FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2019 - 12:00am

Analysts forecast that the peso will be gradually depreciating toward P55: $1 by the end of this year. Instead, the peso has been appreciating toward P51: $1.

This does not mean the peso is inordinately strong. It is the dollar that has softened. Most other currencies have gained against the dollar.

Two distinct events frame the movement between the currencies.

The US Federal Reserve did not slash rates despite strong pressure from Donald Trump for them to do so. Trump has been improperly dictating on the Fed, undermining its institutional independence. He wants rates slashed to boost the stock market and create the semblance of a galloping economy in time for his reelection bid.

The US Fed was guaranteed institutional independence precisely to guard against moments like this one where short-term partisan interests interfere with monetary policy. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stood his ground and asserted his independence to the relief of everyone – except fanatical Trump partisans.

The second event is the decision of our Monetary Board to hold prevailing rates. The market was sort of expecting a second round of aggressive cuts in policy rates and bank reserve requirements. Our monetary authorities instead chose to put a premium on holding down the inflation rate. This is, after all, their principal mandate.

Trump, of course, is frustrated the Federal Reserve did not bend to his will. He had wanted to contrive a bullish stock market, with funds fleeing fixed income bonds for engorging equities, to produce a semblance of economic boom helpful to his reelection.

The net effect of the two policy decisions is the slight appreciation of the peso against the dollar. That will help cool our inflation rate and keep it within target range.

Our community of economists is famously expansionist. They would normally be predisposed toward a weaker peso as a means for modulating imports, boosting exports and generating domestic growth momentum.

Business decision-makers, on the other hand, prefer a more stable peso and a lower inflation rate. The Monetary Board’s decision to hold prevailing rates should please the business community. This should encourage more investment flows that will create jobs and further bring down the unemployment rate.

A weaker peso would have pleased our rather large OFW community. Their remittances would convert into more pesos for their dependents to spend. But the higher inflation rate that a weak peso will help stoke would cut into spending power anyway.

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno describes this conjuncture as a “Goldilocks moment” for the economy. It is a condition where growth is robust while the currency remains stable and inflation low.

It should be easy to agree with that assessment.

Me Too

The #Me Too movement blossomed after revelations about how movie mogul Harvey Weinstein used his power to sexually assault actresses. It has been become a general movement against sexual harassment everywhere as courageous women stepped out of the shadows to speak about their experiences.

In South Korea, a parallel movement emerged after revelations about women were routinely drugged and raped in high-end Gangnam nightclubs. One popular artist had to quit his showbiz career because of the scandal.

Here, the person who could galvanize a broad awareness campaign about sexual harassment in the workplace is probably TV journalist Gretchen Fullido.

Fullido courageously risked her career by speaking out against two powerful broadcast executives she claims tried to pressure her for sexual favors. She accused two ABS-CBN executives – Cheryl Favila and Maricar Asprec – of using their positions to make her yield to what she described as indecent proposals.

She first registered her complaint with her own media outfit. When an internal investigation cleared the two executives, Fullido went on the file a case in court. She would not accept this incident being swept under the rug.

RA 7877 (An Act Declaring Sexual Harassment Unlawful in the Employment, Education or Training Environment and for Other Purposes) states that sexual harassment is committed when the acts of a superior toward a subordinate result in “an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.” Fullido believes what happened to her in her place of work falls exactly into that definition.

The case is now in court and there is only so much we can say about its merits while it is pending.

What we may remark on is the apparent disinterest of the usual women’s rights advocates about this case. None of the usual noisemakers have been heard clanging bells and declaring this a landmark moment.

To be sure, the circumstances surrounding this case are a little different. This is not about a powerful male bully asserting his authority over a vulnerable woman. It is a case filed against two women using their authoritative positions to exact sexual favors from another woman.

Is it, therefore, a women’s issue? Of course it is. It is about gender and vulnerability. It is about authority and propriety. It is about maintaining dignity in high intensity work places.

Sexual harassment is not only about powerful men imposing themselves on powerless women. It may also be about powerful women imposing themselves on powerless women. 

Should career women enjoy less protection under the law if the source of harassment is another woman? For that matter, should men have less protection under the law if the boss is female? I should think not.

We do have a strong LGBTQ movement here. They, too, should be concerned about equal protection for all even if the accused does not fall within binary gender options.

In the US, actor Kevin Spacey is facing suit for groping another man.

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