Decency
FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - November 10, 2020 - 12:00am

When you win an election and people spontaneously dance in the streets to celebrate it, you must be on the right side of history.

Joe Biden built an unassailable lead in Pennsylvania last Saturday (early Sunday here) and was declared winner of the tightly fought presidential contest. Almost instantly people gathered in the streets in many American cities to share joy – and relief.

The dark, toxic days of the Donald Trump presidency were about to end. Those were exhausting days filled with hate mongering, lies and deception. Those were tedious days of appalling incompetence that allowed a pandemic to run uncontrolled, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. The prospect of those days finally ending was reason enough to celebrate.

The Trump years were a blight not only on American political history. They were a blight on all humanity. The world celebrated with those dancing in America’s streets.

Biden correctly framed this a contest over character. It was a contest between Trump’s constant chaos and his stability, Trump’s alternate universe and his steely realism. Science trumped idiocy, truth trumped fantasy, reasoned discourse over demagoguery.

The one who represented decency won the day. The one who represented the darkest impulses, the malignant moods of the unenlightened lost today.

There was more at stake in this battle that brought out nearly 150 million Americans to vote. This was a civilizational struggle between white supremacy and diversity, between oppression and equality – and indeed, between mature democratic discourse and befuddled conspiracy theories.

This is not just about Trump – although it does personify the malaise that afflicts American society. This is about a modern understanding of leadership and barbaric notions revolving around a personality cult.

Modernity won in this epic battle – although the win is a tenuous one. Analysts warn of the persistence of Trumpism even after Trump has left the political stage.

As this is written, Trump refuses to concede and irresponsibly paints the last democratic exercise as ridden with fraud without offering any evidence of that. The peaceful transfer of power is the sacred core of American democracy. Trump seems bent on making that improbable.

Over the past two centuries, every losing candidate graciously conceded defeat, congratulated the winner, offered cooperation and pledged nation above self. Trump is incapable of such graciousness, of such civility, of such sense of duty.

Because of that, a smooth transition becomes difficult and the darkest forces in society threaten to break out in mindless violence.

Future city

Early last year, BCDA chief Vince Dizon took us on a tour of the sports complex being rushed for the Southeast Asian Games. At that time, doubts were aired over the ability of the BCDA to complete the Olympics-grade facility in time.

The entire complex will be completed ahead of time, Vince assured us while we peered at the half-built athletes’ quarters. There was a large board that counted down the days to the end of August, the deadline for the construction work to be completed. The Games were scheduled for November.

True enough, the facility was completed ahead of schedule. Since then, Vince has been elevated to oversee all the major projects under the Build, Build, Build program.

The sports complex was funded by a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with oversight exercised by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC). This assured full compliance with the standards for transparency and accountability.

Transparency and accountability are important. The sports complex, after all, is merely a component of a larger project: the establishment of the country’s first high-tech city. The New Clark City is envisioned to be a smart, green and climate-resilient metropolis that will host the National Government Administrative Center alongside cutting-edge technology companies and agro-industrial facilities.

With the new terminal for the Clark international airport also due for completion soon, the new city will be the centerpiece of the ambitious infrastructure modernization program of the Duterte administration. In a few years, this will be a bustling hub for commerce in East Asia. The 9,450-hectare New Clark City will help decongest Metro Manila, beginning with the transfer of many government agencies. It has appropriately been billed as the city “where the future begins.”

Thirty years ago, while the future of the US bases in the country was being debated, I led a team of UP experts exploring alternative economic uses for the military facilities. While we did consider relocating national government to the vast expanse of Clark Air Base, what is now actually rising at New Clark City was beyond our wildest imaginings.

The Build, Build, Build program is a vital cog in the economic recovery strategy we are pursuing to pull our economy out of the pandemic-induced recession we are in right now. Many of the major projects have been funded and ready to run. Investments in infra have the greatest multiplier effects on the domestic economy. They will immediately create opportunities for employment and second-generation businesses.

Apart from the massive construction work now in progress at the New Clark City, a rapid rail transit is also being built to link Manila to the new metropolis. Expressways already connect the area to the rest of Luzon. A separate rail link between Clark and Subic is planned.

It is sad that political crabs seem to be at work to try and smear what has already been accomplished in New Clark City. Petty politicking will not deter the great effort of Vince Dizon and others working on this monumental undertaking.

JOE BIDEN
Philstar
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