Thousands braved the rains and marched at the Congressional avenue in Quezon City. Many young people were there. Of course, some senators, congressmen and old faces. They were all waiting for Mrs. Arroyo who came in about 3:33 pm. Wearing a symbolic puschia dress, Mrs. Arroyo came prepared with about an hour’s speech. And as expected, she told us a litany of accomplishments and wasted no time on lambasting her political detractors. A trademark of Gloria.
Critics of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo say her State of the Nation address (SONA) was nothing but self-serving statements meant to paint a rosy picture of our situation. When Mrs. Arroyo said we had the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) percentages in history, one or two would counter and say that a few noticed it. Sure enough, stats would show that the number of poor people increased, due possibly to layoffs after several multinational companies closed shop and those small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly of the export kind, shut their factories down. Many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) went back here, victimized by a worsening global financial meltdown.
After several predictions that the country would go the way of Argentina, surprisingly, we’re still standing on our own two feet. Singapore, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China are all registering negative growth. The last time that I checked, the Philippine economy is still kicking ass with 2 – 3% percent positive growth in quarters. We’re still growing after 33 quarters.
Let’s admit that there are probably some good things that Mrs. Arroyo is doing for us to stay in this situation. Yes, about 12million Filipinos remain poor. Yet, 700,000 Filipino families (25 million Filipinos) fed and provided emergency assistance by way of the poverty-alleviation program and the stimulus package. And the increasing population growth is simply too hard a problem to solve.
Yes, there are still classrooms to be constructed. And yes, there are still roads to be built and bridges too.
What Mrs. Arroyo just told the nation now is very clear — there’s still some work to do, serious ones that need very close attention from the president. When some critics and even one ally remarked that Mrs. Arroyo is still not stepping down yet, they’re right. Mrs. Arroyo is still not hanging out her gloves yet because her mandate allows her to still work some stuff until June 2010.
Is it really necessary for us to hear those specific words of “yes, I’ll step down” and ” no, I’ll not seek another term or run for Congress in 2010″? Obviously, we’re not that stupid or naive. Mrs. Arroyo already told us that she is not planning to extend her term beyond the constitutionally mandated limit. Talks about martial law or state of emergency are just wild talk, imaginings. It’s quite understandable that people would think that way prior to the SONA. Now that she already told the people that she’s leaving office after June 2010, that is, I think, already fair enough for us to just go ahead of our lives and leave her alone. Yes, alone.
I believed her when she says that there are so many things left to do. Inheriting a government with a 500 billion peso debt is not easy. Leaving office with a US$ 7 billion reserves is commendable, to say the least. Giving homes to about 1.8 million Filipino families within a span of nine years is nothing to sneeze at. And generating one million jobs per year while your economy sucks, is nothing short of a miracle. Overseas remittances are increasing instead of slowing down. Roads and bridges continue to be built. There’s no halt in efforts to professionalize the bureaucracy, with some suggestions of revising the charter of the Central Bank and creating a Department of ICT.
Yes, Prof. David is right — these measures are not direct answers to the questions of increasing poverty, of unemployment or what have you. But, I have a question though – what is? These efforts are meant to enhance the current system and at least make stop gaps to avert a possible systemic meltdown. They are not immediate solutions. They are strategic. If we always expect tactical solutions to age-old problems, surely, there would never be any time when we would say that everything is already in order.
For we ask the impossible. If we say that Mrs. Arroyo failed to quell insurgency like what she promised, we are again, asking for the impossible. The insurgency is an inherited problem. I believed her when she said she wants peace in Mindanao. And I believed her when she prayed for Socialists to turn a new leaf. Because that’s really all we can expect from her, and possibly even her successor.
The problem really is we expect Mrs. Arroyo to churn out miracles after miracles, when we all know that it is this decaying democratic system that is causing the problem. How can you do good things when the very system prevents or hinders you from actually making it? We expect Arroyo to drastically change things when we know even then that this is impossible under a decrepit system.
We expect miracles to happen when we just sit down and let her do all the work while we wait for her to fail so that we can boast that “oh, see, we’re right.” It’s time for us to help her finish the work she vowed to accomplish come 2010. As both Senator Enrile and Speaker Nograles said, history would judge Mrs. Arroyo more kindly after all the dust has settled down. I believe them. In her last remaining months in office, time for us to reconsider and think that change is impossible if it’s just one or two doing the work. Time for us all to shut up and do some serious nation-building.