Ramon S. Ang
[By Al Labita]
BASED on Opinyon’s perceptions and social media surveys, the developing pattern of calls for change tilts towards those with a proven track record of integrity and competence outside the abominable dog-eat-dog world of politics.
Something’s Got to Give
At the rate the spate of crisis is laying siege on the three-year-old Aquino presidency, the betting is on whether it would last its six-year mandate. Unable to cope with the crushing pressures spawned by a harsh political climate, Pnoy appears to have lost his sense of control of a country teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state. As defined by Wikipedia, a failed state ensues when a central government becomes so weak or ineffective in stemming the rising tide of widespread corruption and a slumping economy. Another dimension of a failed state is erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions and inability to provide public services. Nowhere is such more exemplified than in Noam Chomsky’s book titled Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.
That, in a nutshell, seems foreboding and may be ascribed to the prevailing state of the nation. The emerging scenarios are dreadful – either Pnoy resigns or forced out office. Banking on self-serving popularity rating only whetted the pent-up public clamor for a drastic change in government, given the onslaught of street protests. Neither Pnoy’s propensity to play the blame game has helped him abate his sinking fate nor did it curb the likelihood of a mob rule in a country polarized by clashing vested interests. From his jailed predecessor Gloria Arroyo, Pnoy has now turned to media as his latest favorite whipping boy in heaping blame for his misfortunes in public office. Addressing mid this week foreign journalists, he warned them against falling prey into a conspiracy trap meant to link him to the pork scam.
“Our media and our people are far too good—far too wise—to be grossly and brazenly led to the wrong issue, Pnoy said. “Plunderers should be taken to account,” he added, a stance only eliciting mixed views from hard-nosed newsmen.
Though Aquino enjoys the backing of the men in uniform, past bitter lessons showed how they hastily abandoned and dumped the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his predecessors Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo when their hold on power was no longer tenable in the face of mounting public outcry over corruption scandals.
Whether such tragic ending would eventually befall on Aquino remains to be seen as the country’s political complexion remains highly fluid.
While anything can happen, one thing is sure – Pnoy can’t keep his guards down.
Undoubtedly, the highly divisive pork barrel scam has sapped Pnoy’s political will to govern and only exacerbated the people’s loss of trust in him. This early, egging on the 53-year-old bachelor president to quit is like asking for the moon as most lawmakers in both houses of Congress had been exposed as Aquino’s paid hacks through the pork barrel system, the reason why calls for impeachment against him landed on deaf ears. Contrary to his self-projected image as an “incorruptible” president, Pnoy has already gained notoriety for resorting to money politics as evidenced by how he plotted the ouster of then chief justice Renato Corona. So far, there’s no palpable sign as yet on who the people would prefer to succeed Pnoy should current tensions lead to an abrupt end to his six-year reign in power. By operation of law, Vice president Jejomar Binay is next in line, but not necessarily as he has to reckon with the distortions and aberrations of the country’s political history. If we recall, the late senator Arturo Tolentino as the “duly-elected” vice president was supposed to succeed Marcos following the fraud-marred snap polls.
Quirks in Politics
But due to unknown quirks in politics, an unexpected civilian-backed 1986 military revolt intervened, catapulting then plain housewife Corazon Aquino to power notwithstanding her hesitance and inexperience. As in the case of the late democracy icon, an unlikely figure may yet emerge if the current pressure-packed political scene persists.
Who Could She/He Be?
Scanning the horizons, the people are understandably sick and tired of recycling the scalawags in politics – the old and new trapos. Topping the list are the two highly respected captains of the industry – Manuel V. Pangilinan and Ramon S. Ang, both at the helm of publicly listed consumer-oriented conglomerates. Like Pangilinan, Ang faced challenges in turning around San Miguel Corp. (SMC) from an inward-looking company to one of today’s formidable Asian corporate behemoths.
From traditional lines of business anchored on beer, packaging and food, SMC has diversified to cost-intensive strategic industries in what analysts described as a “calculated risk” in a highly competitive environment. Adding power, mining, telecoms, oil, aviation and other related ventures to SMC’s investment portfolio had paid off in that these broadened the conglomerate’s market base, both locally and internationally. Thanks to Ang’s bold forays, SMC has been raking in record-breaking revenues which currently translate to about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, a corporate feat indeed for a homegrown conglomerate. Under Ang’s stewardship, SMC has set its sight on achieving what had long remained on its drawing board – whopping revenues of U$50 billion by 2018 as it plans to acquire new businesses and expand existing ones. By and large, the target is nearly three times what SMC made in 2011, when it ended the year with US$17.5 billion in turnover. Known for his management prowess, Ang initially pegged a US$20 billion revenue target for 2015 but revised it upward in that by end of 2012, the conglomerate had already achieved its goal.
Singapore and Thailand
“Before, when we set a target of US$10 billion, people said, ‘That’s unbelievable!’ But we were able to achieve that. It happened. So that’s why we increased our target. From US$20 billion, we are hoping to reach US $50 billion revenue in the next 5 years,” Ang told reporters.
An engineer by training, he led SMC last year in acquiring management control of the financially ailing Philippine Airlines (PAL) from the group of taipan Lucio Tan. From then on, the nation’s flag carrier underwent rapid changes, including a refleeting program estimated to cost SMC over US$1 billion in capital expenditure to sharpen its competitiveness in the global airline industry. Part of the deal includes PAL subsidiary Air Philippines, a budget airline. Critics may quickly hint of a possible conflict of interest should the tycoons take over the reins of power, an irritant that can be overcome in due time in a democratic setting. Though largely untested, technocracy, as evidenced by the country’s rapid corporate growth, may yet be the key to solving the nation’s decades-old problems of poverty, inequality and dispossession.
Singapore is a case in point. Most of its current crop of leaders — from the prime minister to cabinet members – was plucked out from the corporate sector and became popularly elected. With the stringent values of fiscal, ethics and management disciplines learned from their previous profit-driven businesses, they managed to transform the island city-state from what was once a “basket case” in the early ‘50s to a prosperous nation today with one of highest per capita incomes in Asia. Neighboring Thailand is another example, whose prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, comes from a family of corporate elites, the key drivers of the country’s rapid economic growth. Previously, her brother Thaksin, a tycoon, also served as prime minister.
In the Philippines, however, any sudden paradigm shift in a volatile and highly charged political atmosphere can be tumultuous, if not bloody.
- Editorial : Not So Perfect Alibi? (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- SC asked to stop PNoy’s dialogue on DAP (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Philippine Airlines Close To Getting a Partner (airlinenewsphilippines.wordpress.com)
- Ernesto Domingo (bigstory.ap.org)
- Ping bares PNoy govt’s ‘ugly side’ (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Standing on its own merits (benchpress86.wordpress.com)
- Billionaire Tan Considers Philippine Air Exit After Two Decades (bloomberg.com)
- Amid corruption worry, Aquino to reform govt fund (bigstory.ap.org)
- PAL flies to London (rappler.com)