The Reason Why?
February 5, 1972–A PUPIL once asked Confucius: “If the Prince of Mei appointed you head of the government, to what would you first set you mind?”
Confucius replied: “To call people and things by their names, that is by their correct denomination, to see that the terminology was exact.”
The pupil could not believe his own ears. His master’s reply seemed beside the point.
Noting his incredulity, the master said: “You are a blank. An intelligent man hesitates to talk of what he doesn’t understand, he feels embarrassment.
“If the terminology be not exact, if it fit not the thing, the governmental instructions will not explicit, if the instructions aren’t clear and the names don’t fit, you cannot conduct business properly.
“If business is not properly run, the rites and music will not be honoured, if the rites and music be not honoured, penalties and punishments will not achieve their intended effects, if penalties and punishments do not produce equity and justice, the people won’t know where to put their feet or what to lay hold of or to whom they should stretch out their hands.
“That is why an intelligent man cares for his terminology and gives instructions that fit. When his orders are clear and explicit they can be put into effect.”
The gist of what the philosopher said is that good government is founded on respect for the truth.
Every new year the President of the Republic addresses Congress and the people with what is known as his State-of-the-Nation message. An envisioned by the legislators who thought of this rite, the President is expected to give an accurate description of the situation in his country during the preceding year and his suggestions to improve that situation in the coming year. Congress is expected to learn from the contents of his message and frame laws that are relevant to the conditions he has described. That, at any rate, is how it should go in a responsible democracy.
If the President’s message does not reflect reality, especially if this is done purposely then the whole purpose of the rite is frustrated. The President is supposed to describe accurately the state of the nation, speaking plainly and holding nothing back that could contribute to his auditors’ understanding of the matters he had discussed. Congress, then, takes it up from there. That is the general idea of this rite where the President delivers a message before both Houses of Congress, addressed to the nation. The reality is something else.
Our Presidents, on these occasions, have inflated their achievements—or claimed imaginary ones—and glossed over their mistakes. They paint a bright picture of the previous year and a still brighter one of the coming one. How they have the cheek to do this before the people who have suffered so much from their mistakes is one of the intriguing mysteries of politics.
LAST week, President Marcos delivered his seventh State-of-the-Nation message at the opening of Congress. The day before, his arch-foe, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., issued a statement to the press which began by asking whether this year, 1972, President Marcos would again exasperate the people with his usual empty rhetoric or would he, for once, do as he has never done on this solemn occasion for the past seven years of the Administration, that is, speak the truth plainly and give the people a true description of the sorry state of the nation?
In 1966, said Senator Aquino, Marcos described the nation as “in crisis and tragedy” and swore to “Make This Nation Great Again.” The people believed him and pinned their hopes on his promise.
In 1967, he rallied the people around his standard for “The Epic of Nation Building.” The people renewed their faith in him.
In 1968, he announced that he would forge the people into “A Nation of Achievers.” He would, of course, be the No. 1 Achiever. By this time the people began to suspect to be the No. 1 Deceiver.
In 1969, his catchphrase was “The New Filipinism: The Turning Point.” A turning point it was all right for “the new Filipinos”—Marcos cronies who became millionaires overnight.
In 1970, he offered “a new heart, a new spirit” and promised to “raise the nation to a bold, new future.” But the nation had had its fill of his promises and vomited out its surfeit of frustration and anger in a student revolt. That was the response to his call for unity. His own troops acted brutally. The only feelings he generated were mounting hatred for him and grief for those who fell in the riots that followed far into the summer of that year.
In 1971, he went on to proclaim, apparently, oblivious of the “credibility gap” that yawned at his feet, “A Democratic Revolution.”
(This led Senator Aquino, among other concerned citizens, to suspect that something “tragic” had happened within the President’s person, probably as a result of his overlong sojourn in the Palace. There were times when one felt it was more charitable to commiserate with the President on his condition than to attack him for his mistakes.)
When the President offered to lead the nation, no one followed, said the senator, except his tuta, who were rejected by the electorate with a sweeping gesture of contempt on November 8, 1971.
The people gave him a taste of a genuine if non-violent revolution.
When the President delivers his State-of-the-Nation message, said the senator, we shall be able to measure his candor by noting how closely his message sticks to the following facts about the Philippine situation:
The President is a man much hated and not in the least respected or loved by his people.
The people: 5% privileged; 95% ill-clad, ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-placed.
The economy: in chaos, and the peso, not floating but steadily sinking.
The officialdom: thoroughly corrupt and brazen in its depredations on the public treasury.
