It’s the ignominy, teach | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

It’s the ignominy, teach

/ 09:25 PM January 16, 2012

“It’s the economy, student” is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s new mantra, a spin on Bill Clinton’s famous campaign line, “It’s the economy, stupid,” that booted George Bush Sr. out of the White House. P-Noy’s “obsessive pursuit of political warfare,” Arroyo says in a paper with that title, has slowed down the country’s economy. “Rather than building on our nation’s achievement, this regime has extolled itself as the sole harbinger of all that is good. And the Filipino people are paying for this obsession.”

Who knows? Arroyo probably figures it might have the same effect on P-Noy. If so, she figures wrong.

Arroyo’s tack is the same one Ferdinand Marcos used in his time and which his heirs are now using in their time: If you repeat a lie long enough, it is bound to be believed. The bigger, the better. It’s a variation on what H.L. Mencken once said, which was that nobody yet lost a buck underestimating the American taste. In Marcos’ and Arroyo’s case, nobody yet lost power (or freedom) underestimating the Filipino credulity. Or as P.T. Barnum put it more bluntly, “A sucker is born every day.”


Arroyo though took the lie to entirely new levels, even attempting to lecture the other heads of state in Davos on how to save their countries from the global ravaging. At least that was how her officials and allies in the media reported it here. The image of the world’s biggest leaders huddled around Arroyo in the wintry cold to learn from her how they might pluck their people from the jaws of death, or debt, does not exactly inspire wonder. You could die from it suppressing laughter.


If the economy held during the last few years before P-Noy, it was not because of Arroyo, it was in spite of Arroyo. Specifically, it was because of the remittances which kept the country afloat in spite of the tsunami of pillage she unleashed and the lack of confidence in the country she inspired in the world. The only reason Marcos worked the lie then was that he controlled the media, and the only reason his heirs are working the lie now is that 26 years have passed since he fled the irate crowd howling at the gates, an eternity of time in these parts. Arroyo has neither.

It wasn’t too long ago when lines formed because of rice scarcities, the product of a suicidal policy of resting the entire future of the country on rice importation rather than production. While other countries like the United States, Japan and Western Europe, were pursuing food security, heavily subsidizing their agriculture, we were relying on the kindness of strangers, trusting in the infinite wisdom of the global market. Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago when Arroyo got pissed off at a reporter for daring to ask why if there was growth it wasn’t being felt by the poor, why if there was growth the poor were getting poorer.

Doubtless, as I wrote at the opening of the year, P-Noy will have his hands full dealing with the economy. If the problem runs deeper than just the global downturn (Indonesia and Vietnam did 6-7 percent even with it) and the fall in public spending (which subtracted only two-tenths of one percent of growth), if the problem is that we are seeing the end of remittance-led growth, then truly we are headed for some lean years while the economy goes on a reboot. Government will need all the goodwill it has earned to see it through these years.

I did warn in the same column that the usual suspects will argue the very thing they are arguing today, that P-Noy’s resolve to right wrongs, to correct the past, to punish the wicked and reward the good, is an impediment to economic progress. I didn’t bank on Arroyo spearheading that campaign herself, but then she has never lacked for grit, or gall. Or she has gotten a lot more desperate. The sensation of a noose tightening is not a pleasant one.

In fact, it’s not the new President that has shown a penchant for extolling himself, it is the old usurper. The extolling of the new President is not coming from himself, it is coming from the public, and it is too loud not to be heard even by the deaf. For reasons that are not hard to see. There are obsessions and obsessions. Some obsessions the people pay for, some obsessions they benefit from. A leader who is obsessed with clinging to power they pay for: There are the 14 years of martial law and the 10 years of Gloria’s law to show for it. A leader who is obsessed with pursuing justice they profit from—the other side of Gloria, Corona and Palparan—are hope, joy and contentment. If righting wrongs is an obsession, by all means be more obsessed.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an economist to know who can better assure seven years of plenty, or failing that, prepare the people for the seven years of want, the wise and just ruler or the greedy and oppressive one. Instinct alone must tell you that where you have leaders wallowing in a culture of impunity, stealing money, stealing votes, stealing lives, stealing hope, stealing the future, you are not going to feel content, you are going to feel bereft. Common sense alone must tell you that where there are corrupt, there will be mahirap, where there is no elemental justice there will be no social justice, the poor will get poorer in mind as well as body, in spirit as well as flesh. Justice is to plenitude as mami is to siopao, and Gloria is to plenitude as Mike is to restraint.


One is tempted to say that those who can’t do, teach, or become fake presidents. But that is disrespecting teachers, a tribe I am especially fond of. Suffice it to say here that if the sum of Gloria’s professorial wisdom may be gleaned from her 10 years in Malacañang, then I’m very glad P-Noy has learned very little from it. It’s the economy, student? Nah.

It’s the ignominy, teach.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

TAGS: Aquino, economy, featured columns, Gloria Arroyo, opinion

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.