Nakaya natin ito, FVR!

Published August 4, 2022, 12:02 AM

by Diwa C. Guinigundo

Diwa C. Guinigundo

OF SUBSTANCE AND SPIRIT

Nothing was trivial for FVR, for at the time he was gunning for the presidency, every little support meant the world for him. There was no mistaking that FVR seemed to hold no chance at all. The New York Times reported on Dec. 1, 1991 that Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino chose Speaker Ramon Mitra as its candidate in the May 1992 presidential election, rejecting Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos. He was stranger to the political mainstream.

His bounce back was inarguably one for the books. FVR gathered  what people described as a ragtag of politicians and formed the Lakas-National Union of Christian Democrats and ran against Mitra and five other candidates namely, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Danding Cojuangco, Imelda Marcos, Jovito Salonga and Salvador Laurel.

FVR succeeded to get 5.34 million votes or 23.58 percent of the total votes cast, narrowly defeating the second placer, Defensor-Santiago, who received 4.47 million or 19.72 percent of the votes. FVR was therefore a minority president.

Many Christians during this time collectively decided to pray and fast, seeking God’s leading in the 1992 presidential election, the first under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. All the seven presidential candidates were invited to explain their platforms of government. Nearly all of them came prepared. A few months before the election, prophet Bishop Bill Hamon came to minister to the Church in the Philippines, sharing with them a word about the faith of the next president. After a season of prayer and fasting, many Christians agreed among themselves to support FVR.

It was rather challenging to put a number to what the Christians managed to rally for FVR, but he was more than grateful for their modest support. He always accommodated their invitation to attend mass gatherings of Christians for various causes of national interest. As more servants of God came around, visiting the Philippines which was then becoming a darling destination of tourists and investors alike, FVR would enjoy those rare opportunities to hear the Word and to be prayed for.

A couple of months after FVR assumed the presidency on June 30, 1992. I was seconded as a senior economist and later head of research of the SEACEN (Southeast Asian Central Banks) Research and Training Center based in Kuala Lumpur. One year into my secondment, FVR visited the city with some of his cabinet members including then PNB President later first BSP Governor Gabby Singson. Governor Gabby introduced me to FVR and to then Senator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. One year later, Governor Gabby asked me to return to the BSP with the blessing of my former boss at the SEACEN Center, Dr. Vin Valdepeñas, Jr. I had three more years to serve my full term as newly promoted research head.

Where was FVR in all this?

Because the Chief Executive and the CEO of the BSP shared the same birthday, one year apart and born in the same barangay in Pangasinan, FVR would always come to the BSP to personally collect the huge facsimile of the BSP’s dividend cheque to the government from Governor Gabby. With him to hold the facsimile on the other side was former Finance Secretary Bobby de Ocampo.

During this time, we would regale FVR with all our latest innovations in making the country’s economic and financial statistics available on-line to the public. In another occasion, he would stay back and see our latest dashboard information with respect to keeping our external debt sustainable, or where we were in the business cycle. He found it interesting to view our special exhibits on inflation dynamics and the BSP’s mandate to keep prices stable.

FVR was never clueless during those technical presentations. He would be more than glad to type, click the mouse and search the cyberspace for some BSP data. On our debt situation, we were stunned when he asked whether we had started to source our funding from the voluntary capital markets. For the Brady bond exchange for the country’s unpaid loans from the commercial banks had just taken off a few years back. His next question was pointed: So that’s why we are selling Eurobonds to repurchase our Brady bonds? FVR was familiar with the proposed sale of $1.9 billion in Eurobonds to retire the country’s Brady bonds collateralized by US Treasuries. We explained the operation would strengthen our reputation as a credit-worthy economy, allow the good macroeconomic fundamentals increase market confidence, and over time, help access funds from the voluntary markets more cheaply.

We and our staff would receive FVR’s profuse thanks and in his usual style, he would leave our exhibit nook, with his right thumb up and exhort us, “kaya natin yan.”

FVR could surprise anyone with anything. Once, before the Asian Financial Crisis, FVR was the guest speaker of Governor Gabby who hosted the annual meeting of the Southeast Asian central bank governors. As we were fixing the program for that night’s event at the Manila Hotel, I was summoned by some of his presidential security. “Wanted ka ni FVR!” I immediately ran to the convention hall to find FVR trading jokes with the other central bank governors and Dr. Vin. When he saw me, he said, “Halika.” He asked his aide for something and his aide produced 10 copies of signed Time magazine with FVR’s face on its cover. I still keep those precious souvenirs from FVR minus those copies I distributed to my siblings for some bragging rights.

Yes, FVR came to power as a minority president. Always cool under fire, he and his solid achievements should more than convince all of us that he deserves our thumbs up. Nakaya natin ito!

 
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