Monday, June 13, 2005

Filipino Administration in Trouble.

The administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) is caught up in a series of scandals. One is a vote rigging scandal and another involves illegal gambling. Supposedly GMA's opponents have a tape with her plotting with the head of the COMELEC (Elections Commission). Now, there have many charges and counter charges thrown about. It is all quite disturbing if you are concerned about the state of affairs in the Filipines.

It remains to see what happens to GMA in this scandal. It was through scandal GMA came to the presidency and it could very well be the manner in which she falls. While, my regular readers know I supported GMA's reelection (since I am not of Filipino nationality or ancestry, my
support was limited to supportive speech) I have come to detest GMA for her wishy-washy leadership. I find myself back in her corner with all of this scandal business.

Why? First and foremost who else? The only person to mount a serious challenge against GMA in the last election was a Fernando Poe Jr (a former action film actor). GMA, replaced another actor turned politician who is also up on charges of plunder and is rumored to be directing the scandal-storm.

Two, I am skeptical of the tape. There are a significant number of those who believe Fernando Po Jr. actually won (IIRC the final result was not close) and are highly disappointed and with the track record of governance in the Filipines charges of vote fraud backed up with evidence (flimsy or otherwise) can not be dismissed out of hand. I suspect the accusations of vote fraud are in fact themselves fraud.

Not only are there accusations of vote rigging against GMA herself her son is accused of taking money from illegal gambling interests. According to reports I have seen, illegal gambling is on the rise and hence the charge of people in high position being on the take makes all the much more sense. It seems to be a perfect storm of controversy and I am not buying it. GMA being a politician at the top of her game has made many enemies, and she made enemies by ousting Joseph Estrada based on corruption charges. Estrada was also close to Ferdinand Marcos and reportedly was going to ease up on Imelda. So add in the Marcos gang.

This raging storm has caused people to call for her resignation and failing that for someone to overthrow the GMA government. One good thing going on with the government at present is the prosecution of a top level general on plunder charges (though admittedly this case has dropped from view). I suspect too many top level military leaders are not comfortable with the possibility their books are going to be opened next. That is, I suspect the top levels of leaders in the military are skimming and do not want to be cashiered, perhaps cashiered "with extreme prejudice." Add in another gang set against the GMA government.

What is going to happen? With all the rumors of coup, destabilization plots, and calls to resign the peso is falling in value after it was beginning to gain value. The uncertain future adds to what is already a tough business climate. Certainly foreign investors have even less reason to steer their capital into the Filipino economy (or sit on it until better conditions arise, but that is unlikely), and those with capital in the Filipines have more incentive to pull their capital out.

A poor economy is just going to keep stagnating.

I spoke with one of my sisters-in-law the other night about this. She runs a successful business and is not at all happy with the situation. She was keen to know what our Administration thinks about this deal. Reports I have read seem to indicate the Administration is neutral on it, as it is an internal affair. That is of course the official line. I would have to guess the Administration would want to see GMA survive if for no other reason than stability. The GMA administration has come under criticism for its handling of a hostage situation in Iraq and for a premature bolt from Iraq but that was not that big of a deal (at least the departure, the ransom paid is a bigger problem). I do not see anyone winning in a coup, least of all the Filipino people.

If anyone thinks a GMA usurper will clean out the corruption then as the old saying goes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale, want to buy? It will take much longer than any one presidential term and it will take a growing economy and Filipino coup plotters make it certain to keep the Filipino economy in stagnation. KNOCK IT OFF!