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Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Christopher Wren moment

The outgoing President of the Philippines, Mrs Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivered her swan song of a speech to the public. "Look around you" she said referring to the economic gains of her 9 year watch.

When I was in London many years ago, I joined a walking tour of the City and the tour guide brought us to St Paul's Cathedral. The Baroque wonder is architect Christopher Wren's magnificent opus.

Aside from the giant baldachin one of the tourist draws of the cathedral is Wren's resting place and its famous epitaph


Translated into English it means

Reader, if you need to see his monument, look around you.

Wren's tomb is plain but his cathedral ain't!

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is not about to join Wren in the afterlife but she sure will be joining him in history. She obviously wants to ensure her place in Philippine presidential history is secure. And indeed it is. Her ascent into power is a historically significant. How she survived Hyatt 10 is too and also Hello Garci.

She laid down the needed economic reforms. She can be considered a sort of Wren for economics (if there indeed is such a thing!). She also recognized the importance of sinking in cash for our science infrastructure. While it is not enough, it is a good start for no president before her has backed lip service to technological development with cash.

But her record is forever tarnished with mega corruption allegations. She expects the landslide of plunder cases to come. So we take with a grain of salt her word of going to a quieter public life (if indeed there is such a thing!)

Yesterday was Thomas More's feast day as a saint. We remember More when he went into the quiet life, his mouth stayed shut but still he lost his head for it.

I don't believe Mrs Arroyo will go that way!

Nonetheless, her farewell speech is obviously aimed at the middle class which her 9 year reign has almost squeezed into penury. It is a fact that the middle class shrank under her watch. Some in the middle class can drive along the streets and see the office towers. Yes they can (some have taken out car loans) but many of them can't get the jobs in those office towers. If the educated middle class can't get jobs, what about the lower classes?

Well the corrupt rich whose SALN ballooned like a blowfish in her presidency has everything to party for!

If Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wants her political epitaph, look around the corner from EDSA and Ayala, behind the office towers and see increasing numbers of urban poor and their karitons. And we haven't even talked about poverty in the provinces!


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