In cooperation with Social Science Division of University of the Philippines Cebu College, Action For Economic Reforms has organized a forum entitled “Breaking Out from the Crisis: Immediate and Strategic Options” on September 23, 2005 in Lahug, Cebu City.
The forum is part of AER’s advocacy on the broader economic and governance issues, specifically to build public awareness and to facilitate healthy dialogue and intervention toward reform not only in Metro Manila but also in key cities and provinces.
The “Gloriagate” issue has been thoroughly discussed in the National Capital Region (NCR) and in national media. However, some quarters have said that concerns about the “Gloriagate” issue are only confined to “imperial” Manila. AER believe that people in the provinces and outside Metro Manila are as much interested and concerned about the country’s political situation and want to gain more knowledge about the “Garci” tapes, the impeachment process as well as the impact of the political crisis on the economy.
The three main objectives of the forum are:
- Provide information on the various campaigns pushing for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation and removal from office.
- Present different views on the economic and political implications of the current political crisis.
- Discuss immediate and strategic proposals that can contribute to the decisive resolution of the chronic crises affecting our country.
Present during the forum was a multi-sectoral audience of about 310 individuals, majority of which were students and faculty of the University of the Philippines Visayas. The remaining participants were NGO members and media.
The speakers were the following:
1. Representative Loretta Ann P. Rosales, AKBAYAN-Partylist Representative
2. Professor Victoria A. Aveña, College of Law, University of the Philippines
3. Mr. Manuel L. Quezon III, columnist Philippine Daily Inquirer
4. Dr. Fernando Aldaba, Dean Department of Economics, Ateneo de Manila University
Following are the summary of the speakers’ presentations:
Representative Loretta Ann P. Rosales
- That holding public office is a public trust based on Article 11 of the Philippine Constitution.
- The mandate of COMELEC is (1) to protect all votes of each citizen and not only a party or a single candidate at the expense of other candidates and (2) uphold the integrity of the election process
- Explained that the impeachment process is a tool that the citizenry can use to defend their rights against public officials for abuse of authority, breaking of public trust and other impeachable offenses.
- Highlighted the role of media and civil society organizations (CSOs). Because of their clamor for a transparent impeachment process, Congress allowed that the proceedings be made public
- Discussed why GMA’s calling Comm. Garcilliano (election official) was a betrayal of public trust
- GMA’s conversations with Comm. Garcilliano also violated the Omnibus Election Code and the anti-graft and corrupt practices act of government officials
- Argued that the dismissal of the impeachment complaint is a violation of our right to discover the truth because those who voted against the impeachment complaint suppressed the tool (impeachment process) that would bring out the truth
- Strategic Options
- Schools should initiate the search for truth and serve as an impetus for change.
- Commitment and determination is needed from schools (students and faculty) and NGOs. They must organize and coordinate among themselves and make their opinions known through peaceful rallies and not through violent acts.
- Other options being discussed by the pro-impeachment groups:
- Filing a case with the Supreme Court questioning the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against GMA
- Bringing the evidence to a “people’s court”
Professor Victoria A. Aveña
- That the importance of the current Republican form of government is its feature of checks and balances among the three branches of government- executive, judiciary and legislative. Thus, motives of the GMA administration to push for charter change towards a parliamentary form of government at this time are suspect.
- The alleged election fraud of the GMA camp is a violation of our rights as citizens.
- The impeachment proceeding is a process for questioning public officials, in this case the President, to investigate whether GMA committed any violation.
- In the event that the “Garci” tapes are not accepted as evidence but there are other evidences which ordinary people can look at to convince themselves that GMA did commit election fraud:
- Secretary’s Bunye’s 2 versions of the “Garci tapes”
- Samuel Ong’s possession of the original “Garci” tape
- Norberto Gonzalez’ admission that GMA was wired tapped
- Atty. Ferrer’s (GMA legal counsel on the impeachment) admission that it wasn’t a problem if GMA spoke to Comm. Garcilliano
- Disappearance and government’s inability to find Comm. Garcilliano
- Options: It is up to us to determine what will happen to the Philippines and who will replace GMA. We can do another “people power” if necessary.
Mr. Manuel L. Quezon III
- The Problem: That GMA continues to hold on to power and will do anything to stay in power
- He believes that there is truth to the allegations about GMA’s involvement in election fraud during the last elections because of the cover-up strategies of the GMA administration
- a. announcements that copying and distributing the “Garci” tapes is seditious and
- b. GMA’s unwillingness to speak immediately on the issue
- 3. ides honest and sincere answers the Filipino people deserve.
- 4. Cites “class bias” as the reason for the middle-class not supporting GMA’s removal from office. They closely identify with GMA and do not want to risk their business and livelihood with another change in political leadership
- 5. Option: That if the younger generation wants change in the current political leadership, their opinions must be made known or else “unworthy” politicians will still rule. Democracy is about adding pressure thus requiring action from the younger generation.
Dr. Fernando Aldaba
- He contradicted claims of the GMA administration that the economy is poised for take-off.
- He added that the Philippines has always lagged behind its Asian neighbors in terms of the following:
- output per worker or productivity,
- total factor productivity,
- health and nutrition
- Given this scenario, the country is headed for tough times based on current trends and prolonged political uncertainty.
- Ninety percent of government revenues goes to debt payments and ten percent goes to social services so the government needs to borrow to sustain its operations
- Although there have been some economic good news (below target budget deficit and increase in tax collection), the economy is clearly not poised for a take-off and will not achieve the 5.5-6.1 growth target for 2005. He sighted the following trends to support his claim.
- Quarterly GNP and GDP rates are declining
- Exports (main driver of growth) and imports (used as inputs) are on a decline
- Inflation is up and may not go down due to rising oil prices
- Unemployment and underemployment remain high
- RP credit outlook was downgraded to negative from stable which will affect badly needed foreign investment inflows
- Pessimistic business confidence per a Makati Business Club (MBC) survey
- Domestic demand is weak and consumption expenditures is on a downtrend
- There is a migration surge as more Filipinos move abroad for better economic opportunities to become nurses and teachers
- To hold on to power, GMA will more likely base her decisions not just on sound economic principles but will have to take into account several political debts she has to repay in exchange for their support against the impeachment complaint filed against her.
- OPTION: We need a credible principle centered leadership who will pursue genuine economic reforms that will lead to real economic development.
An open forum followed.