Shallow bench

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BENIGNO AQUINO III has an approval rating of between 68 and 70 percent, most probably because he hasn’t done anything scandalous or controversial. That says something about how low Filipinos’ expectations of their leaders are. But you can’t blame them for it, their high expectations having been frequently dashed to pieces, and given how anxious they are to have someone in power better than Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, in comparison to whom even Ferdinand Marcos was already in danger of looking good as she ended her nine-year watch as the (putatively elected) President of the Republic.

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Lonely at the top

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Last year Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued what amounted to an in-your-face, say-what-you-will, I-dare-you-to contradict-me challenge in response to what were then already record lows in her approval ratings. Mrs. Arroyo declared that she would rather be right than popular — as if one were possible only without the other, and which presumes that what’s popular is necessarily wrong.

The occasion was that yearly ritual called the State of the Nation Address. Like Oscar awards night in Hollywood, the SONA has its own red carpet moments, when our presumptive betters alight from their limousines into the glare of TV lights and public attention. In the Batasan hall itself, Mrs. Arroyo usually delivers her SONA in a sea of congressional matrons, cabinet ladies, and congresswomen showing off their latest P200,000 gowns and most recent purchases from the ritzy jewelry shops of Manila, Sydney, New York, London, Rome and Paris.

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