COMMENT: Some Zany Sense. By Patricio P. Diaz

Off and on, we have been experiencing tension in our national life. Besides the capacity of the Filipinos to laugh, there are many whose zany sense jolts us from tense political, economic or social situations.

*Loss-loss Proposal*

The National Economic Development Authority revealed its plan to expand the Philippine economy so that there will be no need for Filipinos to work abroad *(, February 17).* Good plan but it is a loss-loss proposal.
First, the remittances of Filipino overseas workers to their families significantly account for the expansion of the economy of the country. Last year, these reached $14.4 billion – the amount sent through banks and other formal channels. Remittances through couriers and other informal channels
must also be in billions of dollars. Less remittances means less economic expansion.

Second, with the present high unemployment rate, jobs created by new investments may not be enough for the unemployed who cannot go abroad. Remittances of overseas workers form part of new investments. Less remittances means less investments, small they may be..

Third, to attract foreign investors, the government keeps the wage and salary scales low. Not all Filipinos working abroad were jobless before going overseas. A very good number of them left their low-paying jobs – teachers preferring to be domestic helpers; medical doctors switching to
nursing to migrate to the United States and Europe, and so on. Will they return to starve?

The idea that "while the Filipinos working abroad are credited for helping boost the economy, the government's long-term goal for the workers is for them to return home to help expand the expanding economy" sounds zany. It looks more of a hype to sustain the claim of President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo that the Philippine economy is booming.

We want our economy to boom. Who would not like to see it do? But to proclaim that the economy is booming while admitting that its benefits have not yet trickled down to the poor amuses rather than impresses – like an invitation to a feast on an empty table.

*Who's Talking?*

The Lozada exposé at the Senate hearing of the ZTE-NBN scandal has rekindled the cries for the search of truth to end corruption. Among the callers are the Catholic bishops — the most recent being Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. Amidst the calls, Malacañang is very uncomfortable.

Certainly, Malacañang cannot accept Lagdameo's statement that corruption had kept the country hostage to the "greed of power holders" and the irony of ousting President Estrada for massive corruption only to be replaced by a president – unmistakably referring to President Arroyo — "judged by surveys as the most corrupt president". *(, February 20)*

Beyond their incongruity, the responses sicken:

  –    Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita says, "They cannot lay claim [to
      having installed Arroyo to the presidency in] EDSA II" What does he mean?
      They have no right to criticize her, much less call for her resignation.
      *(, February 20)*

  –    At the weekly cabinet meeting, President Arroyo, to defend her
      anti-graft record, said that she had allocated P3 billion to fight
      corruption and her life-check program had removed a dozen of government
      officials from office. *(Philippine Star, February 20)* What a record,

–     House Speaker Prospero Nograles wants to study the possibility of
      revoking the tax privileges of religious institutions that engage in
      politics. The bishops, priests, religious Sisters and Brothers criticizing
      President Arroyo for corruption are engaging in politics.  *(, February 20)*

And the zaniest of all, Lorelei Fajardo, deputy presidential spokesperson, said (*, *February 20) that the search for truth must involve 'justice and fair play' and must not be based on gossip, lies, and innuendos'.* *Who can disagree?

But if in Senate investigations and in many criticisms justice and fair play may be marred and laced with gossips, lies and innuendos, Malacañang is primarily to be blamed for suppressing, keeping or muddling evidence and preventing executive officials on the know from testifying. Withholding
truth breeds gossips, lies and innuendos.


Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada turned over to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee an envelop containing P500,000 hush money from Malacañang. Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite admitted having given the money; Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Lozada's account about the money was "contrived" or scripted. *(, February20)*

Besides the P500,000 hush money, Lozada said he had been sent to Hongkong to evade the Senate subpoena to have him testify at the hearing. Gaite arranged his travel papers. It was made to appear that his travel was official including a conference in London.

Gaite (*Philippine Star, February 20*) said the decision to go on the foreign trip was Lozada's and it was Lozada who arranged his travel papers. So, Lozada's Hongkong trip to later attend a London conference was private, not official, business.

By Ermita's version, the government had nothing to do with Lozada's trip. "Think about this. He said he was in London, but he was actually in Hongkong. Did he really go to London? He did not even have a visa." Then why did Gaite "loan" him P500,000?

Of the P500,000 (**, *Philippine Star*, *February 20*), Gaite said that was a loan, properly receipted to Lozada's brother, as Lozada had appealed for help after exhausting his credit card. ** reported Gaite saying the money "came from his own pocket".

What a loan! The only loan paper is a receipt signed by Lozada's brother to whom the money was given. Obviously, there is no interest, no collateral. What's a P500,000 loan between friends?

Ermita corrected Gaite's story *(, February 20, saying: *"He produced the amount, but it does* *not necessarily mean that it came from his pocket*"* Subsequently, Gaite admitted the money came from a private donor *(, Philippine Star, February 22 ).* It's just an aid, no longer a loan.

Who is scripting what?

Ermita said Gaite will face the Senate if "he is called to the hearing". The Senate will call Gaite and has also dared the "private donor" to come to claim the money.

The mood in the Senate is: "Don't take us for fools!" *(Philippine Star, February 22)* Watch for zany spectacles to unveil the script.

*No One Else!*

Is National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales serious? His zany statement makes him look like a Shakespearean fool.

*Davao Today, *in its story datelined Tagum City, February 14, said, "National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales proposed two possible ways to defeat the Communist rebellion by 2010: first is to craft a really good local government counter-insurgency strategy, or [second] to extend the term
of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo."

Of the first, he confessed the Arroyo government had not done it in the last seven years. That tells a lot.

Of the second, he doubted if the government can defeat the Communist rebellion by June 30, 2010 – only two and a half years away. Humored by the military top command, only President Arroyo seems to ever believe the Communist rebellion could be wiped out under her reign?

Gonzales was speaking at an assembly of local peace executives in Tagum City. What he was telling them was that no one else except President Arroyo can defeat the Communist rebellion on one condition: Her term must be extended.

Did any peace executive believe? Arroyo has been perpetuating the Communist rebellion. The Communists will be too willing to return the favor by having her perpetuated as Philippine president. And in extending her term, let's all pray to God to extend Arroyo's life in perpetuity.

But behind the zany sense, beware of any plan to amend the Constitution to perpetuate Arroyo as head of state, not necessarily as president.

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace
Advocate." You can reach him at [email protected])