Economics | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

Economics

I’M WRITING this on the eve of the President’s State of the Nation Address and I’m glad something has happened over the last several weeks to shift the direction of the winds. That is the sudden eruption, or confluence, of initiatives that has pushed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the wall.

The first of those initiatives was the PCSO coming out with its exposé on the way Arroyo looted the charity office to reward her minions, among them crooks masquerading as bishops and journalists. The second of those initiatives were the revelations of Zaldy Ampatuan and Lintang Bedol about the 2004 and 2007 elections, specifically about how Arroyo (and her husband) stole the presidency in 2004 and helped allies steal their respective positions in 2007 with no small help from the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.

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Of course, the Arroyo camp charges that there’s nothing sudden or spontaneous about these developments, they were deliberately whipped up by Malacañang to bolster P-Noy’s sagging credibility in time for Sona. But there’s little evidence of Malacañang having a hand in any of this or of P-Noy’s credibility sagging. There’s a lot more evidence of the Arroyo camp trying to spark an anti-P-Noy hysteria, or sentiment, shortly before the Sona, not least by trotting out a Marine colonel to call on fellow soldiers to “replace the government” for having “no capability to save us from hunger and death.” A pathetic effort made all the more so by the colonel, Generoso Mariano, being about to retire last weekend. Instead of getting his retirement benefits, he will only get the benefit of a court-martial without getting so much as the benefit of the doubt from the public.

But whether or not Malacañang had a hand in these developments, the results are providential.

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At the very least, they restore balance in the universe. I do not particularly mind that the P-Noy government is taken to task for a lot of things. It deserves to be taken to task for a lot of things, not least the disorder in its ranks, not least its fetish for guns, not least its slowness in prosecuting the prosecutable. The last has not disappeared with the new developments that have highlighted, or reminded the world of, the monumental corruption of the Arroyo regime. Because the question they raise is: Yes, but when will you bring Arroyo, along with her bishops and congressmen, her cutthroats and her paid hacks, to court? When will you punish them?

I don’t mind that the P-Noy government is taken to task for a lot of things, but I do mind that it is the Arroyo camp that is taking the P-Noy government to task for a lot of things. That is not unlike the Marcos loyalists vituperating against the Cory government with its subtext of nostalgia for the ancien régime, with its subtext of longing for the passing of a flawed but thenceforth preferable past. Or in this case, as has been explicitly put forward by that camp, with its subtext of the P-Noy government frittering away the economic gains of the Arroyo regime, of the P-Noy government trashing the legacy of the Arroyo regime. That just sucks.

The revelations about that regime’s corruption in the narrow sense, in the sense of the theft of the nation’s body, and its corruption in the broad sense, in the sense of the theft of the nation’s soul, lends a perspective to the state of the nation on the eve of the Sona. That perspective is simple: Whatever the P-Noy government’s failings, it is far, far better than the one it replaced.

At the very most, they bring morality or justice back into the heart of the equation, a thing the Arroyo camp has also been at pains to banish with its tack of making bare economic performance the ultimate measure of a government’s worth. Of course, economic performance is a measure of success too, but that is not the be-all and end-all of governance. You don’t need to go far to see that. It’s patent from Arroyo getting ballistic toward the end of her rule when she was repeatedly asked by reporters what effect her self-proclaimed veritable economic miracle was having on the poor. Why were the poor getting poorer and the hungry getting hungrier in her Enchanted Queendom?

The ultimate test of a government’s worth is not economic performance, it is who benefits from that performance. The ultimate test of a government’s worth is not growth, it is who benefits from that growth. The ultimate test of a government’s worth is not the size of the GNP, or GDP, or whatever letters of the alphabet you like to put in to conjure magical, or fictitious, accomplishments. It is the size of the tribe that prospers beyond its wildest imagination and the number of people who suffer beyond their stoutest capacity for endurance.

Economic performance is a moral issue. Economic performance is an issue of justice. You can’t say, “Let’s just forget about the corruption of the past and look at what P-Noy has done for the economy.” You can’t say, “Let’s just forget about the atrocities of the past and look at what P-Noy has done for the economy.” That is stupid. The two are not unrelated, they are inextricably linked. You do not ferret out the corrupt of the past and punish them, you won’t assure that economic growth will be for the people. You do not ferret out and punish the liars, cheats, crooks and murderers of the past, you won’t assure that the GNP and GDP and the entire alphabet soup will go to the people. You don’t correct, rectify and cleanse the sins of the past, you won’t assure that the greedy won’t get greedier and the hungry hungrier.

I am glad the Arroyo camp is being pushed to the wall on the eve of the Sona. It puts morality and justice at the heart of things, at the core of things, at the head of things. In the end, it’s game changing: politically, culturally, spiritually.

Economically.

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TAGS: Aquino, arroyo, corruption, featured columns, Government, opinion, PCSO
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