The True State of the Nation

At the National Congress of the BE NOT AFRAID Movement, The Manila Hotel

Prophetic words from GMA. Dec. 30, 2002. She knew it then. She knows it today.

(Audio) GMA: “My political efforts can only be result in never-ending divisiveness.”

GMA knows she brings disorder. GMA knows she brings despair. GMA knows she brings divisiveness. Yet, despite that knowledge, she continues to heap upon us the curse of her unwanted, unacceptable and unearned governance.

“Imoral ang pagkamanhid ng pamahalaan” were the words that repeatedly came from Mrs. Arroyo in her last SONA to describe her observations about governance.

Prophetic, indeed. And, possibly, the only words of wisdom she has ever said. Since she forced herself upon us, we’ve seen our country become, once again, the basket case of Asia.

Crime and criminals rule large parts of our politics and our economy. The economy is in tatters. Social services are undelivered. Corruption has been institutionalized as the hearings on jueteng have clearly established. With our institutions ravaged, hopelessness has replaced pessimism in the future of the Philippines. Mrs. Arroyo has been catastrophic for the country.

As we approach Monday, when she gives her annual state of the nation address before Congress in joint session, we find our nation in its moment of gravest crisis and our people in their moment of darkest faith and direst straits.

Control your anger, wipe your tears as we unravel the TSONA, the True State Of the Nation versus the cosmetic SONA, or State Of the Nation under Arroyo.

The State of Public Trust.

Public office is a public trust. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Commit any one of them and you lose the public trust. Cheat, Steal and Lie and you strike three. You’re out!

Mrs. Arroyo has been caught Cheating, Stealing and Lying but she refuses to be declared “OUT!” and, instead, clings with epoxy to the presidency that is not hers. She did not only cheat in the last elections, she even personally supervised the cheating.

(Audio): Garci: Hello ma’am
GMA: Hello, tsaka yung ano, yung kabila they are trying to get their Namfrel copies of the Municipal COCs.
Garci: Sa Namfrel? Namfrel copies ho? Ay wala naman, Ok naman ang Namfrel sa atin…they are now sympathetic to us.
GMA: Oo, Oo pero you just have to make sure Namfrel does some tally Pero, yun nga…yung dagdag, yung dagdag!
Garci: Oho, we will get in advance copy ho natin kung ano hong kwan nila
Garci: Okay, sige ma’am

She did not only steal the presidency, she did it with impunity and in a scale unprecedented in Philippine elections. “Atras-abante, dagdag-dagdag, dagdag-bawas, bawas-bawas.” You name it, she and her cohorts did it just to grab the presidency. From the premeditated and sinister appointment of “Garci” Garcillano to the prostitution of Namfrel, the fingerprints of Mrs. Arroyo et al. are all over the place.

She lied, and she lied shamelessly and may have encouraged her official family to cover up her crime with lies, lies, and more lies.

(Audio) Bunye: This is a privileged conversation between the President and a political leader
(Audio) GMA: I was anxious to protect my votes, and during that time, I had many conversations with many people including a comelec official. My intent was not to influence the outcome of the elections and it did not. As I mentioned the election had already been decided and the votes counted.
(Audio) GMA: Hello Garci….

Today, she asks, through her palakpak boys, for “sobriety and fairness”. While she asks, she dishes out threats and disinformation. While she asks, she blames the protests of the citizens for the failing economy and the deterioration of the quality of life of the Filipinos. How conveniently she forgets that it is her presence that causes destabilization. 8 out of 10 Filipinos want her out. Not when she wants to, but now!

Everyday she intones with boring repetition, “there is a constitutional and legal way to address our political problem”. And to that we answer with recurring forcefulness: “Yes, Mrs. Arroyo, voluntary resignation is constitutional”. It comes with “hiya”, “konsyensya” and “delicadeza”.

But maybe those words just don’t exist in her vocabulary. Last we heard, she would rather put up a Truth Commission with her appointing the members. Which led a lawmaker to say: “truth na nga ang hanap namin, gusto pang mag-commission”.

The state of health and hunger.

Her SONA: “Hunger and Poverty dropped to 27.6% in 2004 from 34.5% in 1990” Maybe she uses as a basis her son, Mikey Arroyo who has no hunger problem. His assets rose dramatically from Zero(0) asset in 1992 to P 76.5 Million in 2004.

The True SONA: 56.9% of Filipino households get less than 100% dietary energy requirement. This means more than one half of Filipino households are not eating enough! The highest rate of hunger is in ARMM at 64.2%. Zamboanga Peninsula at 63.8%. Northern Mindanao at 62.1%. Even NCR at 53%. The hungry are not only in Africa. They are right here in the Philippines!

In 2003, 27.6% of children, 5 years and below, were malnourished. Child mortality rate is a high 40 per 1000.

In 2003, our rate of maternal mortality was highest in Asia at 172 per 100,000 live births. Other Asian countries range only from 11 to 25.

