My thoughts on that little woman in Malacañang Palace

There is a fine line between political stubbornness and political will. Both tend to be pragmatic though they vary in their delusions.

Without a doubt, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a survivor [read “Arroyo stronger than ever — analysts” and “World won’t tolerate another Edsa revolt” both from the PDI]. She has outlived an impeachment attempt, sidestepped election cheating allegations, and seems to have perfected her denial of any involvement in the political killings. She has polarized this nation unlike any other leader — her versus the rest of us.

And while a lot of people hope that the coming congressional elections is a referendum on her administration, I highly doubt that. With her people in place [read “Apocalypse” by Conrado de Quiros], the administration slate will win most of the seats. I still hope to be wrong, though hope is dream’s friend, delusion’s sister.

After all, our country is a country ruled over by traditional politicians. This is their world. We only live and die in it. No wonder so many leave.

So what is my position on GMA?

I recognize the economic gains ushered in under her administration but I also recognize the cloud of illegitimacy surrounding her rule.

It depends on what you value. If it is democracy you value, is it the form or the substance? Form-wise, GMA is our President. A popular revolution brought her to power and an elections cemented her rule. We can argue that the form is flawed, but arguments are just that.

If you wish your arguments to matter, then it is the substance of democracy you value. Does her mandate come from the people? Does her will represent the people’s? Do the people believe in her? I always say that winning an election is the easy part. Winning your people over day by day after is the challenge. Here, GMA is failing.

I value neither form nor substance. Because in the first place, I don’t value the ‘democracy’ we have. Some say we’re shifting to a controlled democracy; I couldn’t care less.

I have always maintained that it takes a certain level of socio-economic development to sustain a democracy. A healthy, partcipative middle class is necessary to keep society in balance. Without a healthy economy to provide this middle class with opportunities and incentives to keep them in the country, we experience human capital flight or “brain drain” as we popularly call it.

Most people believe that their participation in a democracy ends after they vote. The truth is, participation is the essence of democracy.

In the economic realm, it is often remarked that entrepeneurship, creating your own opportunities for exchange of knowledge and trade, is the key to uplifting the Philippine economy. Entrepeneurship, by nature, is a form of democratic expression as well. When you invest your money here in our country and allow it to grow, consider it as “voting” for our economy rather than someone else’s.

Nonetheless, we have nothing to fear with regards to the political culture of our society. We voice our opinions and participate in forums. However, we suffer from “rally rage”, a symptom that there aren’t sufficient channels for people to feel that they can effect change. Perhaps, what we need to enhance is the political education of our people so that they can create more possibilities for them to participate in our politics in an even better and more constructive way.

What I value is pragmatism. For me, the only way to judge the value of a certain idea is to look at its practical results. Whether that idea is democracy or authoritarianism or communism or Confucianism or Philippinism or whatever — Deng Xiaoping once said, “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.”

I find GMA’s policies pragmatic. There can be no doubt that she has delivered six years of sustained economic growth and I can’t wait to see where our country is by 2010.

However, there is something intrinsically wrong with her. Personally, I wouldn’t trust someone who lies and conspires to eliminate her enemies. Beyond being pragmatic, I have my own values such as the respect for truth and life.

Therefore, I find her administration unsettlingly disturbing.

My advice to future leaders is to learn from GMA but never be like her. I respect her policies, but not the person. I don’t really mind if we’re shifting to a controlled democracy under her rule as long as she gets things done.

And she better.

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6 Comments

  1. GMA got into power (and is staying in power) due to the shady deals that she brokered with less than desirable people in the country. She probably doesn’t want to stoop this low, but she has to keep her word.

    The least that she could do is improve the economy – and she’s doing that. Our budget deficit is at its lowest in almost a decade.

  2. Someone who lies and conspires to eliminate her enemies? I think you’ve been listening too much to her opponents. I can’t blame you though, her opponents are far louder than her allies.

    You talked about form and substance, but your definition of substance is still what I’d consider part of the form. The substance, as I see it, would be determined by whether or not the president is making the country better. Meaning, whether or not a Filipino that doesn’t follow the daily political soap opera can take a look around and say that things are improving. In that sense I will say she is doing a good job.

    The trouble, though, is when the superficial political fluff to gets too noisy, it starts to not be so superficial anymore. It scares investors, weakens stability, repels tourists– all the things that the country seriously needs.

    People tend to play this out in terms of extremes, saying that one side is fighting for the Philippines and the other is fighting for… I dunno, Satan. But the reality is that both sides sincerely do want the Philippines to get better. One side tries to do this by focusing on (my definition of) substance, the other tries to do this by attacking and trying to overthrow the other due to questionable form. The real trouble is that if the latter side cannot successfully overthrow the former, then all they’re succeeding in doing is dragging down the Philippines.

  3. Just an opinion, but:

    Is it really she that brought herself to Presidency, or us?

    I can’t believe we made another EDSA revolution when she could just make some shady deals to some people so she could get to power: the Revolution would have been a pointless “Get down from there” rally with a lot of people.

    And, compare our current president with the former president, Joseph Estrada. Who do you think is better suited for “improving this nation to a first-world-type country”?

    Another opinion:

    Yeah, I think the next president should continue GMA’s work. No, not her controversial ones, but the ones that seem to work for the Philippines. We’ve been having a slow-but-steady-I-mean-super-slow-that-nobody-seems-to-feel-it economic rise, why not the next president improve on that?

    Bleh.

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