GMA’s biggest dos and don’ts in this food crisis
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-04-20
The current food crisis packs a heap of whammies with a potential for writing the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime’s final chapter in one fell swoop. History is replete with upheavals and gory results that extreme hunger had caused.

GMA will do well not to be lulled into complacency by the words of her Defense Secretary, Gilbert C. Teodoro, who said last Monday that there have never been any food riots in our country. Even if this were true, the conditions then are so much different from the conditions now.

In 1945, when we had a food crisis during the Japanese occupation, our national population was under 20 million. Our population today has ballooned to over 88 million and nearly half of that are severely affected by this food crisis which is expected to last until 2010.

At the close of World War II in the Philippines, hunger was felt mostly in the capital region. Today, hunger was already being felt all over the country even before the world was hit by the food crisis. The food crisis affects over 40 million Filipinos in the socio-economic classes D and E. Even if food is still available, they now cannot afford the high cost of a basic meal.

I also think that GMA is too astute a politician to believe the yarn spun by her spokesmen Anthony Golez and Ricardo Saludo who both professed that her recent SWS ‑26% net satisfaction rating is nothing to worry about.

Golez tried to pooh-pooh the SWS findings during last Monday’s ANC interview as simply another one of those usual ups and downs of surveys on a public executive, nothing more. It has conveniently escaped his mind that GMA hardly had any ups in survey ratings since 2001.

This neophyte Palace mouthpiece has been well drilled to block obnoxious issues by distracting the public’s attention on harmlessly irrelevant talking points. Some might call that intellectual dishonesty while others might consider it as a deliberate ploy to obfuscate wrongdoing.

In last Monday’s ABS-CBN TV Patrol, Saludo tried to divert the issue of GMA’s negative 26% net satisfaction rating by calling attention to economic growth figures that remain just figures to most Filipinos who continue to see only worsening poverty and want.

For GMA, the sad reality is this: When famine stalks, even good rulers risk a violent ouster from an angry, hungry people. No one can reason with people who have been driven to find their own solutions to hunger and extreme want.

When anger is stoked by hunger and comes at a time when GMA’s satisfaction rating is at its worst and just as recent scandals conjure an image of a plundering and evil regime — there you’ll find the ingredients that could stir up a perfect political storm.

GMA will do well to have her list of dos and don’ts on how to avoid that perfect political storm. Among these should be the following:

1. Don’t declare a state of national emergency under these circumstances when the situation is already volatile. It will only elevate the crisis to its worst case scenario. Marcos declared a curfew on February 23, 1986 which nobody followed. The declaration merely demonstrated that Marcos was finished. Marcos was ousted two days later.

2. Before implementing the Family Access Card idea (to prevent hoarding), ensure that there are enough cards to go around, that people know about it and that there are provisions for card losses and theft. The worst mistake the regime can make is to use the card for political purposes, like discriminate against known Opposition followers.

3. Win over the Opposition (give them their pork!) because an unpopular ruler cannot make a suffering people swallow the bitter pill. The cooperation of the Opposition is needed in order to prescribe the bitter pill.

4. Implement meaningful and visible reforms soonest. Revamp the cabinet. Get rid of cabinet members who generate flak like Raul Gonzalez, Norberto Gonzales, Ronnie Puno, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon et al. Let Romy Neri tell the truth, even if it hurts. Request the First Gentleman to leave the country just like when he left at the height of the Garci controversy.

5. Release those Supreme Court Justices who may feel obligated to repay their appointment from their emotional burden. The Supreme Court is too important as a stabilizing institution. A discredited Supreme Court will only hasten the perfect political storm.

6. Remove the irritants that are creating a horizontal divide in the AFP. Pardon the Magdalo officers, drop the rebellion charges against the rest of the officers involved in the Oakwood and February 24, 2006 incidents and let Senator Antonio Trillanes IV serve.

GMA has to chalk up some very real positives and eliminate some very damaging negatives. She has far too many enemies and the forces that hitherto managed to keep her in power will not matter when hunger and anger develop into the perfect political storm.

We are only starting to feel this food crisis and already GMA has duplicated her worst net satisfaction ratings. Things can only get worse for GMA in this crisis which is expected to last until 2010. Already violence has erupted in other countries; a ruler has also been removed. GMA is all too vulnerable to suffer the same fate.

These six prescriptions may be hard for GMA to swallow. But would she rather wait until she is overcome by events and gets to that stage where — like Shakespeare’s Richard III — she too will be offering to trade her kingdom for a horse?

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo