Incredibly, as though we have not learned or suffered enough from our recent history, we once again find ourselves in the howling midst of a political tempest. The precipitating factors: allegedly wiretapped phone conversations of Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, some of them apparently with the President, that indicate systematic rigging of the 2004 elections, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s apology for a lapse in judgment in calling an unnamed COMELEC official during the election period. The consequences have been that the President has tarnished her trustworthiness and credibility, and compromised her moral authority to govern.
Particularly because of the circumstances that led to her assumption into office in 2001, the President should have realized that she was expected to hearken to a higher standard of governance. That she did not, by her own admission, has irretrievably damaged her presidency. Now, her continuing to stay in office will only drag down the nation into an economic quagmire of fiscal insolvency, poor consumer and investor confidence, accelerating inflation, and high unemployment and poverty.
The recent Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court on the implementation of the expanded value-added tax has shown that unconvinced stakeholders can easily thwart economic measures, especially in the context of an administration whose credibility and legitimacy are severely questioned.
The resignation of key economic managers, namely Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin, Trade and Industry Secretary Juan Santos, and Bureau of Internal Revenue head Guillermo Parayno, deals a serious blow to the Arroyo administration’s capacity to preside over the resolution of the fiscal crisis.
We need a strong and credible leader who will be able to unify our fragmented country, institute fundamental reforms in our institutions, inspire our workers and professionals to stay and be productive and more importantly, create a sense of stability anchored on a broad base of support from the citizenry. Only a leader occupying the moral high ground can convince the citizens to accept hard, painful economic reforms to arrest the fiscal crisis. It will be ironic and sad for the President, a full fledged economist to fail to realize this. The status quo will prolong the uncertainty and instability we are experiencing today.
For the sake of the nation and the greater good, we therefore implore President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to render the ultimate sacrifice and tender her voluntary resignation, so that a period of healing and renewal can begin. Let it be your legacy, Madam President, that in the end you chose to save the nation rather than your presidency.
We uphold the Constitution, which designates the Vice-President as the successor, in the event that GMA relinquishes power.
Moreover, we emphasize that a change of leadership must go hand in hand with a thorough, deep restructuring and reform of institutions.
The EDSA 2 upheaval, which resulted in the removal of Joseph Estrada and the accession of Mrs. Arroyo,provides an unmistakable lesson: that a change of personalities would not suffice to institutionalize fundamental reforms. This means that civil society cannot leave to government the task of rebuilding damaged institutions. We have to remain vigilant towards championing, asserting and consolidating the key institutional and policy reforms that redound to the public interest.
Should all this come to pass, we call on the successor government, which must be established following Constitutionally-consistent avenues, to undertake the following urgent initiatives:
- Restore the people’s trust in government institutions, particularly the Commission on Elections.
- Reform the electoral processes and make them less vulnerable to fraud.
- Improve the fiscal situation through more efficient tax collection, passage of new taxes that conform to the criteria of fairness and simplicity, more equitable distribution of the tax burden, and comprehensive reforms in the responsibilities and accountabilities of the boards and officers of government-owned and controlled corporations, including the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System.
- Reduce the number and alleviate the condition of poor people.
Initial List of Signatories:
- Michael Alba, Dean, College of Business and Economics, De La Salle University
- Fernando Aldaba, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Rafaelita M. Aldaba, School of Economics, University of the Philippines
- Carlito T. Anonuevo, Economics Department, Universityof the Philippines, Los Baños; President, Action for Economic Reforms
- Myrna Austria, Director of Research, College of Business and Economics, De La Salle University
- Germelino Bautista, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Rene Canlas, Vice Chair, Accountancy Department, De La Salle University
- Jessica Reyes Cantos, Vice President, Action for Economic Reforms
- Christopher Cruz, Chair, Commercial Law Department, De La Salle University
- Leland de la Cruz, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Agham Cuevas, Chair, Economics Department, University of the Philippines Los Baños
- Luis Dumlao, Officer in Charge, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Maricar Paz Garde, Economics Department, De La Salle University
- Margarita Gomez, Department of Social Science, University of the Philippines, Manila; Fellow, Action for Economic Reforms
- Cielito Habito, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Rene Hapitan, Financial Management Department, De La Salle University
- Ronnie Holmes, Executive Vice President, De la Salle-Zobel
- Leonardo Lanzona, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Nepomuceno Malaluan, Corporate Secretary, Action for Economic Reforms
- Ellen Palanca, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Junette Perez, Chair, Financial Management Department, De La Salle University
- Lisa Pilapil, Center for Economic Research and Development, Ateneo de Manila University
- U-Primo Rodriguez, Economics Department, University of the Philippines, Los Baños
- Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III, Coordinator, Action for Economic Reforms
- Rosalina Tan, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Ofelia Templo, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Benjamin Tolosa, Chair, Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University
- Phillip Tuano, Economics Department, Ateneo de Manila University
- Edna Co, National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines
- Francisco Magno, Director, Institute of Governance, De La Salle University
- Prospero J. de Vera III, National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines
- Hazel Malapit, Trustee, Action for Economic Reforms