POSTSCRIPT / March 10, 2019 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Issue is Imee’s lie, not lack of degree

THE ISSUE raised against Imee Marcos is not the fact of her having no college degree, but her lying about it and insisting on the lie.

Rushing to the defense of the Ilocos Norte governor, Hugpong ng Pagbabago boss Inday Sara Duterte said that since most candidates lie anyway — “everyone in this world is a liar” — honesty should not be made an issue in the May elections.

We disagree.

Neither do we find it a coincidence that Inday’s father, President Duterte, sees honesty as something relative, that one’s morality should be graded on a gray scale from pure white to pitch black, with one free to pick the shade acceptable to him.

Duterte rates his former national police chief Bato dela Rosa, now running for senator, as “fundamentally honest.” Why the qualifier? Is he referring to a “fundamental” shade that depends on the partisan eye of the beholder?

This fallback to relativity discards or disregards the moral moorings that have long guided ethical behavior and expectations in civilized society. For our communities to survive and prosper, we citizens have agreed to adopt and abide by common rules.

Now the Dutertes want us to dump the rules, or apply them loosely, because the administration’s candidates are facing scrutiny? Glossing over the hypocrisy, with the excuse that everybody lies anyway, is not acceptable.

When President Duterte lashes out at his foes and critics, including Catholic prelates, he makes sure to accuse them of being just as sinful as he is. That being so, the logic goes, we should not be too critical of his indiscretions and maladministration.

Duterte wants to selectively shake off social and legal strictures that hamper his shortcuts. He is impatient with set processes (e.g. temporary restraining orders, public biddings, and audits) that get in the way.

His administration’s efforts to lower moral standards continue. The president’s spokesman, for instance, made sure to say when asked about Sara’s dismissing lying as an issue that not all voters look for honesty.

The discussion on the missing college diplomas of Imee Marcos has grown into introspection, an examination of candidates’ character and their moral fitness to pass this accountability requirement under Article XI of the Constitution:

“Section 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

We voters should reject the suggestion that lying is all right since everybody is dishonest anyway (a subjective statement).

This dominantly Catholic nation, a Christian beacon in the region, must make known its disapproval of the continued attempts to degrade the rules and to lower the moral bar.

Once the people have lighted a lamp for truth and honesty, they should let it shine forth and not hide it under a political bushel.

 Another view of Diokno as BSP governor

TO COMPLEMENT views of groups in Manila on the appointment of erstwhile Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno as governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, we run below a Forbes article by Panos Mourdoukoutas.

Titled “Duterte could turn Philippines into the land of easy money and Build, Build, Build,” the article says:

President Rodrigo Dutere could turn the Philippines into the land of easy money that will end up financing his ambitious Build, Build, Build agenda.

That’s a massive construction plan that is expected to drive the country’s growth for years to come, and create jobs for the Philippines labor force.

Early this week, President Duterte appointed political ally Benjamin Diokno to head the country’s central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

That’s unusual for the Philippines and any modern democracy, where the tradition is for neutral appointments. And it could mean the end of the independence of the country’s central bank, and the paving of easy money in the form of low interest rates and runaway government deficits.

At least that’s the interpretation of financial markets that have been unsettled by Diokno’s appointment.

For years, an independent BSP has been a big asset for the Philippines economy. It provided the macroeconomic conditions to let the Philippines economy grow at rates that parallel those of China.

High growth rates, in turn, helped elevate the country’s standard of living.  The Philippines’ per-capita GDP was last recorded at an all-time high of $2,891.36 in 2017, according to That’s well above the average of $1,627.98 for the period 1960-2017.

If it comes true, the end of BSP independence could change the game for the Philippines economy. It could bring back macroeconomic instability in the form of soaring government deficits, and inflation — one of the country’s old villains.

To be fair, inflation has been coming down recently. Consumer prices rose at 3.8 percent in February of 2019, down from 4.4 percent in the previous month.

That’s thanks to restrictive policies of BSP last year. But the situation could change if BSP’s independence is compromised, and the new leadership shift s from a restrictive policy of fighting inflation to an accommodating policy that will bring it back.

Inflation will add to the country’s other problems — like corruption, which is getting worse, according to Transparency International. Then there’s the ongoing drug war, which continues to divide the country.

And there are Duterte’s South China Sea flip-flops, which raise rather than reduce the prospect of war in the region.

Inflation — together with social unrest, corruption, and violence — has suspended Philippines economic progress before, and it will do it again, if they are not addressed effectively.

That’s why investors have every reason to be concerned with Duterte’s unusual choice for a central bank chief.

(Panos Mourdoukoutas is professor and chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post in New York. He also teaches at Columbia University.)

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 10, 2019)

Tatang Dik, Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.

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