Isn’t this madness in Macapagal-Arroyo’s methods?
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2004-09-13
William Shakespeare originated the term Method in Madness in “Hamlet.” In the immortalized tragedy, the villainous Uncle King had pointed to Prince Hamlet’s behavior as one of a deliberately contrived madness intended to expose and punish conspirators in the murder of Hamlet’s father -- the late King.
From where I sit, I detect no method in madness but rather some form of seeming madness in the methods of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, especially with regard to recent decisions and behavior set against the backdrop of the fiscal crisis. I cannot see any method in madness because there is no strategic gain from the act. I can see madness in the methods because the logical result of the act can only be self-destruction.

I am sure the president and the administration were aware of the mega fiscal crisis confronting us even as far back as six months ago. Otherwise, ignorance of this would have been the height of negligence and incompetence. They have succeeded in keeping the lid on the issue during the campaign -- thanks in part to the poor quality of minds behind the political opposition glaringly manifested by their choice of Fernando Poe Jr. as their presidential candidate for the May 2004 elections. The fact that the other presidential candidates had actually glossed over what ought to have been the most serious and most relevant campaign issue gives us a pathetic picture of the degenerate nature of our brand of personality-centered politics.

With the whirlwind of crisis multipliers engulfing us -- the effects of rising oil prices on consumer prices leading to higher import bills leading to further deterioration of the peso leading to higher foreign debt, leading to even higher inflation and lower purchasing power, ad infinitum -- I cannot make sense of recent developments since Ms Arroyo was sworn in to her new term.

Immediately after her inauguration, many political watchers had noted pincer movements directed at marginalizing former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) which in effect, also marginalized the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party and House Speaker Jose de Venecia (JDV). These perceived pincer movements were:

1. The revival of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino party under the leadership of freshman representative Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno and subsequent Kampi actions against Lakas-CMD.

2. The PEA-Amari Smokey Mountain Reclamation Project and Binga Dam issues being raised by administration ally Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago which singles out FVR.

Amid admittedly commendable appeals for unity in the face of the crisis, this move to marginalize FVR, Lakas-CMD and JDV could well be regarded as Ms Arroyo’s single most divisive political act. The assault on “Fortress Ramos” is dangerously alienating the biggest political party in the ruling coalition, something which could even turn a virtual ally to a virtual enemy -- with dire consequences that can be brought about by a possible alignment with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and other opposition groups.

Ramos’s political lieutenants and loyalists I have talked with agree that these initiatives of Puno and Defensor-Santiago can be nothing less than hostile moves against FVR, JDV and Lakas-CMD. What is puzzling to them is why this is being done right after their K-4 coalition victory and in the face of the unfolding crises.

Why indeed when the calls for unity are extended to the opposition they would least likely cooperate while a major partner -- FVR, JDV and Lakas-CMD who went all out for Macapagal-Arroyo’s victory during the last elections -- is met only with hostility.

Why indeed, especially now when Philippine-American relations have been crippled by the pullout of our troops from Iraq and FVR is uniquely placed to be of help. Ramos is a member of The Carlyle Group (otherwise known as the “Presidents Club”) led by former US president George Bush Sr. and includes known Bush family cronies.

So why indeed is FVR being singled out in the revival of the PEA-Amari scandal whereas records attest to the involvement of four administrations? Ms Arroyo could have aborted the final stages of the deal and when the funds were released but she did not. Who bears the greater guilt -- the one who bought the gun and loaded it or the one who actually fired it?

Madness in method is it not?

Ms Arroyo’s call for leadership by example comes at no better time -- something even reminiscent of what her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, had started in 1961 with his example of presidential simple living. But actions speak louder than words and what we have seen so far contradicts what she had been saying.

First there was that big birthday bash of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo which drew criticism, including that coming from CBCP’s Bishop Oscar Cruz. Then there was that Arroyo family reunion in Hong Kong. I heard about this family reunion and their attempts to keep it quiet which would have reflected discernment and sensitivity. But a Philippine Daily Inquirer story about a supposed Kampi secret meeting in Hong Kong to plot the party’s moves against JDV compelled Mikey Arroyo to admit that the Hong Kong episode was nothing but a family excursion.

Admitting to the family reunion in Hong Kong parried a political fallout that would have resulted from the impression that they were in Hong Kong to hatch a plot to unseat JDV. But it painted a picture of contrast and irony of the First Family having the lifestyle of the rich and famous against presidential echoes of appeal for austerity. Radio commentators had a field day citing the contradiction between pronouncement and lifestyle. One even raised a tourism issue -- how can we promote local tourism when the President’s kinfolk prefer to have their holiday in Hong Kong? Not to mention the spending of foreign currency so badly needed to meet the fiscal crisis.

Strike three came during the President’s recent visit to China. Lo and behold, marching in full view of media was the entire First Family entourage, complete with babies and their uniformed nannies. Press Secretary Ignacio “Toting” Bunye lamely tried to explain that the costs of the First Family’s trip were not paid by the government. I think Bunye knew in his heart that the issue in question was really all about consistency with one’s own pronouncements and in showing sensitivity to the feelings of an already impoverished nation which has been asked to sacrifice some more.

Again, we see madness in method.

In France, callousness that led to the guillotine was depicted by the oft-repeated quote from Marie Antoinette when told of her people’s poverty: “Let them eat cake!” In the Philippines, “Let’s splurge in China!”

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