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Confusion and Hope
Politics in the Philippines

Kickbacks, mistresses, and alias bank accounts are some of the reasons Filipinos ousted past President Joseph Estrada.  But then again, according to Estrada, he wasn't ousted - he just stepped down for a bit and Arroyo is temporarily filling the position.  The current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in by the Philippine Chief Justice after the Supreme Court declared the presidential position vacant this January.  But Estrada is appealing to that very same Supreme Court saying that he never officially resigned.  It is his hope that Arroyo will be declared an "acting" not "permanent" president and he will be reinstated.  Even though the Philippine political future is uncertain, the truth is that Arroyo has taken office in a time of extreme difficulty for the Philippine people and for her role as president.  President Arroyo seems to be a person with a strong desire to unite the Philippine people and lead them by example.  As the daughter of the late President Diosdedo Macapagal, she has a good start because of the example her parents set for her.   Even with their example of integrity, she will still have to make a great effort to achieve her goals.  Political change does not come without some difficulty, but without difficulty there is not much change. Our hope for the Philippines is for there to be great political and economic success in this century.

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Biographical Sketch on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

The President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, holds many records.  Elected as Senator during her first try in politics in 1992, she was re-elected Senator in 1995 with nearly 16 million votes, the highest number of votes in Philippine history.  She was elected Vice President of the Philippines in 1998 with almost 13 million votes, the largest mandate in the history of Presidential or Vice Presidential elections.  She was sworn in as the 14th President of the Philippines on January 20, 2001 by Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. after the Supreme Court unanimously declared the position of President vacant, the second woman to be swept into the Presidency by a peaceful People Power revolution. (EDSA II).

The President is the daughter of the late President and Mrs. Diosdedo Macapagal, who were well known for their integrity and simple but dignified lifestyle.  During the Presidency of Diosdado Macapagal, the Philippines was second only to Japan in economic progress in Asia.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was valedictorian of her high school class at Assumption Convent, was consistently on the Dean's List in Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and graduated magna cum laude at Assumption College.  She obtained a Master's degree in Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University and a doctorate degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines.

Macapagal-Arroyo joined the Philippine government in 1986 during the Administration of President Corazon C. Aquino, who appointed her Undersecretary of Trade and Industry.  During her tenure in the Senate, she authored 55 laws on economic and social reform and was named outstanding Senator several times.  When she was elected Vice President, President Joseph Estrada appointed her as concurrent Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, a post she held until her resignation from the Cabinet on October 12, 2000.

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JANUARY 20, 2001

In all humility, I accept the Presidency of the Republic.

I do so with both trepidation and a sense of awe.

Trepidation, because it is now, as the Good Book says, a time to heal and a time to build.  The task is formidable, so I pray that we will all be one -- one in our priorities, one in our values and commitments, and one because of Edsa 2001.

A sense of awe, because the Filipino has done it again on the hallowed ground of Edsa.

People Power and the oneness of will and vision have made a new beginning possible.  I cannot but recall at this point, therefore, Ninoy Aquino's words:

"I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino, and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for."

As we break from the past in our quest for the new Philippines, the unity, the Filipino's sense of history, and his unshakeable faith in the Almighty that prevailed in Edsa '86 and Edsa 2001 will continue to guide and inspire us.

I am certain the Filipinos of unborn generations will look back with pride to Edsa 2001, just as we look back with pride to Mactan, the Katipunan and other revolts, Bataan and Corregidor , and Edsa '86.

I am certain that pride will reign supreme as they recall the heroism and sacrifices and prayers of Jaime Cardinal Sin, former Presidens Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos, the legislators who fought the good fight in Congress, the leaders whose principles were beyond negotiation, the witnesses in the impeachment trial who did not count the cost of testifying, the youth and students who walked out of their classes to be here at Edsa, the generals in the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police, and the Filipino out there who stood up to be counted in these troubled times.

The Filipino, crises and all, is truly worth living and dying for.

Ngunit saan tayo tutungo mula rito?

Jose Rizal, the first to articulate self-determination in a free society, provides the answer.

Rizal counseled the Filipino to lead a life of commitment,  "He must think national, go beyond self."

"A stone is worthless," Rizal wrote, "if it is not part of an edifice."

We are the stones, and the Philippines is our edifice.

On many occasions, I have given my views on what our program of government should be.  This is not the time or place to repeat them all.  However, I can tell you that they converge on four core beliefs.

1.  We must be bold in our national ambitions, so that our challenge must be that within this decade, we will win the fight against poverty.

2.  We must improve moral standards in government and society, in order to provide a strong foundation for good governance.

3.  We must change the character of our politics, in order create fertile ground for true reforms.  Our politics of personality and patronage must give way to a new politics of party programs and process of dialogue with the people.

4.  Finally, I believe in leadership by example.  We should promote solid traits such as work ethic and a dignified lifestyle, matching action to rhetoric, performing rather than grandstanding.

The first of my core beliefs pertains to the elimination of poverty.  This is our unfinished business from the past.  It dates back to the creation of our Republic, whose seeds were sown in the revolution launched in 1896 by the plebian Andres Bonifacio.  It was an unfinished revolution, for to this day, poverty remains our national problem.  We need to complete what Andres Bonifacio began. The ultimate solution to poverty has both a political and an economic aspect.

Let me first talk about the political aspect.

In doing so, I will refer to one of my core beliefs, that of the need for new politics.  Politics and political power as traditionally practiced and used in the Philippines are among the roots of the social and economic inequities that characterize our national problems.  Thus, to achieve true reforms, we need to outgrow our traditional brand of politics based on patronage and personality.  Traditional politics is the politics of the status quo.  It is a structural part of our problem.

We need to promote a new politics of true party programs and platforms, of an institutional process of dialogue with our citizenry.  This new politics is the politics of genuine reform.  It is a structural part of the solution.

We have long accepted the need to level the playing field in business and economics.  Now, we must accept the need to level the playing field in politics as well.  We have long aspired to be a world class economy.  Now, we must also aspire to develop a world class political system, one in tune with the 21st Century.

The world of the 21st Century that our youth will inherit is truly a new economy, where relentless forces such as capital market flows and advances in information and communications technology create both peril and opportunity.

To tap the opportunities, we need an economic philosophy of transparency and private enterprise, for these are the catalysts that nurture the entrepreneurial spirit to be globally competitive.

To extend the opportunities to our rural countryside, we must create a modernized and socially equitable agricultural sector.

To address the perils, we must give a social bias to balance our economic development, and these are embodied in safety nets for sectors affected by globalization, and safeguards for our environment.

To ensure that our gains are not dissipated through corruption, we must improve moral standards.  As we do so, we create fertile ground for good governance based on a sound moral foundation, a philosophy of transparency, and an ethic of effective implementation.

Considering the divisions of today, our commitment will entail a lot of sacrifices among us all, as we work to restore the dignity and pre-eminence of the Filipino.

Join me, therefore, as we begin to tear down the walls that divide.  Let us build an edifice of peace, progress and economic stability.

People Power has dramatized the Filipino's capacity for greatness.

People of People Power, I ask for your support and prayers.  Together, we will light the healing and cleansing flame.

This we owe to the Philippines.  This we own to every Filipino.

Thank you and may the Good Lord bless us all.

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Biographical sketch and Inauguration speech provided by the Philippine Consulate.


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