Saturday, July 10, 2010

Deodorizing history

THE over half-million warm bodies, made warmer by the sweltering humidity, at the Quirino Grandstand who attended the inaugural of President Noynoy Aquino last June 30 was a statement—a statement for change made clearer by the crowd during the mass recitation of “Panata ng Pagbabago” (Oath for Change).

That may have been the biggest inaugural crowd in Philippine history not to mention the millions more of Filipinos here and abroad that watched history unfold in their cable TVs, online video streams and social networks. Perhaps reminiscent of martial law liberation in February 1986, it was a manifestation of disgust against nine years of brinkmanship and impunity of the past administration.

Disrespectful but probably honest, the crowd at the Quirino Grandstand jeered and booed the outgoing president while bidding goodbye to a most hated presidency that left behind a budget deficit in excess of US $3 billion, a human rights record unparalleled since the Marcos regime, a rock-bottom poverty, a worsening Muslim and communist insurgencies and a country mired in corruption at all levels of society, among others.

In April this year, the Social Weather Station showed Arroyo’s net satisfaction rating among Filipinos at minus 53. Statistically, the worse since democratic elections began in 1986 after booing out Marcos. The figures tell that nearly seven out of ten Filipinos did not approve of her performance. Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board show that the number of Filipinos living on 1,200 pesos a month has risen to nearly 30 million from 25.47 million in 2001.

Characteristic of the Arroyo presidency, the last minute whitewashing over massive TV and newspapers advertisements brandished by a Catholic priest and a beauty queen few weeks before the curtain dropped did not improve the sullen image of Ms. Gloria Arroyo. On the contrary, the multimillion budget for such an expensive blitzkrieg, added more insult to injury and consequently failed to redeem a malice that has already reached a point of satiety.

Be that as it may, but Mrs. Arroyo still boasts of statistics that show that she has been able to deliver 34 quarters of uninterrupted economic expansion during her presidency. But, of course, yes. The only rub is, according to economics professor Ben Diokno of the University of the Philippines, the beneficiaries of the so-called “economic expansion” have been the elites, big business and politicians—and not the poor that make up a half of the population.

But Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales in his homily on June 30 has another way of putting it: “The attempt to build buildings that reach up to the skies cannot hide the millions of slums, cardboard houses, cart homes and the misery of the great majority.”

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