FPJ should rejoice that he lost the elections!
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2004-08-23
THE great Renaissance French philosopher Michel de Montaigne had aptly put it: “There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.” As the country’s problems start to unravel, I can imagine Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) starting to smack his lips to relish all the misery he had so narrowly missed in the aftermath of defeat. Indeed, insofar as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is concerned, not all you wish for can be all that good.
From day one, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had inherited trouble. Barely four months after she succeeded Joseph Estrada in January 21, 2001, the supporters of the disgraced leader staged a violent assault which almost brought her to the same fate of her predecessor.

Cory Aquino had her coup attempts and four terms later, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had her Oakwood Incident. Corruption scandals hounded her no end, capped with the worst and most serious of all – Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s Jose Pidal expose which took husband Mike Arroyo before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. To my recollection, Mike Arroyo was the only presidential spouse to ever have to face the legislative probe body.

Yet in comparison, the problems Macapagal-Arroyo had to face during her first four years in Malacanang are trifling compared to the series of crises of tsunami proportions looming on the Philippine horizon.

There is the foreign debt and the deficit. Financial experts and businessmen predict that the Philippine peso may reach P70 to US$1 because of these. Taipan Lucio Tan, in fact, at some time said that the peso could hit P100 to the US$1! Macapagal-Arroyo may not have been solely responsible for the enormous foreign debt or the deficit that were accumulated through three decades under the terms of four previous presidents. But that is hardly any consolation considering that the full impact of the untidy mess will take place under her watch.

There is the continued rise of oil prices that raises the prices of just about everything along with it. Contrast that with the state of the economy and the inability of workers to get any form of substantial salary increases – and it does not take a genius to see that this is an issue that could easily spill over to the streets with unpredictable results.

There is the sudden blurring of relations with the United States after Macapagal-Arroyo decided to withdraw the Philippine contingent in Iraq to save migrant worker Angelo de la Cruz from decapitation. We have seen how US President George W. Bush had taken personally the rejection of France and Germany to join his Iraq misadventure. It would then logically follow that he would also employ every means at his disposal to drive home his displeasure over the Philippine troop withdrawal – from nullifying promised financial packages to out-and-out pressure and/or retaliation.

Any patriotic Filipino will no doubt support her decision to save the life of Angelo de la Cruz and would also want a better level of relationship – from the current ‘master and vassal’ – between the US and the Philippines. Still, this finds Macapagal-Arroyo in the situation of losing the one ally who could have played a key role in alleviating her presidential woes.

As if the tsunamis of our Philippine condition are not enough, Macapagal-Arroyo now even faces the threat of a power crisis in the next two years akin to the one that had plagued the Aquino term. It takes at least three years to put up a power infrastructure, that is, if you manage to lure in investors to plunk in the huge capital. Again, Macapagal-Arroyo did not create the power crisis – Ferdinand Marcos did with his slew of miscalculations and erroneous decisions in addition to the failure of subsequent administrations to install meaningful and long-term alternatives. Now she must grapple with worse power conditions than that which beleaguered her predecessors Cory Aquino and Eddie Ramos.

The political opposition must surely be seeing the reality of the imminent mega crises and chooses instead to stay uninvolved knowing that all this can well be the beginning of the end. Why be blamed for the collapse? Why be accused of being a plotter cum de-stabilizer the way opposition voices are invariably branded by the administration? Remember what Napoleon said: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Certainly, FPJ would be in no position to even come close to tackling any of these crises. His total lack of academic preparation and job experience does not inspire confidence, to say the least.

But the question is – is Macapagal-Arroyo up to it? In terms of preparation for the job and work ethic, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rates an A. What worries me is how she handles crisis and her style of governance.

Macapagal-Arroyo likes to solve problems through accommodation. She won the elections by taking accommodation to the extreme. Her K-4 coalition is a melting pot of recruits from opposing political sides. Her new cabinet is mostly the result of accommodation. The trade offs and rewards are quite evident.

Now the problem is – horse-trading and accommodation will not get you through the debt, deficit, power and high prices crises. These are ‘black and white’ problems needing unequivocal solutions. Playing footsy just to please can be deadlier than irreversible gangrene. There just aren’t any grey areas for accommodation.

The relationship with the US is easier to address. Give the Americans enough pounds of flesh and the carrots will start flowing again. The problem will be if the Filipino nation will agree to the conditions of the trade. In the Angelo de la Cruz crisis, the country would not trade a lowly truck driver for all the incentives of the spoils of war in Iraq.

A student of history will think that for crises of such proportions as what Macapagal-Arroyo now faces, surviving the tempest will require:

1. A resolute leader of such political will as Abraham Lincoln who held the American nation together and preserved the union of the states during the American Civil War.

2. An inspiring leader who can galvanize and unite the nation through a period of ordeal and sacrifice like no less than what Winston Churchill did for Britain during World War II.

Unfortunately, based on the track record of the last four years, these are leadership qualities where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is very much wanting.

Her last four years were marked by division within her very own ranks, a rudder-less style of governance that shifted direction with every wind, deepening public cynicism and loss of faith in the political leadership and the very system itself. Macapagal-Arroyo must metamorphose into these leadership qualities of a Lincoln and a Churchill if she is to register a passing mark in history.

Greatness is not genetically derived. It is a result of the strength of character molded by crisis and the principled choices one makes in life.

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