THE propaganda blitz waged by the Arroyo government uses the Tagalog catchphrase, which roughly translated means "This was how we were then,

this is how we are now."

A comparison that the opposition usually asks the people to consider during elections: Are you better off now than when the outgoing president, mayor, governor, or congressman started his term?

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The query recurs every time the rulers seek a new mandate. President Arroyo isn't seeking reelection but she's running for a House seat and, possibly, the powerful position of speaker.

The Arroyo administration this time has wrested initiative from enemies and answered the question itself with what it claims as "facts and numbers." In a way her critics are now on the defensive; it's they who must disprove the claim.

There are twin motives for selling the idea that Filipinos are better off now than when she started her rule in 2001: (1) to show she ruled the country well and thus would make a competent congresswoman and speaker and (2) to improve the kind of image she's leaving as part of her legacy.

Not fair

Comparing things then with things now is obviously neither accurate nor fair: People tend to romanticize the past and gloss over faults of the present. People's expectations usually run over, thus making yesterday look much better than today.

Three years from now, people would blame leaders in that time with the same or greater heat as they castigate incumbent leaders.

And we love scapegoats: We heap blame on government and public officials for our own misfortunes and sad lives.