OF COURSE this is all water under the bridge now, with Raul S. Roco almost a year into the Great Beyond. But let me engage in a little scenario-building exercise, prompted by the "secret" closed-door-but-not-so-secret-anymore dialogue organized by Malacañang.
If Roco were our president,
- that dialogue will, in the first place, not be secret because there's no need for it to be so. Of course, the opposition will be just as rowdy, but there won't be a "Hello Garci" that will underpin all efforts to impeach him;
- there will only be four, not five, "most serious" problems that will be discussed since legitimacy of his administration will not be one of these;
- providing decent livelihood to the increasing number of Filipinos will remain a formidable problem, as it is now, made worse by the raging conflict in Lebanon. But a more coherent population management program will be in place. Angelo de la Cruz will be hostaged by Iraqi militants, but will promptly be released as the Philippines did not join Bush's "Coalition of the Willing." Lara Precious Quigaman, the Oracion-Emata-Garduce conquest of Everest, the SEA games spectacle, and Manny Pacquiao's string of victories will all happen, as they did, but they will not be called upon to lend their sheen on a president's SONA (or SANA, as Lito Banayo appropriately called it) because Roco will have no need for borrowed glory;
- fund mobilization will have been easier. As a legitimate president, there will be no need to buy voracious representa-thieves to survive impeachment, thereby freeing these funds for more beneficial use. The 12% VAT will be strongly resisted, but a more transparent accounting of its proceeds would eventually mute opposition. A less corrupt administration will have an easier time securing multilateral financing for key initiatives of the government;
- peace and order wil not be as problematic as it is today. There will be no military clique lording it over a duly elected civilian authority. The Legal Left will not be persecuted: as such the Batasan 5 will not have come into being and the senseless killing of militants minimized as purely local incidents. There will be no need for CPR, PP 1017 and EO 464. But Mindanao will continue to remain a problem, especially as the threat from Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups will not be addressed as effectively, with the Bush administration angered and affronted by RP's refusal to join the Anglo-American coalition against Iraq; and
- education will be the top national government priority in terms of funding allocation, but there will be much less chance for it to be decentralized, unlike the initial efforts began during the incumbency of Edilberto de Jesus and Butch Abad.