POSTSCRIPT / June 29, 2004 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Better to project GMA succeeding than failing

FOCUS & DIRECTION: What exactly does President Arroyo intend to do during her six-year term that begins at noon tomorrow?

We expect her to define more clearly her focus and direction in her inaugural speech tomorrow. But even with that, we have to pin her down to what she promised the people as she went around the country campaigning for votes.

We start tracing her direction with her speech on Oct. 4, 2003, on Clark Field in her home province of Pampanga wherein she announced her decision to run:

“ Tatakbo ako sa pagka Pangulo sa eleksyon ng Mayo 2004 . Thus I have deferred my retirement. I might have invoked the prodding of my party… the clamor of the people… the support of many. But in the same way that I made a decision last December 30 by myself, today I make known that I reached the decision also by my own discernment. I am not motivated to run because I was thrust, shoved, urged or pressed. Nakikita ko ang pangangailangan ng mas higit pang sakripisyo at gagampanan ko.

“I am confident that together we will win our future. What matters more is that I changed my mind because there is a higher cause… to change society in a way that flourishes our future…. Taking up the call laid before me exacts more courage, more sacrifice, more obedience to God and our people. And humbly, I accept this sacred vocation. I shall stay married to my country.”

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PLATFORM: As the clamor heightened for presidential candidates to lay down their platforms, President Arroyo outlined in a speech before the Makati Business Club the program of government that would guide her in a fresh six-year term:

  1. Build 3,000 new schools and put a computer in every school.
  2. Grant a college scholarship to every qualified poor family.
  3. Bring electricity to 1,500 barangays a year and reduce the power cost so it would become the lowest in the region.
  4. Bring clean water to all 45,000 barangays.
  5. Reduce to half the price of commonly-used medicines.
  6. Create one million new jobs every year.
  7. Have fiscal discipline, increase revenues, crack down on tax cheats and abuse in government.
  8. Achieve self-sufficiency in rice.
  9. Build more new roads, bridges and highways.
  10. Fight for more property and legal rights for the people

* * *

PRO-POOR PROGRAM: Later, when opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr. appeared succeeding in his courtship of the poor, whom he promised food, jobs and such essentials, President Arroyo boiled down the 10 items and focused on six of them.

In the homestretch, we saw her zeroing in on those six items closer to the hearts, and stomachs, of the teeming masses: (1) One million jobs yearly, (2) electricity for 1,500 barangays every year and reduced power cost nationwide, (3) 3,000 new schools a year, one computer for each school, a college scholarship for one member of a poor family, (4) tripled funds for small and medium enterprises, (5) clean and potable water, and (6) medicines at half the usual retail price.

There was some repackaging of the program as she went along, but the core items remained.

* * *

TEN-POINT AGENDA: The six-point program promised during the campaign has been incorporated into a 10-point agenda for growth that she wants to be her legacy to the nation and the Filipino people.

President Arroyo discussed this legacy, which include the decongestion of Metro Manila, a just end to the peace process and closure to the divisiveness of Edsa 1, 2 and 3 forces, in an interview with Korina Sanchez in Rated K over the weekend.

She said: “Itong sampung punto na nilagay ko sa simpleng mga salita, pananalita, ay iyong sampung puntong gusto kong maging pamana ko sa ating bansa (I have simplified these 10 points, which I like to be my legacy to this nation).”

The 10-point agenda are:

  1. The creation of six million jobs in six years via more opportunities given to entrepreneurs, tripling of the amount of loans for lending to small and medium enterprises and the development of one to two million hectares of land for agricultural business.
  2. The construction of new buildings, classrooms, provision of desks and chairs and books for students and scholarships to poor families.
  3. The balancing of the budget.
  4. The “decentralization” of progress around the nation through the use of transportation networks like the roll-on, roll-off and the digital infrastructure.
  5. The provision of electricity and water supply to barangays nationwide.
  6. The decongestion of Metro Manila by forming new cores of government and housing centers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
  7. The development of Clark and Subic as the best international service and logistic centers in the region.
  8. The automation of the electoral process.
  9. A just end to the peace process.
  10. A fair closure to the divisiveness among the Edsa 1, 2 and 3 forces.

With this review, we can compare the promises on record with the new ones that we expect her to make in speeches tomorrow and the coming days. Keep these lists and see how she manages to fulfill her promises.

Can she deliver? It is better to project a measure of success, than predict total failure.

* * *

UNFAIR & ILLOGICAL: Many vested groups that were not happy under Ms Arroyo’s borrowed short term say, without much reflection, that her administration would fail considering her unsatisfactory performance the past three or so years.

That is both unfair and illogical. It is unfair because the forces that were displaced by her takeover of the presidency in January 2001 never forgave her and worked relentlessly to ensure her failure.

This country does not move on the say-so of one man or woman. Considering the obstructionism and the absence of a ready coalition to carry her upon her sudden thrust to the presidency, it was mission impossible from the very beginning for Ms Arroyo.

Unfortunately for us, it was not just her, but the entire country, that suffered in the hands of the political terrorists hounding her.

* * *

BRIGHTER SCENARIO: The prediction that sure failure awaits President Arroyo is also illogical, because it is premised on adverse circumstances that have changed drastically since May 10.

We start with her clear mandate. She scored a margin of more than a million votes over a popular rival, an edge that is even bigger than that posted in 1992 by former President Fidel V. Ramos over Miriam Defensor Santiago, his closest rival.

Those of us who are truly non-partisan and hold nothing but goodwill and the welfare of the country at heart can find comfort in the much-improved political situation as we briefly described it in our last Postscript :

“She has won her own six-year mandate with a convincing margin of more than one million votes over an extremely popular actor. The coalition that carried her to victory went on to capture a clear working majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The armed forces and the national police are lined up behind her. The Church has declared that the May elections that she won were generally clean, honest and credible. The White House has sent its congratulations and encouragement. The badly beaten opposition is in disarray, with some of its key figures shamelessly looking for the right connect back to the Palace.”

How is that to start with tomorrow? You will agree that while it is not everything, it is pretty encouraging.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 29, 2004)

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