POSTSCRIPT / October 17, 2004 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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The bill-collecting wolf is knocking at the door

AT THEIR MERCY: Kawawa naman ang Filipinas. We look pathetic with foreigners mocking us and telling us what to do — or else. And it would seem we have no choice.

Foreign credit raters are having a field day declaring us a big risk and consigning us to a lower credit rating. We watch helplessly as our creditors raise their interest rates and shoo foreign investors away.

They then throw us an ultimatum: Bleed the natives for more taxes to raise money for the foreign banks demanding payment.

To dramatize their hold on us, credit rating teams are coming over to formalize our falling standing with them. Actually they do not have to come over to know our fiscal condition, but they love tokunwari look at our books and talk to us before they lower the boom.

Our children who have been taught fairness but have not seen much of the world ask us, “Bakit ganoon?” How do we explain to them?

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BEFORE THE FALL: Even clowns hosting TV shows and professional Filipino-bashers on radio in the States routinely make fun of us and our country. Some of us protest the demolition job, to no avail.

When development planning bodies in the region make comparative analyses of economies in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is usually no longer mentioned. We do not figure at all anymore.

Analysts study Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan, which used to be so desolate that they would look at Manila for ideas. Many moneyed families in neighboring capitals dreamt of sending their children to Manila to study. But that was before.

Some foreign think tanks decide, on the basis alone of our not allowing a Filipino worker in Iraq to be beheaded by terrorists, that we cannot be trusted as allies. They then conclude that we have not contributed to the Bushy holy crusade against terrorism — and must be punished!

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PANIC SETS IN: Meantime, we take funds away from essential services for the poor and general development to gather dollars to pay interest on maturing loans, including borrowings of foundering private firms whose loans had been guaranteed by the government.

While the world laughs at us and our compatriots abroad bow their heads in shame, all that the government does or can do is issue press releases saying the low credit ratings are undeserved, that the negative comments are unfair, and that we are doing all we can to raise money to pay the creditors knocking at our door.

The peso keeps sinking, prices rising. More people are jobless. The unfortunate eat only once a day. And a sense of desperation has started to set in.

Meanwhile, officials abetted by family and cronies are constantly on the watch for ways to steal from the government or use their influence to pull a fast one. There is a panic to grab as much as they can before the roof collapses.

Maawa naman kayo sa bayan! Tama na, please!

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PERSONAL SACRIFICE: One time in the blush of her election last May, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared she would sacrifice even her personal wealth to rescue this country.

I think we have reached that low point for Ms Arroyo — whatever objections her husband might have — to now announce her net worth, list down her assets and donate a substantial portion to a special fund for bailing out the country.

If she did this, she would not be alone. On the contrary, she might just whip up a revolutionary tidal wave that would flush out the stolen wealth that officials and their cohorts have amassed over decades of looting.

Short of this personal sacrifice, no amount of press releases, speeches, photo ops and exhortations will prick the conscience of the politicians and the filthy rich who hold in their hands 90 percent of the wealth of this rich but exploited country.

On the side, high-profile, we should press graft and plunder charges against corrupt officials, prevent their flight and freeze their assets in preparation for seizing them.

The government must do this before vigilantes take the law into their hands.

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FILAMS IN POLITICS: In the buildup to the Nov. 2 presidential elections in the US, interest among Filipinos on both sides of the Pacific is high. You would think we are part of it. In a way, we are.

In fact, with Washington politics affecting us in Manila in a great way, it seems logical that we should have a say, short of voting, on who comes out US president.

Filipinos always find a way to participate in the political process. Some Filipino Americans even jump in as candidates as is shown in this very informative article “Are Filipino Americans electable?” of Perry Diaz.

Perry, btw, has first-hand knowledge of the FilAm politicians he talks about. Residing in Sacramento, California, he is a businessman, community leader, political activist and chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Republicans.

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SHORT SAMPLING: Here is what Perry reports in part:

“In 1976, a FilAm lawyer ran for mayor of Monterey Park, California, a Los Angeles suburb, and won. Mayor Monty Manibog served for three terms until 1988. Monterey Park at that time did not have a FilAm community.

“In 1986, a young first-generation FilAm in a small New England town ran for mayor and won. Interestingly, in that small New England town, the new mayor, Ed Portugal, and his wife were the only FilAm residents.

“In 1994, Jon Amores, a young second-generation FilAm lawyer ran for the West Virginia Statehouse and won. Are there any FilAm in the redneck communities in West Virginia?

“In 2002, a 28-year-old second-generation FilAm ran for the Pennsylvania Statehouse in a district that had no FilAms — except himself and his Filipina mother — and won. Jeff Coleman was reelected in 2003 without any opposition in the primary and general election.

“In the same year, a Philippine-born political novice, J. Owen Diaz, ran against the four-term incumbent mayor of Milan, Michigan, and won! There were only a handful of Asians in Milan including Owen and his family.

“At the same time, in Melvindale, Michigan, another FilAm won the mayorship by besting several opponents. Andrew Luzod won with virtually no FilAm support.

“In 2002, Ruth Uy-Asmundson, a Philippine-born chemist, ran for the City Council of Davis, California, and won. With only 16 FilAm families in the city, Ruth garnered the biggest number of votes, thus, entitling her to immediately assume the office of Mayor Pro Tem, and the mayorship in 2004.

“With track records of running for offices without any FilAm base of support, Monty, Ed, Jon, Jeff, Owen, Andrew and Ruth proved that FilAms are electable anywhere in the United States. It does not matter whether Philippine-born or US-born, a FilAm can compete in the American political system and win!

“Is it then fair to assume that a FilAm running in a political district with a large FilAm base has the best chance of getting elected?”

(We cut Perry’s discussion at this point and keep you in suspense for the answer to his own question. The answer reveals a lot about how many of us would rather sit in our tiny tribal tents and not merge with the bigger nation — and move ahead together.)

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 17, 2004)

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