Poe’s economic advisers bared

- Paolo Romero () - February 18, 2004 - 12:00am
To quell criticism of his lack of expertise in economic and social issues, actor and opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. revealed yesterday his team of policy and economic advisers, saying the team "boasts of intelligence, experience, pragmatism and patriotism."

Poe’s spokesman, Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, said many of those in the 19-member "A-team," which includes known economist Bernardo Villegas, were handpicked by the actor himself while the others volunteered their services to the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP).

"These distinguished personalities, coming from academe, the business community, the labor sector and NGOs (non-government organizations), all share a common vision – that of a better Philippines, a vision that guides the campaign of Mr. Poe," Escudero said.

"We have what we believe is the most potent of economists and planners that can be formed," he said.

Escudero said the team will draft Poe’s economic blueprint for the country in line with his commitment to alleviate poverty, provide basic services and generate jobs.

In the economic team is Dr. Raul Fabella, dean of the University of the Philippines School of Economics and a doctorate degree holder from Yale University in the US.

Others include Dr. Ponciano Intal Jr. from the Angelo King Institute for Economics and Business Studies; noted economist Calixto Chikiamco, Dr. Epictetus Patalinhug of the UP School of Business Administration, and Romy Bernardo, former finance undersecretary and former director of the Asian Development Bank.

Dr. Ben Marcelino of San Beda College, Dr. Manny Dannug, dean of the College of Economics, Finance and Political Science of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines; Dr. Leo Gonzales, agriculture economics professor from UP Los Baños and Villegas, professor of economics from the University of Asia and the Pacific, are also on the team.

Poe’s policies on governance will be drafted by a team composed of Dr. Francisco Magno and Dr. Julio Teehankee, both professors on political science from De La Salle University (DLSU).

Other members of the team include Dr. Joel Mangahas and Dr. Danny Reyes, who are both professors on governance from the US National College of Public Administration, and Dr. Allen Surla, a professor on urban planning at the DLSU.

Poe’s adviser on social justice and law will be Dr. Raul Pangalangan, dean of the UP College of Law and a doctor of laws from Harvard University.

Dr. Renato de Castro, a professor from DLSU, will be advising Poe on international relations and security while former education undersecretary and DLSU political science professor Victor Manhit will head the education advisory team.

Escudero said there was also a possibility that some of them may be given Cabinet positions, but he stressed Poe was also open to "reaching out" to anyone who has a "genuine intention to promote the interest of the country."

"They are continually in dialogue and consultations with Mr. Poe to discuss certain matters or certain issues," Escudero said.

The Sorsogon lawmaker said the 19 advisers were the ones Poe consulted before he announced his candidacy and were key figures in helping the actor come up with the platform he presented last week.

The platform, which Poe called a "social covenant," only gave vague clues on how the high-school dropout would address economic issues.

To remedy the country’s chronic budget deficit, for example, Poe proposed that government carry out "drastic cost cutting measures on non-essential expenditures" and "institute bold tax reforms to improve revenue collection."

Poe said the government must "explore the possibility of a balanced budget," but did not give details.

He also said government must ensure "food security" by increasing funds for rural infrastructure and use foreign aid to finance low interest credit windows for farmers and fishermen, among others.

In his proclamation rally last week, Poe distilled the main problems of the country into three words: "Breakfast, lunch, dinner."
Businessmen and analysts have cringed at the prospect of the country again being ruled by a movie star.

Many businessmen have expressed apprehensions on the possibility that highly popular Poe could win in the May 10 elections despite his lack of political and economic experience.

They also question how a movie actor and high school dropout could inspire an economy hobbled by a massive budget deficit and a battered currency.

The peso has fallen to an all-time low, government debt has suffered a rating downgrade and the stock market has become volatile amid political uncertainty in the lead-up to the May 10 vote.

Investors also expressed concern over Poe’s close ties to former President Joseph Estrada, another movie actor whose presidency collapsed under the weight of corruption allegations in January 2001.

But Poe’s allies in the KNP downplayed speculations that Poe may end up as a puppet president.

They said the administration is orchestrating an attack to discredit Poe and initiating moves to disqualify him in the May presidential elections.

The 64-year old movie star has been dogged by allegations that he fathered children through extra-marital affairs, as well as a Supreme Court suit seeking to have him disqualified on claims he is the illegitimate son of an American woman.

Several petitions have been filed urging the high tribunal to disqualify Poe from running for president on questions over his citizenship.

As this developed, opposition Sen. Vicente Sotto III urged the Supreme Court yesterday to lift the media ban and allow the live television coverage of the oral arguments today stemming from the disqualification petitions against Poe.

Sotto pointed out the people have the right to be informed of the developments on the case.

"The people have the right to be informed on this monumental event. The case and the issues involved are of prime national interest and may result in the diminution of the choices of the sovereign people in the forthcoming elections," he said.

Sotto stressed millions of people are interested to watch the developments in the Supreme Court and said a tri-media coverage is necessary.

He even cited a constitutional provision that the people have the right to information on matters of public concern.

Poe’s lawyers submitted a 127-page comment in reply to petitions, arguing that the actor-turned-politician was a natural-born Filipino because he assumed the citizenship of his father.

They based their argument on a provision in the 1935 Constitution.

The Supreme Court is to hear tomorrow two petitions seeking to disqualify Poe on the grounds that he is an American and not a natural-born Filipino citizen.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already thrown out Fornier’s petition to have Poe barred from running on citizenship grounds but he appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The poll body earlier ruled that Poe’s father was a Filipino citizen despite his Spanish heritage and this made Poe a natural-born citizen. — With Jose Rodel Clapano, AFP

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