino, furthermore, stopped many DPWH projects when he assumed office in the second half of that year because of his mindset that these were negotiated during Arroyo’s watch, and therefore, were graft ridden.

But assume that at least a third of the roads built in 2010 were during Aquino’s first semester in office, which would be 448 kilometers.

The total roads that he could claim were built under Aquino’s watch would be just 1,432 kms., far from his “hanep po talaga” figure of 12,184 kms. Arroyo’s record was even slightly higher at 1,586 kms of roads.

(A more rigorous analysis could, however, make it actually shorter, since the DPWH data on the length of national roads from 2010 to 2013 includes local roads totaling 1,020 kms, which had simply been declared as national roads on the basis of executive orders in 2010.)

How can a President dare say lies in his speech in this wired world when anybody can easily check its veracity with a few clicks of his keyboard, and alert his fellow citizens?

The explanation would be that he is an inveterate liar, or an inept President, or both.

The grossly wrong information Aquino told the country and the world in his SONA could also indicate that his bureaucracy is decaying fast.

The Technical Skills and Development Authority (Tesda) auto-mechanic instructor Jonalyn Navarosa, whom Aquino claimed in his speech was one proof of his achievements, turned out to be a graduate of a facility Isuzu Motors Corp. set up in 2008, during former President’s Arroyo’s term, as I wrote Monday. (See “Another Aquino SONA, Another Lie, “ Aug. 1)

The speechwriter or his staff didn’t bother to ask the Tesda Director-General to get on camera one of the tens of thousands he claims are graduates of the agency’s facilities. He simply googled the archives of the Philippine Information Agency’s press releases during President Arroyo’s term to get the information on Navarosa.

The speechwriter very incompetently used for his boss’ propaganda an item that had already been used for propaganda by the previous administration!

Or was this intentional?

Were these false items inserted by his staff in Aquino’s SONA deliberately, as a protest by Aquino’s own staff against his regime?

How these false items turned up in Aquino’s speech could also point to the fact that he has become such a paranoiac that his cordon sanitaire has become smaller and smaller, that only a few people were asked to read the draft, making it unlikely for errors of fact to be detected.