MANILA, Philippines - A Facebook user who posted an irate letter to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III got the surprise of his life after getting a reply from the President himself.
Reyn Barnido, who manages a PR firm, wrote the open letter titled: "Mr. President, Something In You Has To Die" and posted it in his Facebook account last September 2.
In the letter, Barnido criticized President Aquino for his inefficiency and questioned some of his choices for the Cabinet. He also took the President to task for failing to manage the August 23 hostage crisis effectively.
"This is not anymore about failing to handle the hostage-taking as much as this is about fulfilling the promises of your oath-taking. This is not just about 9 people losing their lives, but 90 million citizens losing their national pride. This is not about a singular madman shooting bullets up and down; this is about an orgy of fools shooting lies left and right. This is not anymore about the negotiators’ inefficiency to convince a police officer to surrender, but the government’s incapacity to comfort a nation. This is not about the Police; this is about the Presidency," he wrote to President Aquino.
Barnido told Aquino that death is a key element in his life journey as a man and as a leader. He said it took the death of Aquino's mother, former president Cory Aquino, to catapult Aquino into the nation's consciousness and pave the way for his election as President.
"Do not be afraid, for something in you has to die so that the real Noynoy will emerge better and wiser," he told Aquino.
Twelve days later after the letter was posted on Facebook, President Aquino responded to Barnido in a letter on his official website.
Aquino asked Barnido not to prejudge his Cabinet and asked for more time to implement his reform agenda. He said he has even set a 2-year timeline "to show evidence of real transformation" in his government.
He also pointed out several successful transactions of his administration like the inauguration of a new call center and that he is about to receive a $430 million grant.
He reiterated that the recent hostage taking crisis will not define his administration.
"I understand that much of your frustration stems from the unfortunate crisis that befell our nation, but my administration will not be defined by this tragedy. It will be defined by what we have already achieved and what we will still achieve in the future," the President said.
Barnido said he was surprised that Aquino actually read the letter but said he doubts if the President was actually the one who wrote the response.
"Number 1, I am thankful that he read the letter and decided to respond. But I also thought that he is just fulfilling his campaign promises to listen to ordinary people like me. We also have to understand that this is the way PR works and the government has to defend himself from all sides," he said in an abs-cbnNEWS.com interview.
Asked if he thought the President wrote the letter, he said: "Maybe not but I do know there is a certain honesty to his response that I also felt. I think it's his way of letting people see the government's point of view on the situation."
He said the letter even defended the Palace communications team, which shows who actually wrote it.
Barnido said he wrote the note because of mounting frustration with the President after actively campaigning for him in the May polls. He said he backed out of supporting the candidacies of environmentalist Nick Perlas and former defense chief Gilbert Teodoro because he knew that Aquino was the right man for the job.
"Even before the official campaign,we made e-mail promotions. I wrote several of my friends telling them why he should be president. He may be inexperienced but I knew he had the right intentions and he would attract the right people," he said.
He said he became frustrated with the President for committing a series of political compromises in appointing his official family, instead of becoming the icon for change that he promised during the campaign.
The PR writer criticized the appointments of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Presidential Peace Adviser Ging Deles, saying that the 3 officials have presented alternative programs that are good enough "to fuel a protest movement, not manage a large bureaucracy."
He criticized Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa Jr. for allegedly being seen drunk in public right after the hostage crisis. He said Secretary Jesse Robredo should have been appointed "Presidential Assistant for Municipal Affairs" since he is too inept to handle the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Barnido said he agreed with Aquino's message that the country was badly governed by the previous administration. "I think that's the understatement of the century," he said.
He, however, noted that blaming the previous administration for all of the ills of the nation has an expiration date, which was reached when Aquino took his oath as President.
"Once you took an oath, you take charge. You were not blind when you took over. He was fully aware of the incompetency and the corruption, which is why he ran in the first place," he said.
Barnido said the 2-year timeline to show real evidence of change is reasonable but noted that the dialogue with the administration should not stop.
"As I said in my note, I will not abandon him. I will volunteer my services if needed. Organizationally, he should take time given the intensity and the gravity of the problems left behind by the previous administration after 9 years. However, we will not sit back and wait for 2 years before speaking our minds. The criticism should happen in the process. That is just fair and given the right people and right mindset, the dialogue should continue," he said.
Below is Barnido's open letter to the President:
Mr. President, Something In You Has To Die
Thursday, September 02, 2010 5:28 PM
This is not anymore about failing to handle the hostage-taking as much as this is about fulfilling the promises of your oath-taking. This is not just about nine people losing their lives, but ninety million citizens losing their national pride. This is not about a singular madman shooting bullets up and down; this is about an orgy of fools shooting lies left and right. This is not anymore about the negotiators’ inefficiency to convince a police officer to surrender, but the government’s incapacity to comfort a nation. This is not about the Police; this is about the Presidency.
I have visions of you staring at your breakfast table, unmindful for the first time of the tempting plate of sizzling chicharon and frozen bottle of Coke regular, and asking yourself, “Where did I go wrong?” as you blow heart-shaped smokes in the air. That is wishful thinking I know. Chances are you chomp on the chicharon with gusto as you invent new excuses in your mind.
Mr. President, we did not switch from cheerleaders to cynics because of a singular incident caused by a madman. Our process was a metamorphosis catalyzed by a series of excuses and inconsistencies over the past two months. They don’t paint you as a man in control; rather they portray a group of helpless officials in utter disarray like rats scrambling from the basement of a burning building. You are the hub of a bunch of incompetent fools whose idea of honesty is withholding the truth until someone slips and whose interpretation of transparency is to let the media and the public wrestle the facts from their mouths like fishes dangling from hooks.
This is not a flaw in the character of your administration; this inefficiency has become your defining trait.
