OpinionsViewpointNo basta decir adios”

No basta decir adios”


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“It ‘s not enough to say good-bye”, Chile’s magazine Induambiente bannered on it’s cover. That headline jabbed the military junta, ousted for it’s “dirty war”. Accounting, came with the return of civilian rule

Accountability is the hallmark of a mature democracy. It rests on a bedrock principle: Man must answer even for the last idle word that he utters. “In all things, therefore, look to your end,” the sages counsel.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said adios in a five-minute nationwide address. She stitched in the essential clichés thanking for the chance to serve, calling for national unity. “Unite behind our new leader,” she prodded everyone..

She burnished her own apples :“37 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth; automated elections, roads and roll-on-roll-off ports, etc. These were “face of change…Yet, until every Filipino is born to a family free of poverty, we can not rest.””

Of course not. Economic growth, under her watch, had been “narrow and shallow”. The number locked into poverty grew from 23.8 million to 27.6 million. From forests, river basins to fishing grounds, the country ecological foundations have been increasingly stressed..

She skipped in her speech festering serial-scandals: from the overpriced Macapagal Boulevard to the ZTE broadband scam, unfound desparecidos, killing of journalists, persistent human trafficking.

Her “midnight appointees” stud a phletora of agencies. Among these are the Supreme Court, Social Security System, Land Bank, Manila, Cebu and Clark International airports, Pagcor, even the Philippine National Red Cross.

Unannounced, she signed Executive Order 883. This grants to “lawyers, in the government executive service, career service officer rank.”. By a stoke of the pen, Ms Arroyo bypassed civil service criteria and vested tenure, fattened pay and retirement checks on government lawyers. Some could be tasked to prosecute her in the future.

“A diminished presidency and heightened expectations is what (she) wants her successor to inherit,” Inquirer columnist Manuel Quezon told the 14th National Press Forum. “In the coming months, landmines left by the Arroyo administration will have to be defused….

Will a paalam from the outgoing President do? Look at the track record. Majority of those who collaborated with the Japanese in World War II got off scot free. The Marcoses were never brought to book for the dictatorship’s plunder

Will she be called to account for her stewardship? What about family members, notably the First Gentleman?

Anybody recall the pungent remark by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the proper role of presidential spouses: “I can trust my husband not to fall asleep when I give a speech,“ she said. “And he usually claps at the right places”. That’s the English rendering of no basta decir adios.

By tradition, the President brings the President elect to the Luneta to be sworn in. By all accounts, this will be a polite but uncomfortable ride towards the historical Quirino Grandstand. The chemistry between the two has never been good. Ms Arroyo’s “scorch-earth” aggravated relations.

The ride signals end of the Arroyo era. She denies it. “I will have a quieter public role.”. So do her family and the few friends remaining Rep. Sonny Belmonte seems to have the House speakership wrapped up.

Already, many allies, don’t return her telephone calls. Politicians in free fall appreciate best Charles de Gaulle’s dismissive snort: “The cemetery is full of indispensable men.” Ask ex-speaker Jose de Venecia and Prospero Nograles.

It need not have been so if, in 2004, she heeded the sage’s counsel: “In all things, look to your end.” There were enough warnings.

The elections had been controversial. Maguindanao, among others, delivered implausible majorities for Ms Arroyo. A fragmented opposition couldn’t get its act together. Her strengths stemmed partly from the opposition’s flabbiness. And the “Hello Garci” tapes still hadn’t surfaced.

At the Cebu Provincial Capitol, she took her oath as 14th president of the Republic. What lay ahead? “If you can look into the seeds of time, / And say which grain will grow and which will not,” Banquo wistfully complained to Macbeth….

People held on to guarded hopes. “In re-election, the President was gifted by abused but patient citizens with a rare second chance to repair the damage on country and its institutions”: noted Viewpoint (PDI/ June 14 2005). “This is a time of visitation… but “the window of opportunity for selfless service is rapidly closing …”

What was future then is now history. It does not make for pleasant reading.

Governance yielded to the all-consuming drive to retain power —- from keel-hauling the Constitution, fiddling with emergency rule, keeping warlords bought, rendering generals pliant and congressmen tame.

The consequences were disastrous.

“Pecuniary decency” became signature of the regime. One’s worth depended on your bank balance. But problems interlock. Budget deficits march lockstep with ecological shortfalls. Modern diseases surge even as old ailments persist…

Historian Barbara Tuchman called it the “tyranny of the urgent”. The capacity to govern, she said, is sapped by sapped by interlocking crises. Overwhelmed by today’s demands, few can plan for tomorrow.”.

The Galilean put it more simply: “You did not recognize the time of visitation. So, in you, not a stone will be left upon stone….”

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