MANILA, OCTOBER 28, 2013 (MANILA BULLETIN) By: Leandro DD Coronel - If there’s such a thing as a silent siege, it’s what’s being thrown at President Aquino right now.

The objective: to chip away at his popularity and make worthless his endorsement of Mar Roxas as presidential candidate in 2016.

The drop last week in PNoy’s poll numbers isn’t coincidental; it’s partly the dirty tricks campaign against him bearing early fruit. Expect the siege to continue.

You can see it in a subtle but sustained flow of letters to newspaper editors, taking advantage of every possible peg to put Aquino down.

The letters so far have tried to portray the President as incompetent and lazy but the more shrill among them flirt with suggestions of either impeachment or forced resignation.

Some commentators in print and radio have also been on the President’s back, even to the extent of calling him names.

Expect the badmouthing to escalate and be more overt.

Who might be behind this Noynoy-bashing?

Mr. Aquino has stepped on a lot of political toes in the three years he’s been in office. He’s put a lot of people in humiliating situations, exposing their past misbehavior to the searing light of the sun for everyone to see. He’s made a lot of people angry.

Any one or group among these people currently twisting in the wind could be behind the plot to diminish PNoy’s standing with the people and erode his popularity.

Noynoy-bashers may be motivated either by their own belief that the President is doing a lousy job or by something the central bank guarantees as legal tender.

For the first suspects, domestic appreciation for PNoy’s efforts so far is widespread. And abroad, credit rating agencies and global business leaders have been giving the Philippines high marks, practically endorsing Aquino’s governance as the key to the investment-rating upgrades. So the Noynoy detractors must have other motives.

Having said this, and while praise has been coming his way, the President must further improve the government’s performance, especially in making sure the recent economic growth benefits the poor.

PNoy’s high poll numbers up to this point make him a formidable endorser in 2016.

And so those who are nursing their own ambitions to get to where PNoy’s desk is currently, and are not likely to be endorsed by him, naturally want to make him a weak or insignificant anointer of the next president.

They could be behind the moves to make Aquino an ineffectual kingmaker in 2016, or worse a lame duck even before that time.

Aquino’s ace so far is his chart-busting numbers in the surveys. Consistently, the people have given him rave reviews so far, building him an impregnable wall against the manufactured complaints over his performance in office. This has made the task of the Noynoy-bashers tough up to this point.

But the dip in the President’s survey numbers last week will give his detractors a glimmer of optimism. They might even toast themselves as doing a good job of whittling down PNoy’s standing among the masses.

No doubt Mr. Aquino’s handlers are able to discern what’s going on; they don’t have to read the tea leaves to know that their boss is under a subtle but continuing siege.

They and their principal should expect the sniping to continue in the coming months and build up to a crescendo in 2015 all the way to 2016.

Of course it’s the essence of democracy to have a robust agora of ideas, an exchange of differing opinions, and a healthy give-and-take in public fora. The president and all public officials are open targets for criticism because they are the servants of the people.

But criticism must be fair and based on facts, not on mere conjecture or worse, on fabricated insinuations or outright falsehoods. Public discourse must be responsible and honest, and not just name-calling and ad hominem arguments.

We the people must put Aquino on his toes at all times to keep him alert and honest. We must put his feet to the fire and continue to breathe down his neck so he knows we’re watching him.

But we cannot just throw accusations at him indiscriminately and without proof. Unless we have a personal or paid-for agenda.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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