"Stop the on-and-off flirtation."
Last Saturday was the inurnment of former President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III. His former colleague in Congress, now-Senator Imee Marcos, eulogized him as a “kind and gentle soul” whom she will “deeply miss,” setting a commendably Catholic tone of reconciliation. Even our acerbic President declared a 10-day period of national mourning. Any funeral, especially a presidential one, should always be an occasion for setting aside differences and coming together.
* * *
I was a bit puzzled, though, by the Inquirer headline that proclaimed “Mission accomplished!” in PNoy’s honor. I hope they meant that he simply did his part in carrying the baton in what his Finance Secretary Purisima described as the “relay race” of the presidency. To borrow words from his Palace predecessor, he simply contributed his own “stone for the edifice” of nation-building; for example:
A high of 7.8% quarterly GDP growth on his watch (almost as good as PGMA, whose quarterly numbers exceeded 8%–twice)
Fiscal stability with his sin tax reform (preceded by PGMA’s e-VAT reform in 2005, succeeded by PRRD’s TRAIN and CREATE laws)
Consequently, investment-grade ratings in 2011 (much of which the upgrade reports credited to PGMA’s fiscal reforms, then were reaffirmed years later even in the depths of PRRD’s severe lockdown)
After initial hesitation in 2011-12, infrastructure buildout (continuing PGMA’s infrastructure spree, followed by PRRD’s Build Build Build)
Whatever it was, PNoy’s “mission” started only when he became president. He was a decent soul, true, but also a wholly ordinary man, with no executive experience, whose years in Congress with Imee saw his name on not a single new law. And that mission also evaporated when he stepped down and was rarely heard from again.
* * *
We have the Liberal Party bigwigs to thank for inveigling PNoy into agreeing to a necro-ronation in 2010. He may no longer be with us, but those same bigwigs are still very much around, casting their moist eyes on the Palace.
If the LP wants to avoid the same debacle they suffered with “Otso Otso” in 2019, they would do well, first, to dissociate themselves from the new coalition 1Sambayan, half of whose membership, I recently learned, are NDF groups. It’s past time for the LP to junk its on-and-off flirtation—since Ninoy’s time–with the CPP, the same guys who bombed their miting de avance in Plaza Miranda in August 1971.
The LP may then wish to subsume into a more potent alliance with conventional parties like the NPC and a PDP-Laban faction who seem ready to break with the administration. They have legitimate issues to raise, and besides, as a self-respecting democracy, we ought to have a viable, working opposition.
* * *
Another mission that’s clearly still unaccomplished is the reform of Tita Cory’s 1987 Constitution. But we’re slowly getting there.
Last Friday I attended the latest in a webinar series being run by the DILG—together with partners like Konrad Adenauer, DAP, and CenSEI—to drum up support for empowering Congress to relax the Constitutional restrictions on foreign investment in various sectors.
It’s heartening to report that a poll of participants at the end showed 85 percent support for relaxing restrictions on telecoms. The next step now is to solicit the support of the Senate for a plebiscite, ideally before December when Comelec starts printing the ballots for May 2022.
Interestingly, many participants also had questions about the massive devolution of powers from national to local governments starting next year as a result of the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling. A whopping P155 billion of the budget will have to be transferred from national agencies to the LGUs, bringing their share up to some 38 percent of all tax collections.
Notably, another 13 percent would bring up the local governments’ share to over 50 percent, setting the fiscal basis for a federal government. That can easily be attained just by transferring to LGUs the responsibility for our classrooms and teachers nationwide, similar to US school districts. But that’s for the next administration’s agenda.
* * *
So many of our friends continue to fall to the COVID virus as well as plain old-age ailments. I’m dedicating my Bible discussion here to one of them, my fraternity brother Rey G. Roy, who will be sorely missed.
In the second reading for today, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Timothy brings us these parting words from Paul as he faces death in Rome (2 Tm 4: 6-8): “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
How many of us—from PNoy to Rey Roy—would be able to honestly say the same about our faith to St Peter the gatekeeper when we finally face him? It would take a lifetime of work to muster that, and yet it’s never too late for us. God’s grace is always available, only just awaiting our response to Him.
Readers can write me at [email protected].