Only 6 out of 10 births are attended by a health professional.

36% of 82 M Filipinos have TB, the highest in Western Pacific. Every day 75 Filipinos die of TB.

Fifty percent of the population have no health care access. Five out of 10 Filipinos die without getting any medical attention.

The state of the Filipino worker.

Her SONA: “1.09 million jobs generated in the first 5 months of 2005”

The True SONA: As of April 2005, unemployment rate was 12.9%, up from ll.3% in January 2005. Underemployment is even more alarming at 26.1%, up from 16.1% as of January 2005. This means that out of every 100 individuals who are employed, more than l/4 are actually underemployed.

Kulang ang kinikita para mabuhay ng mahusay. Nakakaraos sa instant noodles at kanin. Sardines have become a luxury.

16.5 million Filipinos go hungry everyday and 15 million Filipinos eat only once a day.

Only the Arroyos and their cronies are enjoying life. Up to 1999, brother-in-law Iggy Arroyo was paying an income tax no more than P8,500. Today, he is worth P284.5 Million and joins the ranks of the rich and the notorious.

The State of Philippine debt.

Her SONA: “The e-vat will save us”

The True SONA: In spite of downward “adjustment” and “correction” of debt figures, the consolidated public sector debt is growing to unmanageable and dangerous levels.

Under the watch of Mrs. Arroyo, the total public debt has ballooned from P4.1 Trillion in 2000 to P6.1 Trillion in 2004. The P4.1 Trillion represents the borrowings of all the past presidents combined.

But in just 4 years, Mrs. Arroyo increased our debt by 50%! In only 4 years, this government borrowed P2 Trillion more.

Poor Filipinos! The interest alone will reach P302 B. Guess who will end up paying that? Worse, we need another P300 Billion to pay maturing principals this year! P600 Billion constitutes almost two-thirds of the entire national budget.

Even with the e-vat and the watered down sin taxes, we still have to borrow more. But since she has lost her moral ascendancy to govern, who will lend us the money?

Kapit sa patalim best describes a government so penurious in funds and so small in the esteem of its own people.

The state of corruption.

Corruption is where this administration excels. The Philippines, according to an ADB study, is now the second most corrupt country in Asia among 102 countries in terms of magnitude of irregular payments, including bribery in public contracts.

The report said “Corruption in the Philippines is already perceived to be systemic and widespread across all levels of the bureaucracy. It added “The critical missing factor to effectively come to grips with corruption is firm political will and commitment to implement the required policies and civil service reform”.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to most of us, the Arroyo administration did have an infrastructure program. Just before the 2004 elections, the DPWH was busy implementing a component of the President’s Bridge Program…an P8.3 Billion program for the construction of Bailey bridges in remote areas.

The huge amount earmarked for the project intrigued SINAG Foundation, an anti-corruption group to do its own investigation. The results will make you so angry you’d want to throw the people behind it from the world’s highest bridge. (But then, again, maybe resignation will do).

Long bridge, short bridge, unfinished bridge – all of them in different locations. But each one cost the same: P16,852,889.08

This bridge is one for Ripley’s. As you cross this bridge in Zamboanga Sibugay, you end up… Nowhere! A bridge in the middle of a ricefield that leads to nowhere…believe it or not.

Such a sloppy project, hidden in the remotest areas, rushed during the 2004 election campaign and costing P8.3 Billion can only mean fat commissions.

For whom? For what? For election expenses? There’s a potential plunder case here waiting to be filed.

And to think, this is not even the big one that almost got away. This is peanuts compared to the other corruption cases piled up by this administration. Who can forget the most expensive boulevard ever constructed in the universe, the P1.1-Billion Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard which is a mere 5 kilometers long?

Remember the much-abused Road Users tax where P 2 Billion of which were reportedly used to help fund Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign. And according to a reliable source at the Lower House, the same fund is now being used to source P12- P15 Million worth of projects for each congressman in exchange for the vote to reject the impeachment complaint.

Then there’s the US$14 Million IMPSA bribery deal. The PIATCO $20 Million extortion. The PCSO P250 Million scam of misused advertising funds. The AFP-Lockheed $6 Million overprice. Who can forget the P882 Million per kilometer Northrail Project? Not to mention the bad old jueteng.

Indeed, corruption in this administration has been institutionalized.

The President twits the opposition as having no plans for the country, as leading the people to nowhere. That all we know is to oppose, to criticize, and in her own hallucinations — to destabilize.

Well, she has been president for four and a half years now. It shouldn’t take anybody any longer than six months to draft a plan. She had all of four years to implement whatever plan she may have crafted.

Yet now I ask, in the face of all the official statistics that I have just mentioned — what has she really done?

What is the trade-off for all the taxes we have paid, for all the borrowings she has made?