The Republic: its international image the worst ever and its government ostracized by its neighbors. For all his charm, the foreign secretary has not succeeded in getting them to come to an Asian summit conference Mr. Marcos desperately want to host.
The public mood: angry, bitter, vituperative, desperate, because the people have realized that they have reached the end of their tether, they have lost all faith; the President and the country seem beyond redemption.
“In a word, the state of the Filipino nation in 1972 is dismaying.”
So went Senator Aquino’s own report on the state of the nation.
The President complaints of an undeserved “credibility gap” between him and his people. If he would only look at the difference between what he promised the people and what they have been getting in the past seven years of his Administration, the existence of the “gap” would not baffle him so much.
Here in the words of Senator Aquino, are what the President promised the people and what the people got:
“Promise No. 1: To bring down high prices and raise incomes.
“What there is: The consumer price index (1955:100) has risen to 235.5, against 149.1 when he assumed office; a full 21% increase in one year. This is way above the 10% critical inflation limit set by the Central Bank charter, while the peso’s purchasing power has constricted to a bare 42 centavos of what is bought in 1955.
“In June 1970, the Minimum Wage Law increased the base rates for non-agricultural workers from P6.00 to P8.00 and the agricultural workers’ from P3.50 to P4.75. But he devalued the peso, de facto, and the workers are worse off than where they were.
“Promise No. 2: To stop the shortage of rice.
“What there is: We imported 460,000 metric tons in 1971, we are importing ‘a minimum of 350,000 metric tons’ this year (Mr. Marcos’s original bid: 837,000 metric tons) and, likely, will be asked to import again in 1973, the result of willful diffusing of the rice self-sufficiency program to take on the First Lady’s image-building vegetable gardening project, crafted for propaganda purposes as ‘The Green Revolution.’
“Promise No. 3: To reduce graft and corruption to a minimum.
“What there is: An Administration swathed in scandalous multimillion-peso and multimillion-dollar deals. Well-etched in the public’s mind are, as Speaker Villareal once listed, the P60 million Namarco-Aguilar, $34 million public works equipment, P80 million Aidsisa-PNB, Nawasa pipes, ACA fertilizer, Lepanto shares, Benguet-Bahamas deals. Involved: the Marcos cronies.
“Graft, corruption and evildoing rather than being curbed, have essayed into new fields, with the protection racket among the latest. The gambling casinos on Roxas Boulevard enjoy powerful protection and, reports have it, yield P1 million monthly to people high in the government. Vice-President Fernando Lopez, a leading Nacionalista, recently gave the dimension: ‘tong’ in government loans, he said, is ‘anything from 20 to 30 per cent.’
“I estimate graft and corruption in the ruling circles today come up to a minimum 3% of GNP. That’s about P1 billion per annum!
“Promise No. 4: To punish those who have enriched themselves in office.
“What there is: Tuta who have built fortunes on the peso devaluation, the money markets, the oil speculations.
“Promise No. 5: To stop smuggling.
“What there is: The Walton Report is revealing. Corruption exists, it says, in an ‘all-encompassing and all-embracing manner in all of the country’s 22 ports, and losses on technical smuggling alone amounted to a conservative P1.5 billion annually.’
“Only a few days ago, Mr. Marcos reshuffled key men of integrity out of their posts—like Collector Salvador Mascardo from the M.I.A., where he had been doing a back-breaking job for over 10 years—and put his own men in. The Supreme Court has just put Mr. Marcos’s replacement for Collector Mascardo in M.I.A.—Mr. Artemio Agoncillo—on the block for unexplained wealth!
“Promise No. 6: To speed up land reform.
“What there is: In 1969, Sen. Juan R. Liwag complained that despite the fact more than P250 million had been spent, only 5% of the objectives of land reform had been realized. The situation is no better today.
“Promise No. 7: To create more jobs.
“What there is: Our unemployed number about one million, 8.5% of our total labor force of 13.2 million, while another five million are underemployed. You have here a staggering index of the poverty level of Filipino society, 1972.
“Promise No. 8: To restore peace and order.
“What there is: These nagging questions: Who bombed Plaza Miranda? Where are they? How did it happen in the first place?
“These questions, too: Where are the murderers of Congressman Floro Crisologo? Of Mayor James Gordon? Of Vice-Governor Nicolas Feliciano? Of Governor Juan Alberto?
What about the Lapiang Malaya, Jabidah, Tarlac, Cotabato and Lanao massacres?
“These all happened since 1969, when Mr. Marcos came to office. What there is, in truth, is: crime and criminality on the gallop!
