Morning after Sisyphus

by Juan L. Mercado

Barring automation meltdown, media will have reported, Monday night, the once hesitant Benigno Aquino III is president-elect.. And  Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo is congresswoman-elect. Not even Erap is surprised. This is written four hours before precincts close. Many sleazy politicians will win  to plunder yet again, the surveys show. The first protests will also inundate us today. No one  loses elections in this country, PCOS machine or no.

The morning after, voters and  winners, who sought reforms are confronted with the “Sisyphus syndrome”.

In the realm of the dead, Sysiphus was sentenced  to roll a huge stone up a steep hill,  Greek mythology tells us. There was an eternal handcuff. On reaching the summit, the stone would skid to the bottom. Will  Filipinos  play  Sysiphus  again for trapos?

“Gloria Macapgal  Arroyo bequeaths a can of worms to her successor,.” the wife remarked, as we drove to our clustered precinct. She  hit a recall button. We bumped into the late Senator Benigno Aquino at San Francisco’s International Airport..years back.  “Whoever succeeds Ferdinand Marcos inherits a can of worms.,” Ninoy said then.

That  was our last chat. An assassin’s bullet ripped into Ninoy at Manila airport’s tarmac. It never crossed his mind that  “People Power” would designate his wife, Corazon, a reluctant inheritor. “O! That a man might know the end/Of this day’s business ‘ere it comes,” Brutus complains in “Julius Ceasar.”

The 50-year old  Aquino inherits a can crammed with graft, 132 private armies and insurgencies. One out of three Filipinos went hungry even before El Nino triggered surges in food and fuel prices.  Congress, BIR, Customs, Ombudsman, the military  are tainted. The Supreme Court flip-flops.  Mistrust of institutions  is rife.

Flabby  governance and  a crony-sapped  tax structure drags development. Philippine ranking in global competitiveness slumped from 71 (out of 134 countries) to 87, says the World Economic Forum. The country is wedged below India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Corruption, inefficient bureaucracy, policy instability and inadequate infrastructure”  interlock in this cellar status, the Forum asserts. “Renewed  efforts at tax reforms will be required.

In their paper  On the Road to 2010  Elections And Beyond, Manolo Quezon and friends write:  “Count on a scorch earth policy  by  Mrs  Arroyo” to bog down Aquino II, He  may “win a palace that has no value other than the title home of “President of the Philippines.”

Aside from death and taxes,  the President-elect will  find a  legacy of IOUs  and  92 million Filipinos,(Viewpoint/Sept 22).  There were  already  52 million when  Noynoy’s father was gunned down in 1983..

Flashback to 1940. The  census  then  informed Preisdent Manuel Quezon the islands supported  almost 20 million Filipinos. Fast forward to 2016.  Today’s  president-elect  steps aside for his successor.  Population ( 101.6 million ) the  would equal  eight Cambodias.

The momentum of population growth ignores presidents or bishops. So does abortion. Given  lack of family planning, abortion today probably  exceeds  600,000  a year, demographers estimate . A  conspiracy of silence  masks  this continuing  “Massacre of Innocents”  The slaughter  will persist , unless Aquino and new leaders  break the  stalemate on  population  policy.

When People Power drove Marcos into exile, foreign  IOUs had bloated from $1billion to $28 billion. Today, total foreign debt is almost triple that.

Interest payments on national government debt chew up 20 centavos out of every peso, says Asian Development Bank. (This) whittles down funds for development..  National government IOU last year crested at over half (57.3%) of gross domestic product.”

Can the new President administer bitter medicine?  Filipinos and new leaders won’t have time to solve, one by one, bunched up  problems. Diseases of the rich, for example,  like obesity, overlap with illnesses of the indigents, like diahrrea.  Harvard Medical School calls that the “double burden of  disease”

International issues also cut elbow room. Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. If unrest spirals further, regional stability would suffer, warns the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Today’s standoff between “Red Shirts” and “Yellow Shirts” differs from past emergencies. An ailing King Bhumibol may not sway  decisively, as he did in the past,  deeply divided social classes. Succession of a distrusted Crown Prince would exacerbate tensions. These will impact Asean.

Burma is hardening it’s dictatorship. After 20 years of repression, the junta will hold farcical elections under a sham constitution. Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the lst polls, is barred from participating. She has been detained under one pretext or other, for 14 years now.

Her National League for Democracy  refused to register for rigged elections.  The “civilian” regime that will emerge will “be dominated by the same thugs who’ve made a benighted mess of a fertile, resource-rich country, the Economist note Regional advance would be crippled.

“If Aquino wins by a landslide, Arroyo will have to deal with his incorruptible image”, writes Virginia Watson of Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.  Her well-positioned political network…could stall Aquino’s momentum. Alternatively initiatives of the new administration…could circumscribe Arroyo’s influence…

We left Corazon Aquino to beat back coups and crooks by herself.  We must to pitch in as citizens now. Otherwise, we end up again as Sisyphus — again.

(Email: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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