POSTSCRIPT / January 12, 2003 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Hello, is the country listening to GMA?

COMMUNICATION GAP: As Local Government Secretary Joey Lina correctly pointed out in a recent Cabinet meeting, the Arroyo administration suffers from a communication problem.

There are many communication networks already in place, some of them ready to cooperate if motivated, but they are not adequately tapped by the government. In a few cases, some of the media that are generally ignored are even antagonistic.

An example of how communication problems may continue to bug the administration is the last major speech of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the stock exchange where she discussed a number of important topics, mostly economic.

Among the topics taken up were the Special Purpose Asset Vehicle Act, the Government Procurement Reform Act, and proposed legislation to restore fiscal balance, rationalize motor vehicle taxes, convert the bureau of internal revenue into a corporation, adopt policy signals to slow down tariff liberalization, create a natural resources mining corporation, index excise taxes on beer and tobacco, and put securitization in place.

While most of the businessmen present may have understood what she was saying and trying to do, we doubt if the man in the street, or even some reporters on the beat, understood the topics discussed and especially the impact on their lives.

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JARGON OVERLOAD: Somebody will have to explain, for instance, that the asset vehicle law is not about cars and jeepneys, that procurement reform is not about prostitutes mending their ways, fiscal balance is not fund juggling, the conversion of the BIR into a corporation does not mean delivering it to a crony, the mining corporation is not a cover for the exploitation of the mountain of gold at Diwalwal, and that securitization does not refer to a networking for security guards.

Maybe the new and the proposed laws mentioned by President Arroyo are good — most people would not know at this point — but it would be too much to ask the average Filipino to swallow the measures as ushering in a better life.

That overload of business jargon spewed out by the President will have to be translated into simple language understood by the average Filipino (assuming he can be made to listen) — and fed to him in small, painless doses within the limited time left for the Arroyo administration.

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ENTERS BRAGANZA: That is the main challenge that will confront Agrarian Reform Secretary Nani Branganza when he takes over as Press Secretary on Wednesday.

Braganza is seen by some of us in media as a bit brash (he is not, he just talks loud at times), but the main (and petty) objection to him is that he is not from the press. There is this attitude in press circles that the Press Secretary must come from their ranks.

This myopic view is illustrated in the radio comments of a popular anchor who opened a recent interview with presidential spokesman Toting Bunye with, “Mukhang may trainee kayo diyan sa Malacanang, Mr. Secretary”. (It seems you have a trainee there in Malacanang.)

“In what sense?” asked Bunye.

“Trainee…kasi bagito,” the anchor explained. (… a greenhorn)

Bunye could only say “Alam mo, si Nani, I think he will fit well, lets just give him time to adjust.”

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NANI’S DEVOTION: Having observed Braganza from the time he was a student leader to his stint at Agrarian Reform, we dare say that he looks to us as taking on the job with his heart in the right place. That should be enough for starters.

He was at our kapihan last Thursday. Braganza said he considered serving GMA a “devotion.” It doesn’t matter to him that the OPS is a “very small bureaucracy” as compared to Agrarian Reform, a detail that had prompted media comments that his devotion is a demotion.

If OPS is indeed a demotion from DAR, Braganza accepts it. If his boss, the President, can demote herself to lame duck status, Braganza doesn’t seem to mind being downgraded to a smaller office.

In one of his first public statements after his appointment, the incoming Press Secretary said: “Devotion po sa akin kung ano man ang ipapatrabaho sa akin. Gagawin ko po. I would love to do it. I would like to do it. The bottom line here is if I can be of help in anyway… I will do it on behalf of the President.”

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HEAL OUR LAND: Here is a website that we highly recommend for you to visit: It is excellent both in content and packaging. But its true worth is in its mission, which is to “gather God’s people in prayer to claim His promise to heal our land.”

Its goal is to gather enough Filipinos to pray together. It is anchored on the prayer of believers emboldened by Christ’s own promise that He would listen if His people would humble themselves, pray, seek His face and mend their ways.

The Heal our Land Movement was founded by Vicente “Enteng” Romano III, founder and moderator of ELagda that helped push out then President Erap Estrada.

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POWER OF PRAYER: We were led to the Heal our Land website by an email quoting Romano that said in part:

“She caught the nation by surprise. Not even her closest advisers knew that President GMA would announce her withdrawal from the 2004 elections in her Rizal Day message. It was a decision made between her and God, shared only with her immediate family.

“Her detractors, ever so critical, declared it was merely a ploy, designed to ease up the heat brought about by mounting charges of corruption. To many others, including me, it was a selfless sacrifice, based on an honest assessment and humble reflection of the current political landscape, and motivated by a sincere desire to improve the lot of our people.

“At the very least, it gave us a glimmer of hope that things may yet change for the better. But is this enough? Is there really hope? By her own admission, GMA rightfully assessed that ‘over the last decades, our republic has become one of the weakest, steadily left behind by its more progressive neighbors.’

“Forty years ago, we were only second to Japan in economic stature, and way ahead of Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand. Today, at our present growth rate, it will take us 30 years to get to where Thailand is today.

“By the year 2030, our children will experience far worse conditions than what we have today: A population of 160 million; of those, 70 to 90 million (equivalent to our current population) will live below the poverty line; our national debt is estimated to be at $200 billion (compared to $28 billion when Marcos fled, and $ 53 billion today); we will be competing, not against Thailand or even Vietnam, but against Bangladesh; we will be the most corrupt nation in Asia, if not in the world (we are already ranked 11th most corrupt nation by Transparency International).

“The signs are clear. Our nation is headed towards an irreversible path of economic decline and moral decadence.

“It is not for lack of effort. We have seen many men and women of integrity in and out of government, NGOs, church groups and people’s organizations devote themselves to the task of nation-building, often times against insurmountable odds. But not even two people’s revolutions, bloodless as they may be, have made a dent in reversing this trend. At best, we have moved one step forward, but three steps backward.

“Today, President GMA calls for unity and challenges every Filipino to make a personal sacrifice. This is not an empty call, for she starts by making a sacrifice of her own. It is a noble and laudable call. But I don’t think it is enough to overpower the sinister forces of exploitation and vested interests. We need a force far greater than our collective efforts, as a people, can ever hope to muster.

“It is time to move the battle to the spiritual realm. It is time to claim God’s promise of healing of the land for His people. It is time to gather God’s people on its knees to pray for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation.

“We launch Heal Our Land Movement on the Internet, to gather Filipinos from all over the world to pray, as a people, for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation.

“We do not ask for much. We only ask for 5 to 10 minutes of your time in a week, to log-in at the website, and pray for the specific and general national concerns that we will publish. This is the kind of unity that can make a big difference.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 12, 2003)

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