“A PC situationer—given the House of Representatives Committee on Public Order and Security—shows it:
“1. Criminal cases solved dropped from 85% in 1969 to 56% in 1971.
“2. Reported killings totalled 10,945 in 1969-71.
“3. Common crimes—thefts and robberies—shot up from 19,086 in 1969 to 22,360 in 1971.
“4. There is an increase in the number of politically motivated crimes.
“Mr. Marcos has spawned an Age of Violence in our country!
“Promise No. 9: To pursue honest tax collection.
“What there is: The Bureau of Internal Revenue is able to collect only 45% of all taxes due the government. It can do a better job, I hold, if Mr. Marcos runs after his tax-evading cronies.
“Promise No. 10: To reduce the national budget to spending for essential services.
“What there is: Government overspending is a Marcos hallmark. And this has been dictated more by political rather than economic considerations.
“When the Marcos machinery recklessly spent P900 million in the 1969 elections, the money supply went up by 19.4%. We are now suffering from this fiscal irresponsibility.
“The budgetary deficit incurred in the six years of Mr. Marcos has reached a staggering total of close to P3 billion. This is three times-plus the total accumulated deficits suffered in the nine years of the Garcia and Macapagal presidencies. This is more than double the accumulated government deficits since our independence in 1946.
“Today, the public debt is almost P12 billion. In simplistic terms, this means: the debt of every Filipino man, woman and child is about P317 per head. This is almost half the annual per capita income of the Filipino.
“President Marcos sends to Congress so many requests for projects that he knows fully well cannot be programmed for lack of funds. Now, the department of national defense wants about P1.2 billion. This means the armed forces under President Marcos will get 25% of the budget.
“And what do we give the Department of Labor? We give labor: 0.4%.
“What do we give our state universities and colleges? We give them 1%.
“What do we give social welfare? We give this: 0.4%.
“What do we give agriculture and natural resources? We allocate: 4.4%.
“The national defense budget—since Mr. Marcos—has gone up by 51 per cent. And what about all those intelligence and other funds of Mr. Marcos? Is that essential services-oriented budgeting?
“Promise No. 11: No nepotism.
“What there is: An uncle of Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos, Eduardo Romualdez, is ambassador to the United States. Kokoy Romualdez, Imelda’s brother, is governor of Leyte and special presidential ambassador. Dr. Pacifico Marcos, the President’s brother, is chairman of the Medicare Commission. His uncle, Juan Manuel, is secretary of foreign affairs. And a cousin is the new PC chief.
“Add to these: a sister of the President is governor of Ilocos Norte, a Romualdez nephew is commercial attaché in Vancouver, Canada, a presidential sister-in-law is employed in the Central Bank. There are many, many more.
“Promise No. 12: No new taxes.
“What there is: Mr. Marcos wants to impose the most massive array of taxes in postwar history, As of November 1971, 49 tax bills had been reported out by the House of Representatives Way and Means Committee. I understand there are 78 more tax bills pending in the House.
“Promise No. 13: Rule of law.
“What there is: Dozens of university professors, students and mass media people clamped in jail after Mr. Marcos suspended the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus—only to have them released much later.
“He played with the law freely!
“Promise No. 14: No persecution of political enemies.
“What there is: Ask Vice-President Lopez, his so-called oligarchic enemy. Ask the businessmen who did not support him. Ask my fellow Liberals. Ask the Nacionalistas who did not deliver the votes in the last election.
“My brother-in-law, Antolin Oreta, was deprived of his liberty for 24 days—only to be released after the elections with a simple ‘I’m sorry.’
“Promise No. 15: No troops to Vietnam.
“What there is: History is our witness!
“Promise No. 16: To adopt a nationalistic policy.
“What there is: The Japanese, Americans and Chinese must be smiling at this. For they, like our students, know better! And, invariably, the standouts are Marcos’s friends.
“In 1969, a fake NEC resolution—No. 23-36—was secretly approved. We suffer the impact of this today: Japanese products in every line of consumer and capital items. Curiously, when Immigration Commissioner Edmundo Reyes wanted the Japanese liaison officer deported, Mr. Marcos stepped in and stopped him. Why?
“Promise No. 17: To provide heroic leadership.
“What there is: Mr. Marcos no longer dares walk our streets!
“Given all this, it is time that we face up to our realities, not allow Mr. Marcos to foster his myths.
“The need is for the leadership to make bare our reality, no matter how harsh, and, hopefully, get our people to join in the communal sacrifice demanded by our unhappy situation.”