Sunday, February 26, 2006


The day after -

I find many things in the current situation back home tinged with so many ironies. Above all, I am still amazed by what many would term "middle-class sensibility" and "pragmatism" in dealing with the question of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration.

Some of Gloria's adherents would say "it's the economy, stupid!" and point out that whatever she is doing, has convinced investors to put money in the Philippines.

I say differently: the conditions in the Philippines are such that any investor who comes in has his/her eyes open and invests regardless of whoever is on top. All that needs to be done is to make an accommodation with the new host, and to make sure not to do many double deals. The Fraport/Piatco guys have been digesting the fruits of this better lesson for some time now. Learn from the oligarchs: pack one side with your partisans but make sure you have a backdoor by placing someone in the other camp, or at the very least, someone who has the credibility of being "neutral." The Cojuangcos, Laurels, Lopezes, and Aranetas have been doing it for years. Only the Ayalas stepped outside the fray, though only recently - during the latter part of the Marcos administration they had stalwart Enzo supporting the Marcoses, but they supplanted him with Jaime when the Aquino Yellow Fever galvanized the middle class.

Back to the economy:

When have the numbers superseded the intended effects? After all, regardless of the "benefit" of economic growth, does this mean improvement in the quality of life for our people? When has it become such an accountant's reckoning that people are happier because there is more money to be spent, when we don't know how they are spending it? When money passes through the hands of businesses, do more jobs and better lives really result?

Japan and Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong first, then Singapore and Malaysia, then Thailand and now all over our radar China --- why must it be a numbers game in terms of economics when we compare ourselves to them? Is it because they have impressive infrastructure and consistent double-digit growth? So now we go back, do the math, and go after achieving those numbers.

True, the numbers don't lie. But they don't tell the whole story. The functional side of "economic development" can only affect business processes. It's the philosophical side that matters.

Simply put, the economic model is easily duplicated. But first, you create the social conditions that make it easier for people to achieve their highest potential. There will be some shunts, doubtless, as witnessed in the outright racial/religious discrimination practiced in Malaysia, the iron-fisted rule in Singapore, the untold story of privation of workers in China. So yes, they sucked it up and did what they have to do. Rather, are doing what they think they must do.

Back to GMA, then. I admire her as a great politician. Doubtless she has already earned her place in history. As Machiavelli would point out, any means, fair or foul, to perpetuate oneself in power needs must be done. So for those people who laud her and say, "Good job! Do what needs to be done to strengthen the economy! Preserve law and order! Scatter those paid rallyists!" I am no longer debating the "economic figures" and the "no alternative" scenarios. There, we can agree to disagree since neither of us have powers of precognition. We can only see the indicators, and true, one can put any spin on the aftermath of an administration change.

We do, however, have powers of reflection and introspection. I urge you to look back at the historic parallels. If you don't discover the ironies in our current situation (naturally I won't tell you), or if you do and don't find yourself morally repelled by this administration, there you have it.

I don't question GMA's values anymore, I question yours.

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