Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 31 December 2016


The polite word to describe this past year is: Challenging. For me, personally. For the country. And for the world.  There have been pluses as well as minuses, as have all other years.  But keeping tabs  as the 365 days tick away, I must say that at first blush, I thought the year was a bust, but closer analysis puts it at a  net plus,  even as the minuses looked humongous.  But you be the judge, Reader.

First, the individual basis.  Healthwise, this year has been one big minus, if we judge from the number of hospitalizations.  My husband and I were  hospitalized two times each. (Once I had to be brought by ambulance, which is really scary.)  Considering that the last time I was hospitalized was three years ago, which was 15 years after the previous experience, twice in a year is enough to give one pause.

Weighing against that is the arrival on the scene of our fourth grandchild, Nacho (for Ignacio), last May. There was a double blessing here. He was born on the same day as his great-grandfather, I.C. Monsod, so naturally he is also I.C. We all think Lolo Monsod (who died almost 101) played a great role in Nacho’s being with us.  And he has been a source of delight and joy since his arrival.   When he was brought to us on Christmas Day in a Santa outfit, the Christmas spirit came surging back.

Let’s talk about the country.  On the plus side, President Duterte picked a good set of economic managers, and has given them free rein.  He also picked an environment secretary and an agrarian reform secretary who are definitely propoor, and he has also given them more or less free rein. The farmers have won some victories but he has not yet given the promised marching orders for an independent body to investigate the so-called “voluntary” modes of land transfer which provided huge loopholes to landowners who continue to control the land—definitely a minus. And he made noises about giving the Laguna Lake back to ordinary fishermen (plus) but there hasn’t been any movement yet (minus).

The country’s growth has continued on the same trajectory as in the previous administration (plus) but is expected to slow down next year (minus).  Unemployment has gone down to below 5 percent, a huge plus, but the quality of that employment is tenuous (minus).  Inflation has been reined in (plus).

Whether the war on drugs is a plus or minus is heatedly debated. To hear Mr. Duterte, it has been highly successful (plus), but his promise to win it in three months, then pushed back to six months,  has been pushed back further, according to his latest one-on-one interviews, to the end of his term, i.e. six years. So the verdict  of success is on hold.  Moreover, if the experience of Thailand is any indicator, the war will not succeed.  Furthermore, its conduct, with all those EJKs,  has blackened the face of the Philippines before the international community and, worse, weakened very seriously the observance of the rule of law within the country.

More serious is the question of the mental or psychological health of the President. The yes-he-said-it-no-he-didn’t performances and the insults, threats and coarse language will continue to blacken our national face and disgrace the country. This may be the result of a personality disorder of the President described by psychologist Natividad Dayan.  And apparently it can be treated.  But it will have to be recognized first.  Definitely a minus.

As far as the international situation is concerned, the minuses are all big: the Brexit and Trump victories;  international terror;  and the refugee situation it gives rise to as well as exacerbates. All these make the future look bleak. Also, I can’t see any pluses, but maybe you, Reader, can supply them.

But where there is Christ, there is light, and hope.  So Happy New Year.