All we have had since then were promises of good governance, promises of ending corruption. Yet corruption by any objective measure, has grown, a cancer that has metastasized through the entire body politic.

And government is as cost-inefficient and service-ineffective as ever. Now she comes before the nation once more to promise — more promises on top of failed promises.

It does not take much to craft a blueprint for good governance that leads to economic progress and social emancipation. There are 85 million Filipinos. Surely there are enough men and women with enough brains to craft a plan.

But the leader who has imposed herself upon us can be given a hundred good plans yet fail to implement the same.

She cannot implement because of an absence of political will — to do what is right and reject what is wrong. She cannot implement because she makes exceptions to the rule of law, exceptions for herself and her family, for her favorites and her lapdogs.

She fails to understand the first commandment of good governance, the first condition to leadership — follow the law — NO ifs, NO buts, NO fear, NO favor.

A housewife whose husband’s finances are short on income and long on debt prudently spends what little there is on her children’s food, their nutrition, their health, their education. She will not fritter away what little she could scrimp in order to spend, bribe or cheat just so she remains president of the parents-teachers association. We all know what needs to be done.

We must invest good money on scientific research and technological development so that our farmers will earn more, and produce more food at lower prices.

We must jail smugglers of farm products for they kill our very own farmers.

We must invest more on primary health care, on the procurement of anti-TB medicines and expand the immunization program for our children.

We must improve the curriculum of our public school system and provide the resources for teachers to develop the skills needed to teach better.

We must build roads that will open up sustainable farms; ports and storage facilities for our fishermen to use.

We must build highways and airports that will make accessible the beauty of our land and our seas for the whole world to discover, to see and to enjoy.

We must address not only the lack of power supply but strive for reasonable and affordable energy pricing likewise. We know that it is a tall order, but it just has to be done.

We must invest more in securing the peace and ensuring order so that each of us will feel safe and secure, wherever and whenever.

We must shore up the morale of our men in uniform, battered by a reality where promotion in rank has become a function of subservience to politics rather than merit or valor. We must not allow that valor upon which discipline is nurtured to be diminished by the wear and tear of compromised leadership.

We must rebuild the trust of our people in the institution that supervises our electoral process. Never again must the voice of the people be subverted by the conspiracy of the few.

We must double our efforts to attract foreign capital to help local managers create jobs and livelihood opportunities for our unemployed and our youth.

We must upgrade the capabilities of small and medium industries so they can become world-competitive.

But all these require of government the capacity to raise resources even as we are deep in debt. All these make sacrifice from all our people imperative.

There must be no compromise as we seek to increase our revenues, as government taxes most those who earn more, and tax least those who earn less. Not by giving tax shelters and tax hedges to those who can, and should, pay.

We must create a debt management office that will devote all its time and energy to matching financial needs with favorable interest rates, borrowing low to retire high-rate debts.

But over and above providing the ways and means, it will require a leadership that can guarantee political and economic stability, that is respected worldwide because it commands the respect and obedience of its people.

Mrs. Arroyo has told us, and she will repeat this on Monday, that it is the political system that has failed, and that we must change it. To justify her call for a change in the system, she adverts to the weakening of our institutions of governance. But she glosses over the fact that never before has the Executive publicly perceived to have interfered in judicial decision-making as under her watch.

Never before has the Executive super-imposed its will upon a legislature enticed through pork and other perks, as now.

And never before, have the military and police been as utilized for personal aggrandizement and political power as under the present leadership.

If our institutions have lost credibility, it is because leadership has abused them so. If we are to strengthen these institutions and our democratic order, the first thing we must do is let go of Mrs. Arroyo.

But then again, because personal power is all that animates her politics, Mrs. Arroyo will not voluntarily relinquish her post. Till hell freezes over may be her attitude. ?Never mind the toll on the economy. ?Never mind the debilitating stress upon the moral fabric of the nation. But for how long can this political stalemate last?

She mistakes stubbornness for strength, forgetting that the strength of the leader derives from the willing support of the led, born out of genuine vote, and nurtured by real performance.

Mrs. Arroyo has none of the above. Not a legitimate mandate, neither real performance. Worse for her, the people have finally realized the bitter truth.

For so long as personal vainglory prevails over the public weal, for so long shall the governed suffer. Yet in the history of men and nations, always and ultimately, the public welfare triumphs.

There is a just Almighty that moves the collective conscience of the people, just as He moves the conscience of those who are the sworn protectors of the people.
Inevitably, the moment will come.

But the last Pulse Asia survey gives us reason to hope. It tells us that even in the worst of times, and these are undoubtedly the worst of times, 67% of our people still believe that things could yet change for the better.

Perhaps more than any other people in this world, we never lose hope. Through the long dark night, a new tomorrow will come.

Isipin ang kinabukasan. Isipin, parating na ‘yan! Ibang-iba sa kahapon mo. Malapit na, bukas mong gusto.

Maraming Salamat po.