What will happen to the economy?
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2019 - 12:00am

You know that feeling when the anaesthesia wears off after a medical procedure? That stinging feeling when the pain starts to slowly creep back in? My grandfather used to buy me ice cream when I was a kid when I had a tooth pulled out by the dentist. It would numb the pain when the painkillers are gone, he always said.

It always worked, or at least I believed in its magic. Today, however, no amount of ice cream can numb this nagging ache. It hurts, bit by bit, a little heavy on the shoulders and some tightness in the heart. 

The morning after is always the hardest because that’s when you realize that everything’s changed.

It hits you like hell. Tuesday, May 14, the first day of the rest of our lives as Filipinos is one such morning. 

I am sad because Filipino voters chose only those who are popular and not those who can actually do more.

I am sad because our politicians took advantage once again of this ignorance..

I am sad because our helper’s list was filled with crooks, clowns, and cronies. She especially wanted to vote for the action star in FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano because she thinks the actor and the valiant Romulo Dumaguit are one and the same.

I am sad because an accused plunderer is back in the Senate as if nothing happened; and the daughter of the late dictator has become as senator. 

I am sad because the man who executed the brutal drug war ran and won, never mind that in his own admission, he has no idea what a senator’s job is.

 I am sad because the Philippines needs a credible opposition to keep any sitting administration in check. 

What to do then?

There are lessons to be learned from this year’s midterm elections. We need to do more to educate the voters. 

Each and everyone of us should take on that responsibility — businessmen, journalists, the church and the Left.

Businessmen should especially play a bigger role. It is not enough that the poll results in the posh villages you live in reflect decisions of educated voters. 

You should do more to elevate the awareness and sensibilities of the rest of the Filipino voters.

Those who own educational institutions can especially have that power. Make sure that your schools teach students to be more discerning citizens and that history is taught without fear or revisions.

Make sure that the schools you own teach about the political process, political dynasties, the statesmen of the past who made Congress respectable, and the many issues in society.

Outside your educational institutions, businessmen can also support organizations that seek to educate voters.

The National Movement for Free Elections and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting are some examples, but they get by with little funding. These groups can use more funding support. 

More importantly, businessmen should not be afraid to support opposition candidates. 

They should not be constrained by their business interests because in the end only a successful and genuine democracy can provide an enabling environment for businesses to flourish. 

The business community must really do more to help in whatever they can in educating voters. They are, after all, the government’s milking cow when it comes to taxes and campaign funds.

In the US, billionaires including Michael Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos have bravely donated and campaigned for candidates they believe would provide enough check and balance to their nation. 

As for the rest of us, we should all stop glorifying clowns and their mundane antics. Should we really bother to report on whether or not candidates arrive in motorcycles or how charming or silly they look when they dance on the campaign stage? 

Do we really want a Congress with crooks, clowns and cronies?

What will happen to the economy?

The good news is that the economy will be fine, at least for now.

The bad news is that the danger isn’t too far ahead. If President Duterte succeeds in pushing his plan to amend the Constitution and to have a federal form of government, this would have severe repercussions on the economy. 

Government estimates have put the cost of the shift to federalism at P253.5 billion and this will be on top of the current cost of running the government. 

There are also plans to overhaul the corporate income tax and incentive laws and to lift foreign ownership restrictions. 

Another danger is when the administration pushes for more populist measures which can really put pressure on our finances. The President has already done this with free tuition and higher salaries for the police and the military.

A rubber stamp Senate will just say yes and in the wink of an eye, we would end up buried in debt. 

We can only hope it doesn’t happen and that one day, things will be better. But we should all do more to see a better Philippines.

Sure, let’s grieve about our reality today or how silly Game of Thrones has become. Weep if we must, but let’s get up, fight again for a better tomorrow, and celebrate the fact that at least Freddie Aguilar did not make it to the Senate.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on witter @eyesgonzales

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