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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Hush and Thunderclap

Numbers don't lie. When six out of ten Filipinos say the best scenario for our country is for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign, the numbers don't lie. The numbers also don't lie when 59% of Filipinos who opt for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's resignation don't know how to choose her successor. Neither do the numbers lie when they say that there is no consensus as who is the best to lead this country and if Pulse Asia's Numbers don't lie, "when the people are asked to name the one who is most unacceptable to lead the country at present: about a third of Filipinos (32%) cite the name of President Arroyo --- with 37% to 39% of those in Metro Manila, in Mindanao, and in Class E expressing this sentiment".

When asked, a majority of Filipinos support protest action if cheating is proven (58%). The minority when asked why they were not willing responded "they have other more pressing concerns (48%), specifically the need to earn for their daily expenses (25%). About one in four (24%) does not think any real change in government will be effected by a mere change of leadership. Meanwhile, about 18% cite reasons that have to do with lack of good or credible alternative leaders. Eight percent (8%) cite People Power fatigue".

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in a
speech at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Council of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines: "the recent attempts of political instability has been discounted--- our market is up, stock market, bond market, peso--- but woe to the backward-looking political opportunits who stoop to unholy alliances with the apostles of an ideology already discredited by the world". In other words, she chooses to acknowledge that the economy is doing better and that her actions, accepted by business.

What do these things mean for us? A strong stock market means, more portfolio investors are bringing in money. They just buy and dump stock. Mostly finance people make money out of it. Similarly, a strong peso also means lower buying power for OFWs. It also means more difficult times for exporters. It means, imports are cheap--- oil, raw materials, fertilizers, as do goods like consumer electronics, clothes, vehicles etc. If our local industries can take advantage of that, so much the better but with a consumer driven economy, that is hoping too much.

When asked, seven out of ten Filipinos say their personal circumstance worstened, the numbers, they don't lie. And NEDA's numbers also don't lie when the Stock Market is up, the Peso is strong against the Dollar (at least stronger than in the past few months), GDP is 5.1%, and you have double digit unemployment rate (10.7%, new definition: 8.1%), double digit underemployment rate 21.3%, basic pay per day is approx. US$6, and headline inflation of 7.6%.

Again, a strong stock market means, more portfolio investors are bringing in money. These just buy and dump stock. Mostly finance people make money out of it and big business needing capital to finance their enterprises. Similarly, a strong peso also means lower buying power for OFWs. It also means more difficult times for exporters. It means, imports are cheap--- oil, raw materials, fertilizers, as do goods like consumer electronics, clothes, vehicles etc. Hence, 5.1% modest growth is not enough! Hence the unemployment and underemployment rate is unacceptable and neither does it help a Filipino earning US$6 a day with headline inflation of 7.6%!

Pulse Asia had this to say as well: "Majority of Filipinos (58%) say they will support protest actions asking for a president’s resignation or ouster should it be proven that s/he cheated in the elections. Twenty-two percent (22%) of Filipinos will even join such protest actions. However, 41% are unwilling to support or join such protests " and of the 41% who are not willing to join they cite the following reasons: "As regards the reason for their unwillingness to actively participate in protest actions, nearly half of the respondents say they have other more pressing concerns (48%), specifically the need to earn for their daily expenses (25%). About one in four (24%) does not think any real change in government will be effected by a mere change of leadership. Meanwhile, about 18% cite reasons that have to do with lack of good or credible alternative leaders. Eight percent (8%) cite People Power fatigue."

What do these numbers mean?

The president obviously by going into the recourse that she is doing this for the economy that her stand is economic security must deliver. Hence, failure to deliver on her economic promise will be political suicide. The Opposition on the other hand may also capitalize on this with equal risk as the President's. They too must deliver the goods, they too must offer an alternative to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because as the data above reveals, the people have not made up their mind on who to give the keys to the palace to. A number of interesting personalities are up: de Castro, Estrada, Ramos and Lacson are acceptable choices according to the survey but certainly, anyone who can offer the answer, will win.

