Jul 30, 2022, Vergel O. Santos
Ask Junior how he’ll get us out of the grave we now lie in buried beneath more than P12 trillion of national debt
We wanted details, so he gives us details, largely represented by numbers, numbers splashed as icing on a cake of promises. He gives us big numbers where we wanted them big, small where we wanted them small.
His magnanimity is unselective; some of us will get land to till whether we know how to till or not. Those who already have theirs and know how to work it and do work it, although still have not improved their lives, in fact ending up saddled with debt, will be forgiven their debts.
With a wider sweep of the magic wand, all those languishing in privation all their lives will be lifted out of it within six years – well, nearly all. The number of the poor will have been cut to 9% by then.
That’s nothing short of miraculous. Poverty incidence has dawdled between the high sides of 20% and 50%. It came down to 21.6% when the economy grew at its highest average since the 1950s – 6.2%, for 2010-2016. That rare spell came in the frugal and comparatively, by far, corruption-free presidency of Benigno Aquino III, an achievement that takes on a further significance when viewed against a culture where incomes and opportunities are bestowed by patronage and political power rests in dynastic hands.
There’s still swooning going around over the State of the Nation Address President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. read last Monday to Congress in joint session, in person and from a teleprompter, and, through various media, to the nation at large. Actually, the state of the nation he described is not the state in which we find ourselves today, which is understandable. We’re all messed up – unemployment, prohibitive prices, hunger, disease, crime, corruption, frame-ups, repression, you name it, we’ve got it – but to touch on that is to betray his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, his vice president’s father and the rehabilitator of the memory of his own deservedly disgraced father. So he just gave us cake – but not to have and eat until after six years.
One thing going for him is he’s not a bad reader, better anytime than Duterte, and that, in the absence of substantial virtues, should account singularly for the general approbation. The reading and the numbers he dished out themselves came as a surprise. Unlike Duterte, who, as bad a reader as he is, is a lawyer, in fact a prosecutor once, Ferdinand Jr. even had to fake his educational record.
His mouthing may have come across to us prosaic-minded listeners as abstruse, but that must have been part of the strategy and, again, the fakery. Ahead of his public reading, tales were told of his painstaking preoccupation composing his speech. But his finance secretary, Ben Diokno, is suspected as the unseen academic hand that laid out the assumptions and, from those, proceeded to crunch out the numbers.
His readiness to explain and defend Junior reinforces the suspicion. He is listed as paid an annual salary of P16 million, and having made P41 million in 2021 all in all, as Duterte’s governor of the Central Bank, from where Junior has recycled him into finance. Now, it should not be hard to imagine what it’s worth to him to be so ready.
But why get distracted from the speechmaker himself by the mere sound of his speech – which is all sound as it is, anyway? He happens to be the son himself, not to mention namesake, too, of the dictator who terrorized us and plundered our country for 14 years. Don’t you think the experience should form the most relevant and instructive part of the context in which to take any utterance by Ferdinand Jr.?
But even supposedly hard-nosed analysts appear distracted. They would not be caught dead, it seems, being thought less than objective by casting doubt upon Junior’s word, and would rather tell his disbelievers to give him a chance. Forget objectivity; the virtue is expected of scientists. Analysts, however informed or knowledgeable, are still mere surmisers; they are expected to be only fair.
And to be fair, at the very least, is to take the people’s side, not Junior’s; it’s us the people who deserve the chance. Junior has had more, grotesquely more, criminally more, than the share of chances and fortunes he’s had. He grew up in wealth and power, both stolen, and, as a consequence of him and his family getting away with anything, acts with impunity.
So don’t tell us. Tell Junior. Ask him what he’s going to do to sort for us the mess we’re in, not what he will have done after he’s done with us – once done with us, his own father left tens of thousands of us orphaned by murder or damaged by torture and our country bankrupt, while he and his family escaped richer by $10 billion of our wealth. Ask Junior how he’ll get us out of the grave we now lie in buried beneath more than P12 trillion of national debt.
One simple litmus test: Ask Junior when he’ll pay the P203 billion he owes in taxes. – Rappler.com