We don’t deserve this, Sir. This is not the covenant we entered into during your oath-taking. Now, since you don’t have the time to reflect, I will help you articulate some of the lessons that you should learn about your administration. Understand that I am taking your word when you said that we are your bosses. So, pay attention:
Your Dream Team of a cabinet is really just that – they excel in dreaming. You craft your government strategy based on high-brow vision statements which your team built like castles in the sand. But there never was a concrete strategy to transform the nation. From visions you get inspiration, but only from well-crafted strategy will you get confidence and courage to govern. Inspiration melts in the face of a crisis situation. Rebuild you team, for there never was a team to begin with.
I grew up in the shadows of the Abads, Soliman, Deles – the patriarch and matriarchs of your administration. From them I learned everything alternative when I was a student leader: alternative education, alternative lifestyle, alternative politics, alternative Christmas, alternative governance. Do not take their analysis of society at face value for theirs is a construct designed to fuel a protest movement, not manage a large bureaucracy. Do your own analysis and dialogue this with those prescribed by your consultants and mentors.
Having a BFF for an Executive Secretary only helps you in trusting the man’s loyalty, it doesn’t mean he can be trusted with the deliverables. You talked about the importance of training our police force and yet you brought in an inexperienced and untrained man to become the Little President? The Cabinet, Sir, as my friend Trixie once said, is not a training ground. I have no problem if women and wine are his coping mechanisms; but to be seen in public doing that while people are hurting reminds us of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.
Your Communications Team was impressive when you were still running for the position. They were excellent in writing fiction; communicating the truth is a different discipline altogether. And they might not be the right men for the task, considering that they don’t even communicate among themselves. And Sir, this is not just about the Black Monday; they have been sending apologies since Day One. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!
Jesse Robredo, God bless his soul, is a good man. He was an excellent Mayor. But his glaring ineptitude was exposed during these last few days. He never had any experience nor exposure on a national level, Sir. If you find his contribution indispensable, just create a new office, like Presidential Assistant for Municipal Affairs or something.
Come out from the protective shell, Mr. President. Do not be afraid to be caught in the line of fire for it is the sacred space where your salvation can happen.
I hope you realize that DEATH is a key element in your life journey as a man and as a leader. A year ago, the death of your mother fuelled a national movement that catapulted you from being Kris’ brother to a president. A year later, the death of nine victims fuelled a nationwide disgust that can bring you down from the pedestal to a pigsty where years of eating chicharon will be avenged.
Do not be afraid, for something in you has to die so that the real Noynoy will emerge better and wiser.
Embrace the Black Monday as your Good Friday Mr. President. Do not resist the crucifixion for as our faith tells us it is the only way to a new life. Yours, and ours.
Believe it or not, your cheerers may have become cynics, but they are still your companions in this journey. I, for one, will not abandon you Mr. President.
Below is the President's response to Barnido's note:
The President's reponse to a Facebook note entitled Mr. President, Something In You Has To Die
This is in response to: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=494735718205
Hello, Reyn. This is your President.
First of all, thank you for your note on Facebook. Such insights from concerned citizens are vital in a maturing democracy such as ours, where all avenues and technologies should be explored in order to raise the level of public discourse. However, thoughts expressed in such sites, which can sometimes be incendiary, spread easily without the necessary validation. This is why I felt the need to respond to your letter.
Your comments against my Cabinet seem to prejudge them without taking a hard look at the reality. For example, I do not believe that my Communications team writes fiction. When have they ever lied or not sought to tell the truth?
We do agree on one thing: the last administration wrongly governed. You supported us because like you, we condemned the nine years of corruption under the previous dispensation. You may not be fully aware of the magnitude of the problems we have inherited, such as midnight appointments by the last administration, which sought to embed in our bureaucracy people who do not share our mission of reform. There is also the increase over the last decade in the number of people living in poverty. The deterioration of our corruption ratings was laid out before the world, making our country less attractive to foreign investors. I do not believe it is realistic, as suggested by your letter, to change everything in two months.
We gave ourselves a more reasonable timeline, two years in fact, to show evidence of real transformation. In the last two months, we have been surprised by very encouraging developments that the changes we envisioned, and promised to our people, might actually be achieved in a shorter time. These are developments, which unfortunately, seem to have been overshadowed for now by the hostage taking tragedy.
One of the priorities that I have repeatedly said my government will focus on is job generation. Just last week, a call center by Convergys was inaugurated in Manila. This facility will provide 5,000 new jobs on top of their existing 17,000-strong workforce.
In a recent courtesy call to me, a major European bank guaranteed an increase in investments by three times the current level with their exposure here in the Philippines.
The forthcoming US trip will likewise reinforce this bullishness on our country’s growth through the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs.
In addition, I will be on hand to receive a $430 million grant from the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.
In the last two months, we were also successful in terminating contracts to procure overpriced equipment for the Department of Agriculture. The P60 million acquisition price has been brought down by nearly half, to P32 million.
We are also tightening procurement for police equipment, to improve our law enforcers’ ability to deal with future hostage-taking incidents and other law enforcement challenges.
Let me also remind you that in the recently submitted budget to Congress, we have sought to make real the campaign pledge to fight poverty. The budget puts in place promised improvements in health and education, and conditional cash transfers. If we are able to sustain them over the life of my administration, we will help lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty.
It has always been my personal philosophy not to overly play up achievements that any government should have been doing in the first place. Perhaps my administration should be doing more to highlight this, but the simple truth is that we are working hard to solve our problems.
I understand that much of your frustration stems from the unfortunate crisis that befell our nation, but my administration will not be defined by this tragedy. It will be defined by what we have already achieved and what we will still achieve in the future.
Again, thank you for your note.