WE HOPE that President Macapagal-Arroyo, on this visit to the United States, will not try again to wangle a meeting with President-elect Barack Obama, or even try to call him to offer belated congratulations. She may suffer a third snub, and succeed only in embarrassing not just herself but the Filipino nation.
It is not difficult to speculate why Obama has been avoiding Ms Arroyo. Aside from the fact that the Philippines does not figure importantly in the US' geopolitical scheme of things, Ms Arroyo is not exactly a political figure that Obama, who ran on a platform of change and would like to project a good, clean image, would want to be seen with. The nation's experience with Ms Arroyo the past eight years shows that she is the quintessence of the traditional politician.
But what if Obama relents and gives Maam her 5-minute photo-op in NY?
Obama is an intelligent, smart leader and he must be up-to-date on what's happening in various parts of the world. He probably knows that Ms Arroyo is held in low esteem not only in her own country but in parts of the world that value honor, integrity and honesty in government leaders.
The Philippines, during the incumbency of Ms Arroyo, has sunk lower in standing in terms of corruption. The Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy last March found the Philippines to have the worst corruption rating among Asia's 13 biggest economies. A World Bank study in July said that corruption in the Philippines is perceived to be the worst among East Asia's leading economies. Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index, released in October, showed the Philippines way down at 141 among 180 countries surveyed.
Forty-two percent of the respondents in a Pulse Asia poll in October considered Ms Arroyo "the most corrupt president in Philippine history." She "surpassed" even Marcos, who was featured in an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the "biggest robbery" [of the national treasury] of $5-10 billion.
Obama probably has an inkling of the world-class graft and corruption that is taking place in the Philippines, and of the suspected complicity of Ms Arroyo and her husband in some of the multibillion-peso deals like the $329-million NBN-ZTE project and the P728-million fertilizer scam.
He probably knows about the human rights record of the Arroyo administration: 933 activists and militants killed and 199 missing or disappeared, and 59 journalists killed. He probably knows something about the report of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston who criticized the executive branch and the military for their apparent failure to stop the spate of extrajudicial killings. He probably has read reports about the attempts of the Arroyo administration to suppress the freedom of the press and freedom of expression and to restrict the people's right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for the redress of their grievances.
But what if he isn't up to speed with the current Philippine affairs?