What kind of country are we, really? The news that regularly come out about the state of the country offer confusion, not clarity. On the one hand, there are news reports of slivers of light popping out of the economic front. And an international confidence on the integrity of the political leadership that has rarely been at its current high. On the other, half of the reports suggest a country afflicted by politics of the lowest, basest kind and an underclass living in Dickensian sorrow and depravity.
Filipinos seem to be of two kinds, living on two contrasting universes, split between the hopeful and those mired in total hopelessness.
For starters, how can you explain this. For the first nine months of the year, the dominant telco earned P28 billion while the largest bank (controlled by one family) earned P18.2 billion. In contrast, 10.8 million families were polled, in a survey for the 3rd quarter, as having suffered from the pangs of hunger. One in two Filipinos rate himself as poor. These magnify that our most pestering problem from time immemorial, the gap between the have and the have-nots, has moved but in the direction of more inequality.
The Napoles affair and the P10-billion plus pork barrel scam, in which the SAROs of senators and congressmen were exchanged for duffel bags of cash, revealed a depth of political corruption that is unhinged from the usual—and generally accepted—norms of corrupt practices. This mother of all corrupt congressional practices has no precedent in the sordid annals of congressional corruption. The more scheming ones even sued congressional insertions in the budget to pad their deals with Napoles. What we see as the only parallel to the Napoles scam was perhaps the martial law practice of pocketing whole chunks of foreign loans.
When the “august” and“ honorable” have sunk this low, you can even question on whether a country with such kind of legislators is capable of redemption.
The public rage over congressional corruption has naturally led to the inevitable—questions on the lump sums of the executive branch, which the president or his appointed surrogates can dispose to fund chosen programs. This is so far the greatest crisis the Aquino administration has ever faced and the roll-out of a propaganda offensive to reverse the soured public mood on executive prerogatives has yet to bear results.
At no time in his three-year presidency that President Aquino has ben seriously been threatened of impeachment or ouster but now. What he faces right now is a political crisis of unknowable—and unpredictable—endgame.
The serious challenge to the leadership and integrity of the Aquino administration has also brought out of the woodwork the disparate forces opposed to him, from the right-wing forces that lost in the RH law passage, to the forces on the Left that would always oppose a liberal democracy regardless. Place the likes of Oliver Lozano in between the two forces, and you have a coalition that is heavily worked up in the area of protesting and unsettling the established government.
Yet, at a separate universe reside a country that is free from the economic turmoil that is roiling much of the globe. A growth rate of approximately eight per cent for the third quarter of is about to be made officia;—a growth churn that only takes place in dynamic countries such as China.
This is not the case with the rest of the globe. Even after mighty Germany had posted decent growth and unprecedented trade surpluses, the shining star of the European economy as usual, there had been questions on the cost of that to countries on the European periphery.
The Philippine growth rate, in contrast, has been sustained, unquestioned and verified at ground level. The multilateral institution do not have faint praises for the Philippine economy; they are pleasantly surprised by its strong fundamentals and resiliency. The praises have a caveat, a welcome one, and it is about the determination of the political leadership to stay the course of growth.
The metrics on investors’ confidence and the surge in other rankings such as global competitiveness have complemented the reviews on the strong and resilient Philippine economy.
The often ignored and obscure factoid about the Philippine economy, but critically important, is the sense of confidence of the central bankers. Few countries can claim what they claim —that even a tapering by the Fed of its quantitative easing program cannot trigger higher interest rates and other external shocks. As a confidence-building measure, this is the equivalent of ten Pacquiao wins via KO.
If there is any further empirical evidence that we are a country of two tales, let us look at the two stories that have been emerged out of the OFW sector. On the one hand, a Saudization program has been dislocating Filipino workers in the premier work site—Saudi Arabia. The stories from the workers forcibly deported are of the usual horror stuff . The stories are heart-breaking, given the sacrifice the workers have done for the country and their families.
Yet, the rising and surging overall remittances from the country’s OFWs are an oasis in a desert of dropping remittances , most especially the traditional powerhouses such as Mexico and China. On the one hand, there is the brutal and inhuman treatment of our OFWs. On the other, there is this resolve to send money home and prop up the economy, unfailingly and without question .
The worst of conditions and the best of times. That what we are as a country—always with two agonizingly contrasting stories to tell.