Friday, July 08, 2005

Gloria's Fighting Words

(Text of Pres. Arroyo's Nationwide TV/Radio Address on July 7, 2005)
Mga Minamahal kong kababayan.

When I was young and my late father Diosdado Macapagal was president of our country, I thought of him as the "good guy" and his political opponents on the other side were the "bad guys".

Because of my father's influence, I had always thought of myself as on the side of the good. Thus, it is very painful for me to know that among many of our countrymen today, I have been demonized as the "bad guy." This is unfair, but it is a cross that God in His wisdom has given me to bear, so I will bear it. I have never questioned God's ways before, and I will not do so now.

When I first entered politics in 1992, little did I know that within a decade, I would become president of our country. And little did I expect that within another five years, there would be calls from civil society for my resignation from office or for the formation of a "Truth Commission" regarding some of my political actuations.

When I spoke before the nation some two weeks ago, I did so against the advice of my legal counsel. But I thought that speaking before you, the Filipino people, was the right thing to do. Shameless people have peddled the lie that I confessed to cheating. What I disclosed was that I talked to an election official. But that this had taken place after the certificates of canvas had already been used to proclaim the winning senators, and it was those same certificates of canvass that showed that I won by around a million votes. That is the truth.

Indeed, it is right for our country to confront the truth, but if we do so, let's confront the biggest, most painful political truth. The big truth that we are aware of deep in our hearts, but that we collectively sweep under the rug. The big truth whose debilitating effects on our country, year after year, decade after decade, have developed into feelings of disgust, hopelessness and even despair among large segments of our society.

The truth that I discovered from my beginnings as a neophyte politician in 1992, rising to become a veteran politician through the years, is this: over the years, our political system has degenerated to such an extent that it is very difficult to live within the system with hands totally untainted. That is the truth. In addition, our system has degenerated to such an extent that more often than not, it is political agenda first, and national interest last. For example, we have endless investigations and scandals in aid of political and media projection, rather than in aid of legislation or executive action. That is the truth. Because of this system of politics, our country has been left behind by other countries in the region, and our best and brightest, the cream of our youth, are voting with their feet to leave the country. That is the truth.

I do not blame any individual or political block for this sad state of affairs. It is simply the truth that the political system that I am part of has degenerated to the point that it needs fundamental change. We are collectively to blame, so we must collectively be the solution. Let he who is without sin, cast the stone. To those who feel that they cannot cast the first stone, I invite you to help in the solution.

My proposed approach to reform our system of politics and governance is something that I had wanted to bring forth during the upcoming state of the nation address. However, because our country is hungry for a resolution to the political uncertainties that have plagued us these past few weeks, I will bring it up now.

First of all, I am not resigning my office. To do so under circumstances that connote an EDSA 3 would condemn any successor to the possibility of an EDSA 4, then an EDSA 5, and so on, unless our political system were first reformed to make it more responsive to the people's will, such that changes in leadership come about in an orderly and stable manner.

The world embraced EDSA 1 in 1986. The world tolerated EDSA 2 in 2001. The world will not forgive an EDSA 3 in 2005, but would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable. And the Filipinos as among the finest people in the world, but who always shoot themselves in the foot. Under those circumstances, who would invest money in the Philippines? How would we weather the difficulties arising from the price of crude oil being at its highest in history?

What I intend to do is to work with legislators and civil groups who believe that changes in the fundamental law of the land are necessary in order to confront such basic issues as federalism, the character of our legislative process, reducing red tape in government processes, running for public office under a true party system and with less need to raise campaign funds, modernizing the economic provisions of our constitution, and so forth.

At the same time, I will restructure and strengthen the cabinet, giving it a free hand to meanwhile reform and manage our day to day governance with as little political interference as possible, even from me.

This is how we will proceed.

First, I'm asking my entire cabinet to tender their resignation in order to give the executive a free hand to reorganize itself. I'll ask our sectors to give me the names of candidates that we can invite to replace those who will not return to the cabinet, or even to help out at other levels of the executive.

Second, the cabinet will be given a free hand on governance, while I focus on the fundamental changes that we need to put in place.

Third, I will begin to reach out to the political and civil sectors that have an interest in the various advocacies that are relevant to our constitution. Federalism, for example, is an advocacy that I had espoused long ago.

This is neither political ploy nor gimmick. I believe that this process will quickly lay the foundation for deep reforms in our society, including reforms in our political way of life. This would be a legacy that our generation of politicians and citizens could collectively be proud of. I now have grand children to play with and to help bring up. Like all of you, I want our children to grow up in a better Philippines. I have prayed on this, and I hope that I have discerned God's will properly.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.