By IGNACIO R. BUNYE
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has many “formers” in her colorful resume — former academician, former government technocrat, former senator, former vice president cum cabinet member, former president, former Forbes Magazine 4th most powerful woman in the world, former detainee, former house speaker.
She is only the second woman to become President of the Philippines. But she is the first and so far the only female speaker of the House of Representatives.
She is only the second president to be criminally charged and detained.
But justifiably, the Supreme Court, voting 11-4, dismissed the charges against her.
In effect, the high court ruled that she did not pocket P50 million of PCSO funds as alleged. She did not pocket P1 million. She did not even pocket a single peso.
Compared to both her predecessors and her successors, Arroyo is the least popular.
But she delivered where it counted most. Being only the second economist to be elected President (her father President Diosdado Macapagal was the first) she was laser-focused on growing the economy and in significantly reducing the country’s poverty incidence.
Even her harshest critics will find it difficult to dispute these numbers which my good friend Tony Lopez of BizNewsAsia likes to highlight.
During her tenure as president, Lopez asserts, Arroyo nearly tripled the size of the Philippine economy from $74 billion in 2001 to more than $200 billion in 2010.
Governor/Congressman Joey Salceda — a former student to whom the president gave the highest marks in her economics class — credits the Arroyo presidency for establishing a record period of continuous quarterly growth even at the height of the 2008 global financial crisis when other economies floundered.
During her 9-year presidency, the poverty rate dropped 13 percent – from 39 percent to 26 percent.
Incoming House Majority FloorleaderMartin Romualdez attributes this to Arroyo’s pro-poor projects like the affordable housing units and conditional cash transfer program for the poorest of the poor.
Analysts attribute Arroyo’s achievements to her bold, albeit unpopular, fiscal reforms.
The principal of these was the implementation of the EVAT which provided the wherewithal which allowed her administration to invest in human and physical infrastructure.
Good macro-economic fundamentals eventually resulted in an investment grade rating for the country. The improved rating has made the Philippines more attractive and more competitive in the global stage.
The one-year stint of Arroyo as House speaker in the 17th Congress was no less productive. The legislative priorities of the Duterte administration – identified in the last SONA – were all passed. Among them were the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), measures helping coconut farmers and fisherfolks, the second tranch of the tax reform law or the Trabaho bill, and the expanded PhilHealth coverage.
Arguably, her career is ending on a high note.
I had the privilege of serving as her press secretary/presidential spokesman for almost six years. My tenure was longer than the average shelf life of a cabinet member in that high-pressure job. At one time, I even served as acting executive secretary.
Up close and personal, I had the opportunity to observe and admire her best traits — hard work, discipline, decisiveness, and deep abiding faith.
Good luck, Mrs. President/Mrs. Speaker. Godspeed.
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