POSTSCRIPT / May 18, 2004 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Must an election winner win it again in the streets?

DEFINING MOMENT: Given his character, Raul Roco’s conceding the victory of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the May 10 elections was a scenario playing in our mind, but when it came about yesterday it still caught us by surprise.

The former senator and Cabinet member called President Arroyo to congratulate her for the mandate that she has received as indicated by published results.

In honorable defeat, Roco has emerged as also a winner and a statesman of the highest order.

Nothing that the other losers will say or do in negative reaction to his conceding will diminish the respect that the citizens who care for the country hold for Roco.

Evangelist Eddie Villanueva, bogged down by human frailties, missed capturing that defining moment that should have been a natural for him.

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SECOND PHASE: Despite this break provided by Roco’s conceding, political terrorists are still trying to maneuver us to a corner and to accept new ground rules that add a Phase-II to our established electoral system.

Under Phase-II that they want to impose, after a candidate has won an election at the polling precinct, he must also win it and validate it in the streets.

Under this two-phase process, if an election winner cannot assert his mandate in the street, he is presumed to have won it at the polls by fraud. Conversely, a defeated candidate could still recoup his loss by winning it in Phase-II in the streets.

This distortion of our electoral system is not only crazy. It is also dangerous. It is as dangerous as bogus People Power or the resort to extra-legal, even illegal, mass action to make or unmake supposedly elective leaders.

Are we this helpless in the noxious presence of political terrorists?

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ALTERNATIVE EDDIE: At some point close to Election Day, I was considering voting for evangelist Eddie Villanueva as an alternative to the politicians exploiting the people and pushing the country to the cliff to destroy the evidence of their plunder.

Now I am glad I did not fall for Villanueva’s beguiling oratory and his facile invocation of God’s name.

It is said that men’s true character is revealed in times of crisis. Villanueva’s soul appeared to me in all its darkness when he suffered defeat at the polls and refused to accept the people’s verdict with grace.

His demeanor in the face of a clear repudiation has reduced him, in my sight, to the level of the dirty politicians that he was denigrating during the campaign to make himself look holier than them.

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MISSING VOTES: There is no way, absolutely no way, Villanueva was cheated of victory. Cold hard numbers show beyond an iota of doubt that he was never within striking distance of the two frontrunners in the May 10 race to Malacanang.

So what is the evangelist protesting? That some voters failed to cast their ballots? That some of his few votes were possibly switched and credited to somebody else?

Such charges, if any, should be proved in the proper forum. But then, even if such charges are proved, that will not make Villanueva the winner.

Obviously the five million people (his estimate) who went to his Luneta miting de avance failed to deliver five million votes. Does it follow that they were prevented by the government from voting for him or that their votes were stolen?

Is it possible, as the exit polls had indicated, that about half of his very own followers did not, or failed to, vote for him?

I hope he does not turn now and ask God, a la Siete Palabras, why He seemed to have forsaken him.

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WAITING FOR SPOILS?: But if the winner is likely to fail to clinch a convincing mandate and may even be cast out through mass action or the intervention of a military-civilian cabal, a loser’s staunch refusal to concede makes sense.

If there is an extra-legal strike to usurp the presidency in complete disregard of the May 10 elections and there results a sharing of power by the conspirators, all those who had conceded will be left out.

To continue to be a major player and be accorded some importance in a power-sharing post-election scenario, a losing presidential candidate must stick around and continue to resist.

Is this the game that Eddie Villanueva and the other losers, including the comedian Eddie Gil, are playing?

* * *

FUND LACK: Whoever eventually sits as president for the next six years is likely to have a hard time carrying out his/her program of government, assuming there is one ready for implementation.

The simple reason is lack of money. The bulk of whatever revenue the government collects is eaten up by gargantuan debt payments, corruption, pork barrel and inefficiency.

For every tax peso collected, we dare say that only 20 centavos go back to the people in terms of services and facilities.

To close the fiscal gap, the government has tried borrowing. But we only succeeded in further bloating our public debt without any indication that we have dented the budget deficit to a significant degree.

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TAX TASK FORCE: Negros Oriental Rep. Herminio Teves, House ways and means committee senior vice chairman, is challenging the incoming president to create a Presidential Task Force on Revenue Projection and Collection to seek “deliberate ways” to build up the treasury and wipe out the budget deficit.

“The next administration can no longer ignore the problem of rapidly deteriorating revenue collections, which not only endangers the implementation of vital social programs, but also threatens to mire taxpayers deeper in debt,” Teves said.

From 1998 to 2003, government incurred a staggering P858-billion cumulative budget deficit.

“Including the P198-billion projected deficit this year, the seven-year cumulative gap between government spending and revenue collection will hit at least P1.05 trillion by December,” Teves said.

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TAX EFFORT WORSENS: The deficit must be erased within the next three to six years through improved revenue collections, Teves said, “Otherwise, government will sink into a deeper financial crisis.”

“The next administration must quickly discard the policy of simply borrowing more money to cover the deficit,” he warned. “It is grossly irresponsible and just not sustainable.”

Over the years, the country’s “tax effort” has worsened. The term refers to total (tax) revenue collections as a percentage of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

A decade ago, government was collecting taxes that amounted to almost 20 percent of GDP. Last year, however, collections amounted to only 14 percent of GDP.

In contrast, our neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are collecting taxes equal to at least 20.8 percent of their GDP.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 18, 2004)

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