Politics of disunity

December 8, 2016 at 10:06

Politics of disunity

 (The Philippine Star) |


 But I clung on to the hope that her being in his Cabinet may eventually result in a government where every Filipino can claim to have a part.

It was not to be. She was asked to desist from attending future Cabinet meetings. She took that as a sign he didn’t want her in his official family. She did what anyone ought to do under the circumstances and resigned.

It was not for lack of trying on her part. She was elected from a rival political party, but she made it clear party politics was far from her mind. She rejected offers to make her party president.

She knew she had to be an effective vice president and Housing Secretary in fairness to those who voted for her. She can do that best by cutting off party ties and focusing on her mission to help the most downtrodden of our people. She knows that she may have the second highest title, but without budgets and other resources, she can do very little.

She knows about being a team player, and if one read her statements, she did try to be one. But there are things that are so fundamentally different between her and the President, and she would be short selling herself and those who voted for her if she just kept silent.

The past five months or so had been tough on her too. She had been the object of hate rumors and insulting social media memes. Some rumors, from a hyperactive bunch of trolls, have been outright vicious, questioning her adherence to the high moral values for which she is known.

The President had not been helpful. Indeed, he had been rather disrespectful. He may have been feeling just a little playful when he told a public audience that he ogles her knees when she wears short skirts.

Why make public a behavior more typical for teenage boys with raging testosterone? For an old man, it comes out as being simply lecherous. A woman, the nation’s vice president at that, deserves more respect.

Her critics say she has done nothing over the last five months as housing secretary. That’s not exactly accurate. She has started where anyone in her position should: streamlining bureaucratic processes and bringing the assistance quicker to those who need it.

She got little or no help from Malacañang. The budget for all key shelter agencies in 2017 was slashed by more than P19 billion. All of the key shelter agency appointment recommendations have not been acted on making it impossible to move without key executives. The executive order designed to make HUDCC effective was not signed. Every team player deserves team support.

But a Cabinet member serves at the pleasure of the president. She is not the first vice president to be sidelined by a president. She accepts that her being in the Cabinet is the president’s prerogative. That’s not the issue we should be concerned about with her departure from the Cabinet.

We often think that an administration where many different viewpoints are represented would have the best chance for uniting our people. Indeed, the president himself made much of his description of his Cabinet as a rainbow Cabinet. Her presence in that Cabinet provided one more stripe to the rainbow.

Reality, however, bites. The President might have thought having her in the Cabinet would work. But the controversies of recent weeks were too divisive. In the end, it is the president’s show and she concedes that.

My worry now is that these irreconcilable differences may eventually break up the fragile coalition the President has whipped up. It isn’t just her. The Left had been rather restless too about the sneaky Marcos burial. One of the Leftist leaders warned the issue could break up the peace talks.

We are living in a very dangerous world of terrorists and demagogues. More than ever we need to unify as Filipinos rather than amplify the divisions we have allowed ourselves to fall into. It isn’t “them” or “us”. It is only “us”.

We are getting distracted from the real problems we should focus on. Former Finance usec Milwilda Guevara recently lamented in an opinion piece at the Bulletin that we have much to worry about.

“All is not well. Inflation started to rise to 2.3  percent in October compared to 1.4 percent last year.  Expenditures outpaced revenues resulting to a budgetary deficit of P121.6 billion in September.

“While this may be in keeping with the pursuit of the “golden age of infrastructure,” it worries me that our revenues may not take us there.  Despite the 7.1 percent GDP growth, revenues only grew by 1.12 percent. This means government is not able to capture increases in income and prices in terms of revenue collection.

“The growth of BIR revenues was less than one percent, or a pale 0.62 percent. BOC collection increased by 2.06 percent. If we take away the tax expenditures or taxes that what would have been collected from purchases of government, the growth of BOC collection would be less than one percent as well, or 0.66 percent.

“In contrast, expenditures in September this year, grew by 22.81 percent compared to the same period in 2015. If expenditures continue to outpace revenues, government will have little recourse but to do debt financing. This path is perilous and rocky.

“There are more worrisome signals. Business optimism dipped as shown by the Grant Thornton International Business report. Economic uncertainty slipped by 14 points as 38 percent of businesses surveyed opined that economic uncertainty is considered a major constraint.

“BSP reported that overall confidence index declined to 39.8 percent compared to 45.4 percent during the last quarter. The less than optimistic outlook of business was influenced by the direction of foreign policies and economic reforms, weakening global demand, and the depreciation of the peso.

“Another slip was reported by the World Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum. The Philippines dropped from 47th to 57th place in the ranking of 138 countries .We seemed to retrogress in terms of technological readiness, institutions, innovations, and goods market efficiency.

“Everyday, we watch the continuous slide of the peso against the dollar with anticipation. Exporters and overseas contract workers are elated, but manufacturers with a significant import component in their products anticipate rising costs. This does not augur well for a smooth sailing of government’s proposal to increase excise tax rates on petroleum products.

“We used to have the best performing equities market in the region but last weekend local share prices plunged in contrast to the buoyant growth of stock markets in the region and in the United States.”

Ms. Guevara’s point is simple: we have bigger and more important things to work together with than to waste time bringing each other down. The President must realize that his “bad boy” messaging to the world has really resulted in less investor confidence in our country.

If the President can’t help much with the economy, it’s alright to make his economic managers take the lead, but he must not make their jobs more difficult with his public statements. Even Chavit Singson complained he almost lost the opportunity to host Miss Universe here because the President cursed the Jews.

As for the vice president, the worse thing she can do now is to reconnect with the yellows. That would prove the worse suspicions of those who hate her in the administration camp. She must go on as a vice president whose main concern now is to advance the advocacies she is known for.

Independent civic leaders and our youth should rally behind her to make partisan support irrelevant. She should not tire of showing the President that the two of them can work for the same national purpose voters elected them to do even if they do not share the means of getting there.

Source: www.philstar.com/business

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