BY THE WAY: AFTER YOU ABANDON A SHIP, DON'T TRY TO SINK IT

MANILA, December 12, 2003 (STAR) BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - Somebody circulated an alleged "Pulse Asia" survey yesterday, declaring that Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ was running far ahead of the pack (I didn’t say Rat Pack) with 44 percent.

It turned out that the supposed survey was spurious – Pulse Asia quickly asserted it had never taken that survey, nor recorded such a startling result.

Who dunnit? The former Spice Boy who’s now DGMA ("Defender of GMA"), Housing Secretary Mike Defensor, immediately went on television to assert that the fake survey "finding" had been circulated by the opposition in an act of "desperation", and rightfully condemned the dirty tactic.

The question is: Who in the opposition had "done the dirty"? Did such a scam come from the Poe Camp? This seems unlikely, because the deception would have been speedily exposed, and therefore prove not merely ineffective but indeed boomerang on the Panday pangkat. So, who then?

Our problem in these confused and sticky times is that politicians seem to live and die by "surveys" and "poll findings", while the gullible public, especially us silly columnists, greedily gobble them up as though all of them were Gospel truth. Relying on surveys, alas, is not conducive to good government, since this practice cripples efficiency in governance by weakening resoluteness in decision-making.

It is a poor leader who waits to see which way the wind is blowing, or discerns what is the popular thing. The true leader leads, not waits in stupefaction.

I’ve known it for some time now, but didn’t comment on the fact that Mr. Mahar Mangahas, the head of the respected Social Weather Stations (SWS), and FPJ are first cousins. When FPJ eked out a one percent lead over previous frontrunner Noli de Castro, and an even bigger lead over President GMA in an SWS poll taken even before Poe had announced he was running for President, it was inevitable that Malacańang’s spinmeisters would trot out the ad hominem argument and hint the SWS survey result was flawed owing to the FPJ-Mangahas blood relationship.

Since Mahar has been compelled to go on TV and state that the SWS is impartial and is not for or against any candidate, I hasten to agree. Mangahas would never dream of tampering with the results in favor or against anybody, since such a move would destroy the credibility of the very company which is not only his bread and butter, but on whom so many people depend. Self-respect, even vanity, could never countenance such a misstep. Indeed, Mahar’s mother, Mrs. Ruby Kelly Mangahas, may have been a sister of Mrs. Bessie Kelly Poe, FPJ’s mom, but what has that got to do with anything?

My own view is that it’s early days yet, and there will be many ups and downs in scores of surveys to come. So, relax. The real danger lies at the kinetic point when the candidates, whoever they finally are, come running full tilt all the way down to the wire in the final lap of the campaign. This is the dangerous moment when a "weighted" or maliciously-calculated "exit poll" might be able to influence the outcome of the election, or serve to disguise any contemplated skullduggery in the final tabulation.

* * *

Did you see the photographs on the front pages of several newspapers (including this one) showing the faces of the politicians and trapos who were waiting to "proclaim" FPJ the official candidate of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) at the Inter-Con last Wednesday? No wonder FPJ was a "no show". He didn’t go there to be photographed with them.

I won’t say the KNP looked like a reprise of the old Marcos-Imeldific Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), since two or three anti-Macoy characters (no sweet-smelling democrats, though) were there. But it, indeed, somewhat resembled the martial law KBL, which posed as a "New Society" but instead contained the biggest rascals of the Old Society. Will some old reprobates ride back to power, hanging on to the coat-tails, I mean horse-tail of FPJ, the heroic Rough Rider from San Carlos, Pangasinan?

I think one of the main speakers at the Inter-Con proclamation, former Ambassador and former Senator Erning Maceda, said it all. He declared in ringing tones that we must put a stop to corruption. Jojo Binay, Jinggoy Estrada and Imee Marcos applauded that assertion merrily. Maceda went on to say that corruption must be curbed for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Did we hear right? He revealed he had ten grandchildren.

FPJ, at least, got to avoid – by staying away – having his hand raised (not his pocket picked) by any of his heartily avowed supporters at the Inter-Con. But he can’t avoid them forever.

Oh, well. Ping Lacson and Raul Roco – not to mention GMA – have their own painfully photogenic supporters, too. One tagline comes to mind whenever one spots those enthusiastic frontliners at the gatherings of every political camp: The Rogues Gallery.

It’s enough to drive a man to drink. In the case of Ronnie Poe – to beer.

* * *

It was bad form – to invoke the old Brit expression – for former Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho – to criticize the GMA government for failure to implement crucial revenue reforms, as when he told, the Philippine Economic Society that this failure to institute reforms has placed the country on the brink of a fiscal crisis.

Bad form? I think it was disgraceful for Lito Camacho to talk this way. Having abandoned the GMA ship, it looks like he’s now trying to sink that ship. All this pompous handwashing is worse than doing a Pontius Pilate. For Pilate had nothing previously to do with Jesus, while Camacho was the Administration’s finance minister, in charge of the revenue department. That stab at self-justification, a blatant attempt to distance himself from his own failure, smacks of utter selfishness on the part of someone who preens himself as a mature and experienced investment banker. It seemed, for that matter, an eruption of childish peevishness for not having gotten his way.

But what did we expect of a gentleman whose proposed fastbreak gimmick to reduce our enormous national debt was to plan to sell off our most cherished and irreplaceable properties in the United States, like that Philippine Center building which has our flag flying proudly on Fifth Avenue in New York, the Main Street of the world, and our historic Embassy building in Washington, DC – a national treasure since this was the headquarters in America from which the peaceful movement for Independence from US colonialism was operated? Those were just two of the "crown jewels" of our nation Mr. Camacho had contemplated putting on the auction block.

Doesn’t Mr. Camacho suffer any pangs of remorse for his precipitate resignation having helped sink the peso (not just the stupid Court of Appeals suspension, now lifted by the Supreme Court, of Bangko Sentral Governor Rafael Buenaventura, or the candidacy of FPJ)? That ungrateful salvo at the government from which he had just decamped has damaged the country even further. When an ex-Secretary of Finance announces that the Philippines is on the brink of a fiscal crisis – he creates that very fiscal crisis. Common sense, if not patriotism, should have told him that.

Alas, Camacho’s lack of delicadeza will now contribute painfully to our national suffering. He owed the GMA government, at the very least, his discretion. Whatever the awful truth, it was a matter of honor to him – of all people – to keep mum.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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