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The Enemy?

RESPONDING TO reporters’ insinuations that this administration is in a political-vendetta mode in its move to prosecute the former president’s son, Juan Miguel Arroyo III, for tax evasion, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda replied: “The best measure of good governance is to give your enemy due process and fairness.” (My emphasis).

Lacierda reveals this administration’s unfortunate world-view: that the camp of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who presided over the longest period of continuous Philippine GNP growth, is its enemy. While seemingly genteel in manners, Lacierda is fond of martial terminology, referring on various occasions to “land mines” in the government which in his imagination was left by the previous administration. While he misuses a metaphor, Lacierda wanted to make the ridiculous charge that officials of the previous administration went out of their way to set up booby traps intended for this administration to fail, in the way the enemy in a real war plants land mines after their territory has been conquered.

As spokesman, Lacierda may in fact be simply articulating his principal’s state of mind. Instead of explaining that his efforts to take out Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is for the good of the country, the President in a speech the other day (of all occasions, a conference of the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines) said he was at “war” with the ombudsman under whose watch a Philippine president was prosecuted and convicted.

Even the Bureau of Internal Revenue is following the President’s cue. How can Commissioner Kim Henares claim that the BIR is simply doing its job to prosecute tax evaders when its press release on the tax-evasion case it is pursuing against Mikey Arroyo compares him to the infamous Mafia lord, Al Capone? How can it be simply a tax-evasion case when the President of the Republic himself reveals his interest in this particular tax-evasion case and engages the congressman in the verbal equivalent of a street fight, daring him to show the receipt of his income tax returns? (Arroyo could have responded, but for a member of Congress appropriately didn’t, by demanding that the President show the deed of sale and Land Transportation Office registration for his P9-million Porsche 911 Turbo to confirm if taxes were paid on the luxury car.)

This is the first time ever that a Philippine president and his or her top officials publicly refers to the camp of a previous administration and to personalities who do not agree with him or her as “enemies.” Mr. Aquino’s mother Cory never even referred to the dictator Ferdinand Marcos whose forces killed his father as the “enemy.” Even Marcos did not refer to Mr. Aquino’s father as the enemy but, as normal in a democratic system, the “opposition.”

I certainly hope Mr. Aquino and Lacierda are not really serious about their martial terminology: to view the opposition as an “enemy,” and not as an element of a vibrant democracy, is a prescription for national discord, and even tragedy. It is an outlook that some say explains how publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito ended up brutally murdered: President Estrada’s praetorian guards misinterpreted his body language.

The worldview that the opposition is the “enemy” is not surprising though with the President’s intellectual tabula rasa apparently being filled up first by the outlook of Hyatt 10 moralistic types who have divided the world into good and evil forces, and with the ideology of the pink party Akbayan with its social analysis of warring exploiting and exploited classes.

One reason for this administration’s belligerent stance is that its leaders live in a never-never land that they are in a replay of Cory Aquino’s administration after a revolution toppled an evil kingdom. President Macapagal-Arroyo wasn’t overthrown, she simply ended her term of office as required by the Constitution. The 2010 elections wasn’t a surrogate for a revolution. Her candidate Gilberto Teodoro lost not because the people rejected her. Maybe she was too idealistic: Teodoro with his youth and relative anonymity did not have a chance in a field whose players included the only son of a just-died heroine of democracy, one of the country’s richest tycoons, and, of course, a former movie idol.

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It is as good a case study as any on how the selfishness of a single enterprise can make things hard for the many.

While the Tagaytay area has been a place many Metro Manilans escape to for a day’s respite on a weekend from the oppressive heat and pollution of the megalopolis, more and more people are swearing off the place for one reason: the horrendous traffic that builds up on weekends along the main Emilio Aguinaldo Highway that starts from the intersection going to Mendez town all the way to Alfonso, 15 kilometers away. The reason for the traffic? One restaurant: Bag of Beans.

It is undoubtedly a success story, a hole-in-the-wall pastry shop growing to become a good bistro. However, because it does not have a parking lot of its own, customers’ cars maneuvering to park in the limited slots slow down traffic in the two-lane highway, creating a chain reaction that results in horrendous kilometers-long traffic. The traffic has become a nightmare for weekenders going to or from Tagaytay tourist spots such as the Splendido golf course, Sonya’s Garden, Antonio’s, the quaint Italian restaurant Il Gallo Nero as well as further south to the Batangas beaches.

Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino, who was mayor of Tagaytay City for 10 years, should share whatever expertise and politically savvy he has learned in the past several months in the metropolis to advise his brother, the incumbent Mayor Abraham Tolentino, on how to end this traffic scourge in the Tagaytay area called Bag of Beans.

From The Philippine Daily Inquirer