POSTSCRIPT / October 29, 2000 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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If Erap has no solution by Xmas, he’s a goner

CEBU CITY — It’s the economy, stupid! It’s not the political opposition that is pulling Erap Estrada, and with him the entire nation, down to the cliff.

The United Opposition, which held yesterday its initial miting de avance in this maverick city, would be no match to the administration’s organization and resources were Erap not plagued by an economic crisis huge enough to swallow him.

The economic indicators on the wall are lit up like a Christmas tree with flashing red all over. The peso has plunged to P51 to the dollar after breaching the psychological 50:1 barrier, triggering a whole slew of problems such as runaway prices, dwindling real wages, untimely layoffs, crimes against property and ugly street marches.

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CHRISTMAS is no accidental reference point. If Erap is unable to break the fall of the peso and stabilize the economy by early December, we’re likely to see thousands of workers not getting their usual bonuses and other Christmas goodies. Errant employers can be expected to conveniently point to Erap as the culprit.

If Erap is unable to make the urgent corrections — and there are no indications that he could — we would hear wild alarum bells, not the tinkling silver bells of Christmas, in the coming Yule season.

A sure sign that the economic situation is really that bad is the overwhelming verdict of respected business groups, including the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines, that the only solution is for Erap to resign — now.

Unfortunately for Erap, the business community is not known to just wring its hands when a crisis of this proportion hits it. This potent sector plots and moves, and it seems to have moved away from Erap after finding him to be the problem and not the solution.

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BLAMING Erap for their woes, members of the business sector can be expected to align themselves with whoever offers a viable solution to their problems and appears as having the capability to deliver.

It seems from the statements being made in Makati, Cebu and other urban centers that Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is widely regarded by the business sector as part of the solution, if not being the key to the solution itself.

Arroyo announced here yesterday the United Opposition’s drawing up of an action plan for the first 100 days after Erap resigns, as well as the drafting of an alternative national agenda to effect an economic turnaround in the short term and decisively address poverty in the medium and long term.

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TO the business community and the gathering opposition, the question is no longer whether Erap should go or not, but when and how he should go. The two sectors appear to have arrived at a common answer to the “when” and the “how”: Erap should go now, and his removal should follow constitutional processes.

The opinion of this observer will not matter, but our view is that the more efficient constitutional process is not impeachment but resignation. Responsible members of Congress should move to stop the farcical impeachment process.

Erap will never be impeached anyway, so why go through the moro-moro at all? Even granting he is impeached and he takes it graciously, his delayed departure will not necessarily solve the problem if there is no alternative team ready with a prescription.

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IMPEACHMENT, which is nothing but a highly partisan game of numbers, may resolve the impertinent question of who has Congress in its pocket, but it will not solve the gargantuan economic crisis crying for a solution.

On the contrary, the rigmarole could drag on till next year and just prolong the agony of this long-suffering people.

Pardon our having to say it ourselves, but everything considered, the most expeditious solution is for Erap to resign as soon as he can pack up his bags. He would be doing this country a favor if he did.

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IN preparation for what they sense is the inevitable resignation of Erap under pressure from the sectors reeling from the economic difficulties, disparate elements of the political opposition have started to band together to adopt a common agenda and one action plan.

After their series of meetings here, opposition groups made big steps toward uniting under the leadership of Vice President Arroyo.

Falling in line behind one leader is a vital preliminary step since it is not enough that Erap is fast losing his hold. If the opposition itself were fragmented, Erap would be able to maneuver, rebound and last longer than the battered economy could bear.

But yesterday, the issue of who would lead the United Opposition appears to have been settled, with Arroyo, a doctor of economics, emerging as the unanimous choice.

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AN indication of the measure of success of Arroyo in uniting the opposition and giving it direction was the signing with her yesterday of a United Opposition statement by various factions led by, among others, Sen. Teofisto Guingona (Lakas-NUCD/UMDP/KAMPI), former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa (Reporma), and Gov. Lito Osmena (Promdi).

We did not see, however, such big names as former presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos. Arroyo explained that the two former presidents were elder statesmen who were “above political parties” and were not “required” to attend rallies. They may show up in future meetings.

There were several senators (Loren Legarda and Juan Flavier), congressmen, governors and some former Cabinet members in the Cebu programs. Some prominent figures such as Guingona, Osmena, De Villa and Rep. Ernesto Herrera were mentioned earlier by some media as members of Arroyo’s “shadow Cabinet,” but this was more of speculation than fact.

While it is fast-tracking its moves, the United Opposition has not reached that level of preparation.

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POSTSCRIPT: Lately we’ve been receiving a number of messages with attachments. We want to reiterate our advice to readers that we do not open attachments. We delete them on sight. Please type out or paste the text with the message proper instead of attaching it.

We also advise correspondents that we do not use, quote or reprint email sent from such secondary addresses as yahoo and hotmail as the authenticity and source of the email is difficult to establish. We prefer dealing with senders using email address registered with regular Internet Service Providers.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 29, 2000)

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