More tricks up Gloria's sleeve?

The moment GMA raises the hand of Noli for President, he is as good as dead in the water. That is why they will spend billions to woo the voters beginning in 2001, via infrastructure, dole-outs, Phil Health, the whole shebang. And yes, don't forget the three-month, 50-centavo texting rate. Hahaha. Lokohan lang talaga ito.

Do you wonder why Ace Durano has TV ads ostensibly promoting tourism? And now, print ads, for the Tourism Events of the Month? It's because all their senatorial candidates are out of the Magic 12, being unwinnable and merely "recycled losers" (not my words but that of a respected academic, pero puwede na rin). Bong Revilla, the original Kabuki Mask, is teetering. Miriam Santiago, the former Wonder Woman of Philippine Politics -- how times have changed! -- is teetering. Dick Gordon, the Motormouth, is teetering. And Ralph Recto? The highest-ranking Admi boy will surley teeter, now that we are harvesting the wrath of VAT.

And Noli? Since the forces of darkness would not want Erap to run, as I said a month ago, the Presidency will be a close, dead-heat, snout-in-the-tape race among Noli, Loren and Mar.

And who is my bet to be President of 2010? Whose party will I join?

We will know in the next three months, when the parties hold their oath-taking, swearing-in, their grand chuvaness.

Or maybe, I will not join a party at all. -- Danton



Talk is cheap. Gloria Arroyo's State of the Nation Address was no exception. So when trying to get a sense of what an administration really intends to do in the coming year, we rely rather on the proposed budget than on a crazy quilt of promises which, at the end of the day, will most likely stay unredeemed.

The proposed budget apparently is still being fine-tuned, which is the executive department's right as the Constitution gives it 30 days after the opening of Congress to submit the proposed measure. The Palace, nonetheless, has quoted a ballpark figure of P1.4 trillion. Education will continue to get the biggest chunk of the budget as mandated by the Constitution. The Department of Public Works and Highways will get the next biggest share in line with Gloria's infrastructure-building thrust. The agriculture department is the third agency expecting to get more funds.

If there are more revenues raised than expected, then these will go to the social welfare and health departments, with most of the funds for the latter going to PhilHealth.

We can already see the spending thrust: infrastructure building, food production and social services. It does make sense. Infrastructure to sustain the growth momentum, increased farm output to avert another rice shortage, and a lifeline for those battered by the "perfect storm" of food and oil crises.

Exactly the right response to the challenges of the times, right? If somebody else was sitting in MalacaƱang, we might agree. But with the disposal of the P1.4 trillion (less, of course, debt service payments, payroll for the bureaucracy and funds for maintenance and operating expenses) at Gloria's discretion, we are more disturbed than reassured.

Out fear is that the proposed P1.4 trillion appropriation might end up as election year budget coming a full year before the fact. Infrastructure building is the source of the usual 20 percent for the thieves. Stepped-up agricultural production was the cover for Joc Joc Bolante's diversion of funds to the campaign chest of the administration in 2004. Social welfare assistance - "Katas ng VAT," for example - is obviously meant to head off an expected rout of candidates identified with Gloria similar to that which took place in 2007.

More funds for PhilHealth is another tip off. Remember the enrollment of millions of the poor in the health insurance program in the run-up to the 2004 elections and their delisting after the votes had been counted?

The people, we fear, are being set up for another grand robbery. The apparent prize is the presidency in 2010. Vice President Noli de Castro, however, should hold the bubbly. We said "apparent." Gloria has more tricks to turn than a streetwalker.

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