21 March 2004

---Suddenly The Government is Santa Claus!

Oh, what a jolly time it is! Fifty (50) days before the elections and it's already Christmastime in March here in the Philippines. Politicians who used to ignore you are suddenly friendly and warm, shaking hands, hugging, and will almost do anything you ask them to do. They sing. They dance. They orate. They do all sorts of things just to please you.

Let me tell you some of the "gifts" they have given so far:

GIFT No. 1 - Deposed President Estrada was hastily granted a 36-hour pass to visit his mother at a hospital in San Juan where she has been confined for hypertension. Previously, it took a lot of red tape and pleading before he could be granted any pass. Now, it was as if the government had turned from a cold-hearted stone to jello. Many critics see this political accomodation as a ploy of the government to help accidental President Arroyo win possible support (and votes!) from Estrada sympathizers.

GIFT No. 2 - Weeks ago, the government or more specifically, President Arroyo started giving away free Philhealth medical insurance to 25 million indigents. What made the critics disapprove was the fact that the Philhealth cards given bore the image of the President carrying a child, which Arroyo oppositionists termed as prohibited election propaganda. Arroyo for her part, retorted that "the opposition is seeking all ways to impede health care, employment, and the delivery of clean water." Har! Har! Har! Who is she kidding??

GIFT No. 3 - The government takeover of Maynilad Water Services, a privatized water utility company owned the Lopez family. The deal, which critics of President Arroyo termed as "obscene" and "hasty," involves an agreement between the Department of Justice and the Lopez holding firm Benpres in which the latter would write off its holdings in Maynilad, its joint venture with France's Suez Group, and convert the 8 billion pesos of the utility firm's unpaid concession fees into equity.

Enrile, himself a sly businessman, and current senatorial candidate, remarked that the deal was clearly "unfavorable to the government." "My God, if Benpres is bankrupt, why should you buy into a bankrupt company," he said. Well Mr. Enrile, it should be clear to you by now that the erstwhile accidental president has to appease the Lopezes to get some media mileage in its owned TV networks: ABS-CBN channel2, Studio23, and cable TV's ANC.

GIFT No. 4 Yesterday, in her weekly radio program, accidental President Arroyo vowed a "corruption-free" Philippines in 2010 if given a full six-year term of office. Whoa! She said she would create an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), a commission similar to the one created bythe Hong Kong government to eliminate corruption in the former British colony. If she was so sincere about removing corruption, why only now? Why didn't she form that commission years back? And why does she have to look far to identify crooks? Why, she's sleeping with one!

- Everyday here in Manila, you see blue streetsweepers with PGMA emblazoned on their shirts.
- There is a sudden downpour of public works (street repairs, road asphalting, improvement of traffic lights, drainage improvement) being done on almost any major and minor street road---be it Manila, Makati, Quezon City, or any other obscure area in the metropolis. The already deplorable traffic just got worse! The roads looked like we have been recently bombed by stealth planes. What ever happened to the rule of banning any public work activity during election time?!?

Estrada photo courtesy of Philippine Daily Star
President Arroyo photo courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

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