BOO CHANCO:  STRONG REPUBLIC NA SANA, ANO?

MANILA
, June 25 , 2004
 (STAR)
DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco  -  A frustrated politician confesses on nationwide television that he is the culprit responsible for all those nasty spikes scattered on the nation’s highways from EDSA to Kennon Road. When I heard him boasting of his feat as an act of protest, I felt that this is the kind of social psychopath we created governments to protect us from. I fully expected the police to track him down posthaste and the courts of justice ordering that he be hung by his balls from a tree in the garbage dumpsite in Payatas over a bed of spikes.

Not only did the ABS-CBN news team beat the police in going to his hideout, I saw the rolly polly face of DILG Secretary Joey Lina proclaiming that the psychopath’s nationwide public confession was not enough to get the law to take care of him. Gee whiz, Joey... anong ka-baklaan ba ito? It is bad enough Joey has refused to protect tax paying landowners from squatters, Joey now confesses helplessness in protecting us from an idiot who wants to create havoc in the city streets? Based on his own confession, that psychopath has to be liable for subversion, at the very least, if not outright rebellion.

My take on the psychopath’s public nationwide confession was nothing less than a challenge to this administration. He was taunting the administration to go after him if the authorities are half the men they are supposed to be. His anti-social act effectively told the people they couldn’t trust a government that cannot even protect them from punks like him. He wanted to show to the world that our government is not in control and you don’t need a military backed coup to show it.

Unfortunately, Joey Lina, who is on top of the national police, obliged the psychopath and confirmed our worst fears. The Presidential Spokesman didn’t help much by giving a forgettable statement about it. The general impression of helplessness remains. You can almost hear people say, walang kuwentang gobyerno. Inutil. Thanks to Joey, the idea of a Strong Republic goes out the window.

If they let this social psychopath get away with it, expect copycat psychopaths to follow. They just found out a bagful of spikes is all it takes to generate anarchy in the streets. Even the communist and Islamic militants will find this a less dangerous way to create a vacuum of leadership as a first step in grabbing power in the country.

Ate Glo must take control. She said that her presidency would safeguard the people from anarchy. Is this the way she walks her talk? She must show what she means by a Strong Republic. The long suffering Filipinos are waiting...

What’s Next?

Now that Ate Glo has been proclaimed our Great Leader for the next six years, everyone I have talked to, including those who reluctantly voted for her to stop FPJ, have expressed hope that she will now be the leader we need to have. That is also my constant prayer but it seems we have to pray a little harder just to make sure. Recent pronouncements from the Palace give me the impression that Ate Glo (or at least her Spokesman) is still pretty much on election campaign mode.

The President, according to the Spokesman, has vowed to pursue her campaign promises in a six-point pro-poor program after her proclamation. Ignacio Bunye explained Mrs. Arroyo wanted the creation of six million new jobs, scholarships for every poor family, building of new classrooms and a computer in every school, and reducing by half the costs of medicine and expansion of the PhilHealth insurance program.

Not only that. Mrs. Arroyo, Bunye further announced, also bared her programs for lowering the cost of electricity and bringing electric power and potable water to all barangays in the archipelago. With particular emphasis on job creation, Mrs. Arroyo wants to provide support for small and medium enterprises (SME) which could generate at least 800,000 new jobs, Bunye said.

Great plans! But where will she get the money to do all that? Why is she still running for President? Is it because in her heart she does not feel elected? Those populist promises are understandable things to say in an election campaign. But how can she make all those promises happen with our fiscal condition the mess that it is now? I am afraid Ate Glo is just raising false expectations among the people. That’s a dangerous thing to do because a disappointed madlang masa can be very dangerous indeed.

I am sure Ate Glo is aware of our fiscal deficit problem. I am sure our favorite doctor of economics knows it is a serious problem. It is no secret that our government’s fiscal situation is in such a great big mess. Former NEDA Chief Ciel Habito recently pointed out that 81 percent of projected 2004 revenues–that means four out of every five pesos of revenues our government will collect this year–will have to go to debt service, for both interest and amortization of the principal.

"This is not a political oppositionist’s hyperbolic projection, mind you. It is an official figure obtained directly from the Department of Finance’s (DOF) objective financial projections for the year. Naturally, the government prefers to quote a number that doesn’t sound as alarming, by saying that 31 percent of the government budget will go to debt service–keeping silent that this only counts payments for interest," Habito points out.

But Ate Glo must be truthful about our crisis situation if she wants to get the nation behind her in dealing with it. Bad as it is, interest payments only make up half of total debt service obligations due this year. Habito explains that Ate Glo may be creating illusions about the gravity of the problem "by taking the percentage of this incomplete figure not against revenues but against the bigger number represented by the government budget–i.e. projected revenues plus the projected deficit of P198 billion–then the percentage would come out lower."

But "for most of us, it is already disturbing enough to know that one-third of the budget will just be tied up in interest payments alone. And even more to realize that this is far from describing the full extent of the seriousness of our debt problem." And so, the question I want Ate Glo and Mr. Bunye to answer is, where will she get the money to carry out her six point program?

The Palace should by now be laying the groundwork to defend new tax measures like the tax on text messages. That may be unpopular but even for an avid texter like myself, that seems to be the most painless way of earning a little bit to help bridge the fiscal gap. Even Manny Pangilinan of PLDT/Smart seems ready to accept the tax if his signature in the First 100 days program is any indication.

As I wrote here the other week, a serious fiscal gap will bring upon us the evils of inflation, high interest rates and lack of investor confidence. In the end, we all pay a heavy invisible tax and suffer the consequences of economic stagnation.

The Palace talks of biting the bullet. I want to see them bite this bullet because it is only by showing she now means business will Ate Glo win over the doubters who didn’t vote for her. This will create a new and wider mandate for her leadership, something she badly needs now. That’s what FVR did. That’s what she should do.

We are waiting. Stop all this talk about her inaugural gown. If she takes her oath in a smart business suit, that would have more meaning to her suffering nation than the most elaborate of gowns made by the most popular of local designers.

Again I ask, where will she get the money for her populist programs? Where oh where? Her credibility depends on her response. We are waiting.

Someday

And here’s Dr. Ernie E.

One young man was riding his bicycle across a university campus. A passerby saw that a message on the front of his T-shirt announced his occupational goal: "I AM GOING TO BE A DOCTOR."

As the cyclist rode on, the passerby noticed a sign on the rear of his bicycle : "I AM GOING TO BE A MERCEDES."

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is philstar_chanco@yahoo.com


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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