The president says good rhetroic, she said "
I am committed to micro-finance, and the power of entrepreneurs, not to micromanagement and state-run enterprises. I want to create engineers, not sloganeers; I want to create good jobs, not mindless mobs." Beautiful isn't it? Things we all want to hear! When it is very difficult to borrow money from the bank, does it not limit the choices of entrepreneurs? When people fly to foreign lands to seek their fortune, does it not bode ill to entrepreneur empowerment? When the threat of government acquisition of media and utilities is very loud and clear, and a proposed constitution that does not empower Local Government to take their own destiny rather, consolidate power in Parlieament like fiefs of old, does it not go against her words that she is not for "micromanagement and state-run enterprises"? When she said she is for making more engineers and not sloganeers, was she talking about engineering rhetroic? When she speaks of the threat of communism, and lock away people we all would like locked away but without the benefit of evidence, of trial and likewise when kids are locked up in jail and abused for lack of justice, does this not make us mindless mobs following her rhetoric? It is very hard to follow her rhetroic.

I guess it does not come as a surprise when Pulse Asia says : "President Arroyo is most distrusted by Filipinos (50%), followed by former President Ramos (38%), and former President Estrada (25%). While the distrust ratings of former Presidents Ramos and Estrada decline by 11 and 9 percentage points, respectively, between October 2005 and March 2006, that of President Arroyo remains statistically the same (55% versus 50%)." It is truly hard to believe her.

Though if we accept for the sake of argument that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's fears about the Communists are out to get our democracy, is it the fault of Democracy when we fail to deliver the people's needs or the Communists for seducing people that their way is correct? Is it not the essence of our democracy we respect everyone's views, most especially those different from ours? MLQ3 more eloquently put it: "We can always agree to disagree on politics, on ideology, on dogma. But we should never disagree on according one another the right to think what we think, write what we want to write, express what we want to express, and most of all, engage each other in debate. The one who pulls out a gun or a truncheon to settle a discussion loses that discussion: because then, the only debate left is to what extent one will cooporate with one's jailer. It's not much of a debate--- or a life one should wish on antyone. Particularly in a society that has jails filled with people denied justice."

I was reading my copy of V for Vendetta graphic novel that I recently got from Druid's Keep in Makati and it is an amazing piece of work that tells the story of post-war Britain taken over by fascism. It captures the police state rule to perfection but more importantly, the redemptive power of the human spirit. Though we are not at war, reading it showed some striking similarities to our present circumstance. I wish our leaders and our people could get a chance to read it and appreciate what needs to be done.

Obviously, (1) we are faced with an unpopular president that people could not find a replacement for, (2) if the president chooses to take credit for "how well the economy is doing", she is doing a poor job for one simple reason: the economy is not recovering fast enough hence, most Filipinos can't feel their personal circumstance improve. (3) Filipinos are not yet convinced that it has been proven that s/he cheated in the election and his unwillingness to join such protest is because the Filipino puts a huge value on their personal and economic concerns. Hence the inaction. What does V do in the graphic novel? V unshakles the people, removes their blinders as much as he liberates Evey.

When applied to our circumstance, I find this quote from the graphic novel very apt for Filipinos. V said, "It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities... for silence is a fragile thing... one loud noise and it's gone. But the people are so cowed and disorganized a few might take the opportunity to protest, but it'll just be a voice crying in the wilderness. Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap. Our masters have not heard the people's voice for generations... And it is much, much louder than they care to remember."

1 comments:

domingo said...

GMA was "proclaimed elected" after canvassing by Congress with a vote of roughly 39% of total votes cast, which means that about 61% (100% minus 39%) of the electorate during the 2004 elections did not vote for GMA.

Since surveys of just a 1,200 universe cannot compare with the exactness of election results (fraud or cheating has to be proven yet), such results ought to be the starting percentage basis to compare with preferences to be taken in surveys later.

A reminder: The Philippines claims to be a democratic and republican state, but the Constitution allows the executive to be chosen by less that 50% plus 1 or by a mere plurality (not the majority) as in Gloria's case of just 39%.

Certainly, the 61% who opted to vote for the other candidates in 2004 would not mind if GMA quits now--or preferably drops dead.

The 65% who now wants her to quit in 2006 is only about 4% over the 61% in 2004 (65% minus 61%) who never wanted her to be President in the first place.

Is a difference of just 4%--at 3% margin of error and 95% confidence level at that--significant?

Does Pulse Asia really think it is? Or do they think all Filipinos are that dumb--do not know how to add, do not know how to subtract.

Surveys are interesting only if they show significant shifts in comparative preferences within a timeline that is relevant (data from election results, for instance), not to mention "intensity of preferences" for or against, if properly assigned the right question to answer.

But they are boring if the survey-takers think that all Filipinos can easily be fooled, or propagandized into believing, that their so-called analysis of the results of a survey these spin-weavers spun--which no doubt is altogether insignificant--is proclaimed to be significant

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