JULY 28, 2009
(STAR) TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez - As I’m writing this, GMA is preparing to deliver her last State of the Nation Address before Congress, where she will naturally highlight the accomplishments of her administration. After all, there’s no one better than the President herself who will be able to point out her achievements not only for 2008 but perhaps during her eight going on nine years in the Palace. This is her last opportunity to tell the nation what she has done, and if she was able to accomplish the things she presented during her previous SONA.

It can be recalled that last year, GMA made use of technology via video and PowerPoint presentations to highlight planned infrastructure projects, growth and economic targets to bring the Philippines closer to her vision of making it a “first world country” within two decades and make it more competitive in the global market.

Some opposition senators and congressmen made true on their promise to boycott the SONA, while still others took on more creative and fashionable ways to express their contempt, like party-list representative Liza Maza who wore a gown made of “katsa” (the material used for flour sacks) with a painted image of GMA weaving a Cha-cha embroidery. (For many particularly the legislators’ wives, the SONA – dubbed by many as the most important political event – is a once-a-year opportunity to appear at their finest, resplendent in their designer gowns – much to the irritation of militants and urban poor groups who are certain to spew a mouthful at the cost of those gowns. But that’s an altogether different story, with fashion critics sure to join the fray when they give their list of the best and worst dressed.)

Of course, the opposition and all other anti-GMA groups are all ready to heckle even before they get to hear what she has to say this time. No one will be surprised they will resort to effigy burning once again since it seems this has become standard “practice” among protesters. Militants are already denouncing GMA for so many things that in their judgment were “failures” of her administration which pro-GMA groups are sure to contradict – reminding one that sometimes, it’s a case of perceiving the glass either as half-empty or half-full.

But what is undeniably evident in the whole atmosphere is the sense that everybody seems to be waiting not so much to hear about her achievements but on what the future will be without GMA in the equation. Prior to the SONA, all sorts of wild scenarios were being painted about GMA’s political plans – but I am told that in her speech, she will categorically announce that she will step down on June 30, 2010. That should be enough to still the fluttering butterflies in the presidentiables’ tummies, many of whom are hoping against hope that being president is in their destiny.

In fairness to GMA, she did accomplish a lot of things particularly concerning the economy. The bitter economic pills that she made Filipinos swallow at the onset (such as the EVAT) have proven to be quite what the doctor has ordered because these have helped the country weather the global financial meltdown that has brought down many countries down on their knees – a fact that has not gone unnoticed among international analysts and experts.

If one will recall, economists from the University of Asia and the Pacific also compared previous presidents from the time of FVR and tagged GMA, the “cute economist,” as the leader who has succeeded in strengthening the economy and will most likely have her “economic legacy appreciated by future generations.”

A lot of businessmen certainly agree that the economy has fared better during GMA’s term, with some even urging her to encourage her successor to enhance the things that are working well and remove the obstacles that are hindering certain sectors from realizing their potential for growth.

One must also give GMA credit for surviving nine years despite several coup and impeachment attempts, just like what happened during the tenure of former president Cory Aquino. However, the controversies that have hounded her administration such as the fertilizer fund scandal, the ZTE-NBN deal and “Hello, Garci” will be the sore spots that will continue to haunt her unless the truth concerning these issues are finally brought to light.

Yet while militants are already predicting that history will be harsh to GMA, one could not discount what people call the wisdom of hindsight – articulated by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who said that when the dust finally settles, and when passion, anger and disappointment no longer color people’s perceptions, “history will be a better judge” of GMA – whom he said has “done better” than her predecessors in handling the economy.

Enrile cited agricultural modernization, the construction and upgrading of airports, the establishment of a nautical highway (through the roll-on, roll off ferries) connecting Luzon to Mindanao, and the construction of superhighways and other infrastructure as among the accomplishments of the president. The Senate President’s assessment was echoed by PLDT chairman Manny Pangilinan who said he believes history will be “kinder, gentler” to GMA. And as succinctly pointed out by presidentiable and Jesus is Lord Movement leader Eddie Villanueva, Filipinos are a forgiving people – and once GMA finally steps down, it will be easier to look upon her more favorably than they are willing to do at this time.

But perhaps it is best to remember what Richard Nixon once said: “The judgment of history depends on who writes it.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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