Without prejudging the culpability of the principals of any pre-need firm in the Philippines, I sought the advice of Mme. Fortuna. She holds court in a little shack by the Boracay beach, in clear violation of the Philippine penal code which punishes fortune-telling and similar scams. Apparently, the criminal statutes also do not apply to fortune-telling by stock market touts. (“Pssst… buy Meralco cheap, and sell at P150 at the eve of the next shareholder meeting!”)
Mme. Fortuna (MF for short, though she is actually a tall 6’ 1”) has a very cute twist on the woes of the aggrieved victims of pre-need firms, or those “holding the bag.” She laments that the bag was not trade-marked LV or KS (the latter for Kate Spade, of course). Had that been the case, there would be no crying shame despite a dramatic fall in the new business of branded bags which would compound the current global economic crisis. You can imagine the bag factories in China closing shop, the ad babes in New York lining up for unemployment checks, and junior matronas lamenting the new low in the valuation of their prized possessions.
MF is no stranger to American tort cases, having benefited indirectly from the settlement in the famous hot McDonald’s coffee case. First, she says, “Sue the a**holes.” She sees the matter as breach of both contract and faith and trust. Second, she suggests lighting up, literally, the Wednesday novenas (nine Wednesdays, don’t forget) and praying for the wannabe-Madoffs of the Philippines to “see the light.” That would be the lightness and freedom of no longer having any material assets. Some hippie once sang that freedom is just another word – “for nothing left to lose.”
Third, and this takes the cake or bibingka, MF suggests The Great Philippine Pre-Need Bailout Act (TGPPBA), to be sponsored by Mr. Palengke himself. It will give every plan holder of a failed pre-need firm a check for P1 million, no questions asked. MF has an economist on retainer, whose name she keeps a trade secret, who forecasts with extreme gravitas that TGPPBA will be the best fiscal stimulus to firewall the Philippine economy from the Great Depression II. Why is this? Even before TGPPBA is enacted, every Juan, Pedro, and Paulo will line up to subscribe to at least ten new pre-need plans, with visions of 10 million big ones in their Red-Horse-shot eyes. Every pre-need firm will get in on the act, with or without a SEC license, since, as clearly stated, P1 million is to be given, “NO QUESTIONS ASKED.”
What can be so wrong with TGPPBA? Nothing at all. The operators of pre-need firms will be proclaimed the new heroes of the strong republic, three notches higher than OFWs, and seven of them will be given the Great Order of Sikatuna in pomp and ceremony. Who will pay for all this happiness? Of course, the Great E-VAT is there, just like J. P. Morgan at the time of the US panic of 1907. It will be raised to 15%, as suggested by the fiscal deficit doves (the IMF says that “fiscal deficits are bad, really bad!”). And the Philippine economy will live happily ever after.