BUSINESS SLUMPS DUE TO POLL UNCERTAINTY

cartoon editorialREGARDLESS OF WHO WINS  the presidency- as long as there is no cheating- the nation will have to accept the verdict. The new president should be given enough  chance to prove his worth- or be given enough rope to hang himself.

But Philippine Business is not laughing. Because of the “uncertainty” of the outcome and the “quality”  of the possible  new presidency- the peso: dollar exchange rate and the stock market prices dropped significantly this week.

They are the foremost indicators that business is not pleased. Of course, business is only one sector of our economy – but a very important one. Business -local and foreign- bring in investments that create jobs which in turn create purchasing power and rev up the economy.

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The front runner in both the Pulse Asia and SWS surveys is Davao Mayor Rody Duterte who had not hidden his plan to impose a strongman iron hand in his presidency. There are fears that his alleged methods in stopping crime in Davao – have been laced with human rights violations and the abject disregard for due process.

Duterte had proudly claimed he will stop crime and corruption in 6 months-or he will resign . In his haste to meet his self-imposed deadline to nail crooks and grafters,  people genuinely  fear that Duterte may make shortcuts and create a tidal wave of enemies.

One- there is Congress and the Senate which both  are not likely to be controlled by the mayor’s PDP-Laban political party  but the opposition parties like the LP and NPC, the two largest political parties. They may initiate impeachment proceedings and a Senate impeachment ruling is a final one- irreversible even by the Supreme Court or even the president himself. This is the essence of check and balance.

Duterte’s answer to  a possible impeachment is “to shut down Congress”. Every Juan and his uncle know that even  the declaration of Martial Law can be done( under the 1987 Constitution) -ONLY with the clear approval of 2/3 of Congress.  That’s not likely to happen.

Second- loyal to the flag soldiers- as they did at EDSA 1 – may “refuse to take illegal orders” even from the commander in chief which can be a dangerous cauldron of steaming possibilities to think about. Likewise-  any  excess and abuse of power from the Executive  is  likely to meet stern opposition from the assertive middle class, civil society and human rights advocates. We dread to think of EDSA 3 or the country be thence  classified as a “banana republic”.

If massive  “unreasonable” bloodletting happens to impose the law – the Philippines can become an international leper -derided by the international community  with whom the country does massive economic, political, military and diplomatic intercourse. A small nation like us can ill afford that.

There is reason to believe , therefore , there will be- at best- an “anemic wait and see attitude” of business in a Duterte presidency- anxious  what the final curtain will show.

While Duterte is still  ahead in the numbers game, a strong opposition has emerged among women and religious groups about Duterte’s cavalier statement about a murdered ,raped Australian missionary.. And of his curt treatment of American and Australian ambassadors representing two of our major aliies.

Worse, the recent expose  of senator Antonio Trillanes that Duterte’s bank accounts from 2006 to the present totaled P2.4-B in transactions and his alleged  (undeclared in his  SALN) 34 properties in Mindanao and Manila have somehow damaged the image of the feisty mayor as a contrite “graft buster”.

The decision of BPI to address the authenticity of Trillanes’ claims only 2 days after the election (May 12) only  served to keep the cloud of doubt over Duterte’s “clean image” manifestly strong.

Moreover, the front-running mayor has to contend with the Catholic Church. Already, he had faced great rebuke in his  past-almost sacrilegious anti-Pope Francis comment earlier.

Last Sunday in a CBCP Pastoral Letter- read,some unread in parishes last Sunday-  the Catholic Church  cautioned against ” a candidate  whose speech and actions, whose plans and projects  show scant regard  for the rights of all, openly declared indifference if not dislike and disregard for the Church  especially her moral teachings.” It is ckear the Church refers to the mayor.

Even after the polls, the Pastoral Letter was specific that her support for the new leadership is conditional on the ” its respect for the rights of all” ,among others.

The Church had asked for daily prayers, mass and rosary praying for the next few days leading to Monday’s May 9 elections. It be a pity to commit a fatal mistake -and set back the significant gains the country has achieved – though still lacking –  in the last few years.

Philippine Business is in needles and pins because it does not see any coherent economic policies of the front-runner Duterte-  with the latter reasoning that “he is used to copying from others since Grade One”.

This attitude  turns his crusade into a one dimension program of solving criminality and corruption. Good governance is more than that.

Likewise a group of Catholic, .Born Again and Protestant Groups  who had evaluated  all the presidential candidates on a GabayKristo matrix  -based on competence, Christian ethics and character- did not endorse Duterte as their official candidate.

When two institutions like Business and the Church are worried about the polls-  we have reasons to also be truly worried. Quo vadis, Pilipinas?

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com



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