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'Confidence is Key'
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says that she can restore it

Bracing for the fallout: As Manila's crisis deepens, a nightmare scenario looms: a new Asian Crisis
Unbowed Under Fire: A powerful coalition builds against him, but Estrada remains defiant

s the next in line to succeed Joseph Estrada if he is forced to go, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo insists it would be "improper" for her to call on her boss to resign. But it's clear that the 53-year-old vice president reckons her time is near. She has already distanced herself from Estrada. On Oct. 11 she stepped down from his cabinet, in which she held the politically plum portfolio of secretary of social welfare and development. And six days later she declared: "They [Estrada's critics] are looking for a united opposition. In their call to action, I shall not disappoint them."

The best thing going for Arroyo is her name. She is the daughter of the deeply loved late president Diosdado Macapagal (the Arroyo part stems from her marriage to landowner, lawyer and businessman Miguel Arroyo, with whom she has three children). An economist who was once a classmate of U.S. President Clinton's at Washington's Georgetown University, Arroyo served as a senator before being elected v.p. in 1998 and joining the current administration. She spoke by telephone with Asiaweek's Antonio Lopez — and sounded very much like a president-in-waiting. Excerpts:

Should the president resign?

It's improper and self-serving for me to comment on that because I am the constitutional successor — except to say I will follow the Constitution.

Is the current gambling scandal hurting the economy?

Yes. It has diminished business confidence. It has also shocked the people.

As an economist, how would you tackle the peso-dollar problem?

Restore the confidence of businesses and the civil society in our government, in our country. Even if you raise interest rates, if there is no confidence, nothing will happen. Confidence is the most important thing, not the specific palliatives.

Should there be an investigation into the bribery scandal?

The truth has to be found out, yes . . . [But] we should not belabor what is already wrong because everybody is already doing that. People have already done the bashing. We should go beyond that. I want to move forward.


We have to be bold in our national ambitions. First, we must win the fight against poverty within the next decade. Second, we must improve moral standards in government and society to provide a strong foundation for good governance. Third, we must change the character of our politics to promote fertile ground for reforms. In a global arena, what our businessmen need in order to be competitive is transparency and a level playing-field. Finally, leadership by example. We must promote solid traits such as work ethics, a dignified lifestyle, matching actions to rhetoric, performance rather than grandstanding.

It's been said that you also are linked to illegal jueteng gambling because one of the biggest gambling lords, Bong Pineda, comes from your very hometown.
Isn't that silly to link me to jueteng just because we come from the same town? Look at my lifestyle. Is my social life entwined with their social life? Do I play mahjong with them, travel with them, drink with them? I am a godmother of one of his children, but that is the custom, to have the highest official in the town be a sponsor. And I even asked Cardinal Sin about the propriety of accepting being godmother of a child of somebody with a dubious reputation. Cardinal Sin told me it is my obligation to accept because the sin of the father is not the sin of the child.

What do Filipinos have to help them survive this crisis?

The same character that made them survive what preceded [the People Power revolt in 1986]: their moral bearings and their love for democracy.

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