[OPINION] New elections, new lows? Say no


This is a #PHVote newsletter sent to subscribers on May 11, 2019.

I’m Acor Arceo, one of Rappler’s Central Desk editors. I handle stories mostly about politics, business, and disasters (with the first two topics sometimes qualifying as disastrous as well).

When I go to my polling precinct on Monday, May 13, I’ll be thinking about a street vendor who tapped on my car window at an intersection in Pasig City a couple of days ago. It was lunchtime and scorching hot, and the weariness was evident on his face.

“Bili na po kayo. Gutom na gutom na ako (Please buy from me. I’m really hungry),” he said, as he clutched the washcloths he was selling. “O baka may barya po kayo? Kahit piso lang po, sige na (Or maybe you have coins? Even just one peso, please).”

A peso. Let that sink in.

I was still struck by the distress in that man’s voice until the next day, when it was announced that the Philippines’ economic growth had plunged to 5.6% in the first quarter of 2019. That’s a 4-year low, blamed on the stalled 2019 national budget. If the budget had been passed on time, growth probably would’ve reached 6.6% to 7.2%, economic managers estimated. Too late.

We’ve also barely recovered from 2018’s surge in prices. The government now boasts that inflation is easing, claiming that we should thank President Rodrigo Duterte. What some (many?) don’t seem to understand is that the already elevated prices are still going up, only at a slower pace than in 2018, when inflation had jumped to a 9-year high. For the poorest of the poor, like that street vendor, nothing has truly changed.

Plus, as economist and Rappler columnist JC Punongbayan pointed out, “Duterte is no economic manager.”

The government used to trumpet the TRAIN law, too, until this measure fast became a train wreck. Of the 7 reelectionist senators, 6 backed TRAIN, and the fact that they don’t seem to be proud of it now speaks volumes.

Remember, most of the reelectionists – and many other candidates allied with Duterte – steered clear of live debates the past months. It’s certainly much easier to stay silent or downplay the suffering of millions of Filipinos when you can afford to mount an expensive campaign. As our reporter Ralf Rivas found, a candidate needs at least P107 million to become senator.

On the subject of funds, too, experts have made it clear that the loans we’ve entered into with China need scrutiny. We may build, build, build until kingdom come, but at what cost?

Actually, it seems to be more of destroying rather than building now, midway into the Duterte presidency. In the past few days alone, Malacañang released ridiculous “ouster plot” diagrams and the President again displayed his lewdness by talking about a female mayor’s underwear. Destruction of brain cells for the first, destruction of values for the second. Put these side by side with the concerns of Filipinos like the street vendor who literally have nothing to eat, and all the more that they become atrocious.

We’ve sunk so low, Philippines, but the worst part is we haven’t even reached rock-bottom. Do we want to go there? – Rappler.com 

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