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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The economic costs of the alternative reality of Leni Robredo, the EU and the New York Times


FOUR out of five residents of Metro Manila feel safer because of the war on drugs, according to a survey conducted by Pulse Asia from December 6 to 11 of last year.

Nine out of 10 Filipinos, or 91 percent, are happy and satisfied with life, according to a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations from December 3 to 6.

Yet, in her six-minute speech which was delivered, albeit through a video-taped message, at a forum on the human rights challenges in responding to extra-judicial killings sponsored by DRC Net Foundation, a side event to the 60th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting held in Vienna, Austria on March 16, 2017, Leni Robredo painted a different Philippines. She boldly claimed that Filipinos “…feel both hopeless and helpless – a state of mind that we must all take seriously.” She presented a Philippines whose people are so disempowered and threatened because of the war on drugs.

In her attempt to paint a country in a state of horror, she lied. She gave patently false statistics on deaths from the war on drugs by claiming that as of the date she videotaped her speech, there were already 7,000 deaths from summary executions. It takes a big leap to label as deaths from summary execution those that happened in legitimate police operations, where armed suspected drug pushers and users engage the police in a shootout.

Even Mrs. Robredo, in a later interview with a radio station, admitted that she did not claim that all those deaths were drug-related. Hence, she made a deliberate misrepresentation not only in claiming that every death in that 7,000 figure is from summary executions, but also when she used the statistics in a speech on drug-related extra-judicial killings. To an uninformed mind, who doesn’t have knowledge of the real statistics, her failure to clearly state that not all the 7,000 deaths were drug-related gave the impression that they were.

And her failure to do so became a cost which our economy will have to bear, since it has serious implications on our economic outlook and prospects.

Three credit-rating agencies have just given the Philippines stable-to-positive outlooks. Standard & Poor and Moody’s both gave us a stable outlook. And Fitch gave us a positive outlook. A credit rating measures the credit worthiness of the country, and has a bearing on the cost of borrowing.

Our economy is positively positioned to take on the development challenge, but that has been undermined by Robredo’s alternative reality.

The 7,000-worth of lies that Robredo told, based on a faulty mathematical logic of Rappler, furthered the negative image of our country in the eyes of the international community.

The European Union, through its Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malstrom, has threatened to punish our promising economy. We face the risk of losing our tariff-free privileges for our exports to EU member countries, which cover about 6,000 products.Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez estimates that this would reduce our trade revenues by as much as 19 percent.

The New York Times, which has taken on the role of being an active critic of the President’s war on drugs, picked up this threat. In an editorial, it reproduced the 7,000 worth of lies about deaths from the war on drugs. It also had the audacity to echo the EU’s position, and exhorted other trading partners to do the same, and punish the Philippines by imposing import tariffs on Philippine goods. This will make our exports expensive, and can drive down demand.

The EU and the New York Times would like the Filipino people to suffer the consequences. It will not be President Duterte who will bear the brunt of the economic backlash of reduced exports. It will be our economy, specifically our people who depend on the export sector for their livelihood and employment. What is in fact being done by EU and the New York Times is economic blackmail, if not sabotage.

In her speech, Leni Robredo talked of a country whose approach to the drug problem must recognize the link between poverty and inequality, and drug use.

Yet, the discourse within which her speech is found, which is also replicated by her political allies, and that feeds into the international arena, as now articulated by the EU and the New York Times, threatens to cripple an economy whose credit ratings are ranging from stable to positive. Losses in exports can translate to people losing jobs, and budget cuts for government spending on public goods aimed at reducing poverty.

In spinning an alternative reality about the Philippines, by stating false statistics and unverified “palit-ulo” allegations, Leni Robredo has practically provided ammunition to the adversarial international community which the EU and the New York Times inhabit.

She has practically aided and abetted the intent to commit economic blackmail.

Had we been in a state of war, this would have amounted to treason.


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