is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
I’m still smarting from the fact that my twin brother David Miliband lost out to (his) brother Ed in the recent Labour leadership vote. While the policy differences between the two seem quite exaggerated, nevertheless, I still believe that in the longer term, things would be far better for Labour and the UK with "Miliband D" at the helm. But that’s how politics go and it would be interesting to see the true mettle of David Miliband if he can bounce back from this undoubtedly crushing defeat.
However, after the sublimity of British politics, I now dwell on the whatever-it-is of Philippine politics. It’s actually quite gratifying to see our President gleefully act like a child, whether it be munching with his mouth open on New York hot dogs or gigglingly play a video game at the Hewlett-Packard offices or meekly not protesting that our flag was hoisted upside down when he met US President Obama.
In any event, one has to admire our President’s self-belief. Noynoy definitely is not one for letting facts or reality guide his actions. One day after receiving $434 million from the US to address poverty in our country (actually negotiated by former President Arroyo), he then goes to the United Nations to lecture the world on how to combat poverty. Even more interesting is that he even encouraged the world to imitate us: "It is my earnest hope, and in the greatest interest of humanity, that we harness the energies of dialogue, solidarity and communal responsibility, so that a global People Power toward equitable progress may be achieved." Latest data shows that around 40% of Filipino kids below 5 years old are severely undernourished, with self-rated poverty (according to the SWS) now at 43% (equivalent to an estimated 8.1 million families). Also from the SWS, 21.2% (about 4 million households) declared not having anything to eat the last three months. An ADB study ("Poverty in the Philippines: Causes, Constraints, and Opportunities") reported that the number of poor Filipinos increased to 27.6 million. The World Bank pegged "the overall incidence of poverty" to an increased 32.9%.
Assuredly, our beloved President declares, "my people have shown that, united, nothing is impossible. We called it People Power." Ah, so that’s what it’s called. And this coming from a guy whose administration just humiliated our country for being unable to act as a team during a hostage crisis.
Noynoy capped off his UN speech with a call to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty, hunger, better health services, and improved educational systems. This from a President whose own Cabinet official admitted that the Philippines is unlikely to meet a commitment to halve poverty levels by 2015, with his government lagging with respect to three critical areas: education, maternal health, and battling HIV/AIDS.
Thankfully for the world, it was reported by one newspaper that there "were only a handful of delegates present when the President spoke." This was justified by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo by saying that Noynoy’s speaking slot was purposely chosen as "the President had many other things to attend to." Like eating hot dogs and playing videogames? Besides, if he truly believed in the importance of his message, shouldn’t Noynoy have angled for a better time slot to speak at the UN?
Which leads us to Secretary Clinton’s choice remarks at the Millennium Challenge Corporation signing ceremony: "But let’s be very honest here. Too many [Filipinos] feel that they cannot progress in their own country. Too many of them feel that the elite in business and politics basically call the shots, and there’s not much room for someone who’s hardworking, but not connected. Too many of them believe that even if they get the best education they can, that there won’t be an opportunity for them, and so they take that education and help build someone else’s economy, very often here in the United States."
Clinton reiterated what commentators Studwell, Sharma, Macaranas, Bello, to books like The Rulemakers, Booty Capitalism, Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society, Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic, and Anarchy of Families have been saying: it’s our elite that’s wrecking this country. And the poster boy for that elite, our President, responded by saying something quite strange: "In the presidential palace in Manila, there is a painting titled the Blood Compact. It portrays the first treaty of friendship between a Filipino ruler and the representative of a foreign power." -- our President bizarrely ignoring the fact that such "compact" led to the invasion of our country.
Noynoy closes off his meeting with Hillary by saying that "we are two nations bound by a shared commitment to the same ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." What constitution or history book does this guy and his speechwriters read?? Weird.
Then Noynoy comes home and in a span of 24 hours flip-flops on the contraception issue. Weird.