His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, at the opening plenary session of the 23rd World Economic Forum on East Asia, gave a speech that, as expected, lauded the achievements of his administration. He drew a long bow, as the ancient idiom puts it, but he did not lie, he only exaggerated.
The speech shows that Mr. Aquino is definitely a more truthful person than Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. The Finance secretary’s being a liar is detailed in today’s page 1 column by Rigoberto Tiglao titled “Purisima: Aquino’s biggest liar.” There Mr. Tiglao tells readers how Mr. Purisima dishonestly claims he and the Aquino regime caused all the great things that are happening to the Philippine economy since Mr. Aquino became president. That is simply not the truth.
The World Bank itself says in its September 13, 2013 “Philippine Development Report” that “Fiscal consolidation in the last decade led to macroeconomic stability.” The last decade prior to September 2013 was largely years of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency, during which the now under-hospital-arrest former president risked the ire of the Filipino people for making necessary economic decisions that established the sound foundations of our economy.
In fact, Cesar Purisima, when he was Mrs. Arroyo’s Finance secretary before he decamped and joined the anti-Arroyo camp, had resisted the much-criticized laws imposing the VAT. He also seemed to have undermined Arroyo’s unpopular moves to have laws passed raising the excise tax on tobacco and alcohol and introducing the Comprehensive Tax Reform Package. The executives of the World Bank and other international institutions praised the daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal for these fiscal improvement measures. But the Yellow Army of the Aquinos together with leftists elements demonized Mrs. Arroyo.
These and other reforms introduced by the regime previous to the current one caused our economy to have unprecedented GDP rates of growth marking us as an “emerging economy” and leading to us being today’s so-called “new miracle economy of Asia.”
And yet Secretary Purisima dares to tell the lie that it was thanks to him and President Aquino that the present soundness of “the fundamentals” of our economy was established.
At least the President in his speech at the WEF yesterday afternoon simply kept referring to the support of “the Filipino people” as the reason for the good things in the economy and in our society now.
He said: “In 2010, it was once again the collective efforts of our people that helped me get elected me into office, after they took a stand, and firmly decided to turn their back on almost a decade of corruption and impunity—a decade of lost opportunities. My countrymen flocked to the voting stations to vote for the simple but profound idea that was the backbone of our campaign, and that is where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty. To this day, the Filipino people provide the strength to sustain this effort. That is why when many of you have praised the achievements of the Philippines, we always point out that the pursuit of large-scale reforms in every aspect of governance is the achievement of the Filipino people. They made the goal of achieving inclusive growth doable, and it is also they who will make it irreversible.”
We have, however, to quibble about his calling the decade before he became president “a decade of lost opportunities.” For that decade was when some of the now-great business houses in the food, retail merchandising and real estate industries began to surge. And also when great successes blessed the work of some of the almost a dozen Filipino businessmen-industrialist who are now among the world’s wealthiest persons.
And we must repeat our criticism of his slogan “where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty.” It invites the logical question: Sir, poverty, hunger and homelessness have increased under your watch. Does that mean that corruption has increased?
Yes is the answer. And the corruption involves Cabinet departments, especially that of Mr. Aquino’s Department of Budget and Management. It was after all the DBM that okayed the release of funds, as much as P10 billion, that is the major element in the outrageous PDAF/pork barrel scandal.