POSTSCRIPT / October 21, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Arroyo to continue sliding to 2010 cliff?

MORAL VACUUM: Unless President Gloria Arroyo is able to take immediately the moral high ground, she might just continue sliding downhill all the way to the cliff by 2010.

Her big problem is how to snatch back moral ascendancy, tame obstructionism, unite the country, and lead as a President should.

Every time a scandal rocks her administration, she tries arresting the erosion of her credibility by ordering the same tired investigation — to no avail.

The moral leadership vacuum is sucking all types of crusaders and pretenders. Seeing the paralysis, even Speaker Jose de Venecia has made it known that he was drawing up a moral renaissance program or something.

Other forces, including military adventurers, might be tempted to rush into the vacuum.

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BREAKING BARRIER: Is the presidency of Gloria Arroyo doomed despite the glowing statistics she recites to convince the toiling masses that life has improved through her deft handling of the economy?

As we said in an earlier Postscript (Oct. 16), however, it seems nobody listens to the President anymore.

That is a basic problem. Until the communication barrier is broken, it may be futile for the President to send any message of reform and unity.

But how does she break down that obstacle to her convincing the public that she is clean and can be trusted?

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CUT IT OFF: Let me recall my Postscript of June 14, 2005, that may be relevant to the issues. I asked then what Ms Arroyo, hobbled by criticism, can do to salvage her presidency and save the country.

A hint of an answer comes from Christ saying in Mark 9:43, 45-47:

43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:

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DRASTIC MOVES: For starters, may I then suggest a few things to cut off:

President Arroyo should resign immediately from her posts, honorary or otherwise, in political parties and leave them alone. She should shun active partisanship.

She should stop giving politicians financial assistance. She should not allow any partisan group to meet in Malacanang. Neither should she attend a political meeting outside even as a guest.

The constitutional one-term limit of the President is supposed to ensure her focusing on the job — instead of harboring partisan biases or maneuvering for a followup term.

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PARTISAN DOLES: The President should order a no-nonsense audit of Malacanang disbursements that could be construed as political doles or aid.

She should report in three months the audit findings and explain any disbursement found tainted with political color. If errors in judgment had been made, she should admit the error and make corrections within the fiscal year.

Finally, she should sign an order banning forever disbursements of the Office of the President with partisan color. Who decides if a payout is partisan? The auditor.

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ZERO ASSET: Before the year is over, the First Couple may want to give up their material possessions, except the family residence. Their assets could be transferred to a foundation created to take legal possession of everything they own.

The foundation will be bound by an undertaking to reject any donation, contribution or assistance until one year after the President leaves office.

But the foundation will provide for the Arroyo couple’s reasonable upkeep, for the rest of their lives, in keeping with their status.

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ZERO INCOME: The First Couple could also make a vow to reject incomes of any nature during her term. Incomes earned by their erstwhile assets go to the foundation, not to them. The President’s salary can go straight to her favorite charity.

Then the President will be able to declare in her annual statement that she has zero assets (except for the family residence) and zero income.

For one who wants to be a “good president,” Ms Arroyo should find acceptable this arrangement which is almost a vow of poverty.

Anyway, Gloria Arroyo, 60, and her husband, 61, have more than enough to last them three lifetimes. Their children are already established and their future is assured.

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HIS FOUNDATIONS: First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo should not hold office in Malacanang or act as a business/political conduit to the President. He should not practice law or any profession.

The President should declare that her husband has absolutely nothing to do with government or any transaction involving a government agency or any project imbued with public interest.

Government personnel who accommodate the First Gentleman shall suffer severe penalty. Private parties who offer him fees or commissions shall be exposed and blacklisted.

Mr. Arroyo should liquidate before Christmas all his foundations. Meantime, the foundations should stop receiving contributions, gifts and donations in cash or in kind.

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GOOD FAITH: Once the President and her husband take these or comparable measures, she might just succeed in taking the moral high ground.

Properly executed and communicated, these moves might yet convince the people – even her political foes and critics – to grant her good faith and agree to cooperate for the sake of the nation.

Then a focused and nonpartisan Gloria Arroyo, worthy daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal, can devote the rest of her term to being a good president.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 21, 2007)

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