PGMA is no Bush

August 27th, 2009

The last days have been hectic, with requests for me to speak in various gatherings of organizations about our advocacy and how it created an impact on the country. I was also asked to talk about my views on the economy and about moving forward during the remaining months under PGMA. They also asked my views on who would be the right person to lead this country come 2010.

My column last week, “Pro Economy, Pro Philippines”, took me about an hour to finish. I was at the wake of a very good friend of mine, Chris Lim, who suddenly passed away because of heart attack while playing squash at the Polo Club. He was my lawyer when we acquired Selecta Ice cream and Cosmos Bottling. He has been our external Corporate Legal Counsel in RFM, and has been with us during our IPOs and purchase of RC Cola brand.

As Babes Romualdez wrote in his column the other day, a lot of people are now dying young. This is quite true. Earlier this year, I lost another good friend, Franco Delgado, and my father-in-law, Jose Orosa. These events remind us of our mortality and keep us grounded when our ambitions drive us beyond our real priority in life, which is to have a ‘balanced life’.

As I finished that column between eulogies at the church, I did not expect it to elicit a great number of responses from people. I expected people to say that I am so pro-PGMA or blinded with what is happening. The response was almost 100% positive.

We have to give PGMA some credit on the current resilience of the economy. Economic reforms and monetary and financial discipline have been very instrumental in strengthen our economy’s foundation. If everything that she did was wrong in her nine years of administration, you would not see the same robustness in many sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and services. These past years’ consecutive growth, coupled with Forex remittances have boosted consumer spending and investment. Our consumer spending has led to the expansion of many corporations, shopping centers, retail establishments. The number of condominiums alone built by Megaworld, Ayala, Filinvest, SM and others is phenomenal. Even the expansion of Mang Inasal is impressive. These are just some of the many examples of a growing economy because of consumer spending. I have also mentioned these developments during my talks.

Apart from our economic development, I also spoke about Ninoy and how he helped restore democracy. It was also my father’s NAMFREL that got millions of people involved to guard the ballots. This was the first act of people power.

Tita Cory also fulfilled her role as a wife to Ninoy and as a president of this country. When she left the presidency, she has left behind a very remarkable legacy of a woman with great simplicity. This should serve as an example to other leaders and to those who work for the government on how to live a simple life.

PGMA’s legacy will be this country’s economy. She may step down with low ratings. But, despite the issues, she has proven to be one hardworking president who is never late for engagements or meetings. She is a president who works long hours, and who does her best to build a strong economy. She is clearly a hands-on president. She finds ways to help all over the country, frequently visiting provinces to keep close watch on the execution of laws. She does frequent travels abroad to keep our nation top of mind with the Philippine leaders, which is important in attracting foreign investments despite the financial turmoil. She joins every possible event to promote the Philippines. She is a visible president, focused on one thing – building a vibrant economy.

A lot has been done in nine years in the Philippine economy. Our next president will surely benefit from whatever has been done. I will not refute those who would say that even without her, all of these would happen. But, look what happened to America. Under President Bush, there was a collapse in the economy reaching almost depression levels at its low point. The Stock Market crashed from 14t to a low of 6500, all in one year. Big banks disappeared, like the Washington Mutual Bank. Five other banks in the US also closed this year. Huge banks like Citi today trade at four dollars from its high of 50 dollars. This is true for most American banks. Consumer spending has come to a complete halt and a lot of Americans are angry. Yes, one person can make this happen if he or she makes the wrong decisions. We will not see that when PGMA turns over the presidency. Today, the Philippines is nowhere near what has happened to America.

I speak as an entrepreneur. In our Go Negosyo advocacy, it is very important for us to encourage people to believe that we have a future and that we have a great nation. Let us not destroy the hope of the countless Filipinos below the poverty line or the microentrepreneur who struggles to survive. All they have is hope. Confidence is the key to giving them hope. This is what gives them the energy to continue. Through hard work and persistence, many prevail.

Let me share with you some reactions to Pro Economy, Pro Philippines. Due to the number of feedback we received, we are unable to place them all. I am glad that people realize that it does not do our nation any good to keep attacking the President and the state of the economy. Next week, let me share with you my answer to the question: Who should be our next president?

“Indeed, your clear cut stance on national issues based on an economic perspective is very refreshing to us readers who are numbed by the usual banters and tirades of opinion writers- most of whom we are not even sure what they stand for.” -Bernard Tumaru

“Tama ka, hindi tayo para kay PGMA o opposition. Tayo ay dapat magsulong ng ano mang magandang bagay pa ra sa ikabubuti ng ating bansa. Okay lang naman na maging critics pero dapat constructive at hindi destructive.” -Joey Devela

“I have many realizations: one is, we wasted our time blaming the president by focusing on negative things that are happening in our country. I don’t need to be an anti GMA to be a pro economy.” –Divine Lirio

“I really admire your advocacy in entrepreneurship, despite the economic hardships that our country is experiencing nowadays. I do hope that you continue to inspire Filipinos specially the less privilege ones, to still believe in hardwork and self empowerment. Sana lahat kami maging mabuting negosyante” –Eduard Miguel

“Napakaganda po ng inyong advocacy, regardless of any circumstances in the leadership of our government. Marami mga negative articles but maganda rin na magbigyan ng pansin ang mga positive actions na ginawa ng ating president. Instead of complain we have to work out for our family and country, tulad namin mga OFW!” –Jess Remoto

“I’m more than sick and tired of their negative (and many times, no suggested solution) criticisms. Your presentation on the real picture of our country’s economy was well described.” –Vic Echegoyen

“We pray that more and more Filipinos will be drawn to your positive, hopeful and go.go spirit about our nation.” –Vladimir Mata

“I really admire your advocacy in entrepreneurship, despite the economic hardships that our country is experiencing nowadays.” –Mary Atun

“I’m sick nd tired too of d critics who want 2 pull d country dwn so PGMA wud b blamed. For me she’s doing a gud job. So are u. Keep it up.” –Tita