On a night Scrooge seemed to have stolen the Yuletide cold—along with hopes and cheers this season was supposed to usher in—I had a dream. Pope Francis, in that dream, wrote a letter to President Aquino. After the customary greetings, the letter went straight to the point, issues related to the only Catholic country in this part of the globe.
Here goes the letter in that dream.
Mr. President, I have devoted quite some time observing and reading about the state of affairs in Asia’s only Catholic country. That falls under my apostolic mandate and more. What papacy would not be amazed at a faith so enduring and deep? In your part of the globe, there is less hemorrhaging of the faith, and churches – even the wobbliest ones that can crumble with the next quake —are still packed on Sundays. The worst of natural tragedies, and this would gladden every Catholic’s heart, brings people closer to God instead of eroding their faith.
In other areas such as North America, stately churches and magnificent cathedrals mostly have empty pews on Sundays. Those with the better lives have been opting out on their faith. The joke is that there are more sex abuse cases against priests and bishops than regular churchgoers.
I have been praying for divine intercession to reciprocate that abiding and deep faith of the faithful in your country. My prayers, to borrow from a favorite term of the evangelicals, are for the faithful in your country to have ample protection and provision.
The devastation and loss in the wake of Yolanda make all of us ask the question on whether a people raised and reared in faith deserved such wrath, and where was divine intervention when they needed it most? I cannot answer that question with satisfaction but I can pray for the protection and safety of the faithful.
On the issue of provision, food on the table and the other basic sustenance for a decent life, this is where we have a divergence of view.
I appreciate your sincere work to move the country into a path of sustained growth. And improve the revenue collection. Caesar had to raise revenues to fund undertakings from wars to the construction of public baths. But I truly doubt in whether the impressive growth statistics under your administration, upon which so many multilateral institutions have based their alleluias, have dented the great economic inequality in your country, which had vacuumed up all income gains into the Top 10 percent of society, with crumbs hardly trickling down into the impoverished mass below.
In my recent papal exhortation, I precisely stated that trickle-down economics is a discredited economic prescription and should be put to pasture along with the supreme belief in the efficiency of markets.
The manner by which you structured the major public and private sector investments, billions upon billions of dollars for modernizing the country’s frayed and antediluvian infrastructure, is a case in point.
The PPP is a play for the super rich, of the super rich and by the super rich. The poor will be the construction workers and operators of heavy equipment and they would remain poor after the projects are over and done with.
The gains from the PPP will further prop up the riches and profits of the super rich and add luster to their listed shares.
The Great Divide has weakened the labor unions and there are some new employment fields not even covered by labor laws. The retail and service industries, the ones that created a special class of dollar billionaires, hardly pay the minimum wage and go for hires that reject trade unions. There is zero collective bargaining in these sectors and workers and human rights are routinely tramped upon and violated.
The word inequality cannot be typed by the keyboards of your speechwriters. You often throw around the phrase “ inclusive growth “ but when you say these things, there is an empty ring as they are said without real conviction. It is all about free market orthodoxy that does not work for the voiceless and powerless in the real world.
When the Napoles scam became hot news, the first sector your government denied of funding assistance was the peasantry, which make up more than 20 per cent of the work force and have been – from time immemorial – the face of unbridled poverty.
You have given the super rich the investment environment they asked for. You denied the peasantry of carabaos and cattle by cutting off congressional funding to the dispersal programs .
Your economic managers worship in the alter of Moody , Fitch and Standard and Poor , probably unaware that the Triple A ratings these agencies had given to exotic investments nearly helped push the developed world into another Great Depression .
This is my counsel: Just settle for the unanimous roar of approval from your suffering poor.
This is just a small note but this is related to the mindset of your administration to favor the rich and bludgeon the poor. As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, I took the bus and rode public transport. Your traffic managers want your major roads reserved for the Porsches of the Napoleses. The buses, which should have first priority on major roads, are being kept off the major roads, a policy now only current in banana republics with antediluvian traffic policies.
You are a leader with good intentions but largely led astray by your obsession with growth figures and the deification of the debunked trickle-down notion of spreading growth.
A rising tide, in your particular context, does lift a few, chosen boats, the super yachts, if you will. But it does drag the majority into the deathly deep. Halfway through your term, it is not too late to reverse course, change the fundamentals of your economic policies to help push the massive suffering underclass upward.