I am not running for Senator but…(Part 1)

We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

 Preamble of the 1987 Constitution

 

The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.

 Article 2, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution

 

The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.

 Article 2, Section 9 of the 1987 Constitution

 

The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.

 Article 2, Section 10 of the 1987 Constitution

 

(Emphasis mine)

 

MAKATI, Philippines – Free the people from poverty.

Photo from Intellasia.net

Photo from Intellasia.net

The quoted passages above from the 1987 Philippine Constitution all come before Article 2, Section 11 which covers the guarantee of human rights. Whether by design or by circumstance, the framers of the Constitution seem to have understood the inequality existing in our country – an inequality which consigns the majority of our people to eternal poverty.

Article 2 is the Declaration of Principles and State Policies. It is supposed to convey who we are as a people and our aspirations as to how we would like things to be. All these, however, are just words.

Our company has our Annual Budget and Operating Plan sessions where we look at how we did in the past year and how we plan to do better in the following year. It is a gruelling event for those who have to present their performance and their budgets and for those who have to critique the people making the presentations. I noticed that the presentation preparations always seemed to take an inordinate amount of attention. This is, of course, relative. Relative to what? Relative to the amount of time they should be spending executing the plan that they present and monitoring their performance relative to their plan. I tell them – presenting a plan should be easy; the hard part is actually executing it.

So it is with our Constitution and its Declaration of Principles and State Policies. Declaring these principles and policies is one thing; making sure the principles are observed and the policies followed is another.  More than abiding by principles and following policies, however, it must be remembered that these are all just means to an end. And that end is to provide a better life for our people.

The good thing about our annual (and 5-year) plan is that there are specific and measurable benchmarks that we set out to achieve, there is a robust review process and accountability is easily identifiable. Such is generally not the case with government.

Despite that, it is sad that over 25 years (hey did we even celebrate this?) after the Constitution was ordained and promulgated, the promises it contains have not been fulfilled. Fairly typical, I would say.

In all honesty, other than lawyers, who actually gives a damn about the Philippine Constitution? For those who know it exists, well – it exists. For the vast majority of Filipinos, – ano ba ‘yan?

Making the Constitution and its promises come alive is a shared responsibility of the three branches of government. If we seriously think about where we would want our country to be, 28 years after the EDSA Revolution, we really haven’t gotten anywhere. To be frank, wala talagang nangyayari at mangyayari sa atin unless baguhin natin ang makitid nating pag-iisip.

We currently bask in the glow of (presumed) world attention (maybe I overstate this, oh well) due to PNoy’s TIME 100 appearance, the current absolute and relative strength of the economy and the investment-grade rating by Fitch. This attention does reflect acknowledgment of some substantive work particularly by our economic managers in the current and previous administration.

On the other hand, the poor in our country remain poor. I kinda felt for Dr. Arsenio Balicasan, the head of NEDA, for having to explain why the rate of poverty incidence had remained practically unchanged over the past 6 years blunting the otherwise rosy economic picture. It also lays to waste the (prematurely) touted impact of the centrepiece Conditional Cash Transfer program of the PNoy administration.

Of course, we hear and will continue to hear that “the trickle down effect of the economic growth that we have seen will take time before it reaches the rest of the population” or words to that effect. That sounds logical enough. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

Lifting someone out of poverty is a simple proposition that is difficult to achieve under our current circumstances. It entails providing opportunities to generate income, ensuring the stability of that income and providing for mechanisms to save some of that income to build wealth. While our country is currently in the midst of an economic expansion, it is difficult to imagine this expansion as being significantly sustainable. It is also probably close to impossible to imagine it making a permanent difference to the rate of poverty incidence. Moreover, given that poverty incidence is calculated based on a rate as a percentage of the population, what this actually means is that mas dumami ang naging mahirap dahil tumaas din ang dami ng Pilipino sa kabuuan.

At this point, whatever lift that economic expansion has given to increase individual incomes, mechanisms to retain this income to build wealth are not accessible to all. That is assuming that the typical Filipino can even save. Sa ngayon – kung ano man ang kinikita, nagagastos kaagad kasi kulang pa nga ito sa pang araw-araw na gastusin. So – sino ang yumayaman? Sa madaling sabi ang mga kasulukuyang mayayaman ay lalong yumayaman, at yung kasulukuyang mahihirap ay mahirap pa rin. Walang “trickle down effect” kasi ang kasulukuyang kalakaran does not lend itself to this economic theory.

Everything in the Philippines is stacked against the poor. They have no meaningful voice, they are many but are not organized and oh yes – they have no money.

It is unfortunate but it will take a revolution in thinking and doing to change this sad state of affairs. Many who can do something about this don’t want to do it because it changes the status quo to which they owe their standing in life. Many more don’t know care. Those who care are either too few to matter or are pursuing the wrong solutions. And of course, there are always those who seem to care but are only out to get more votes.

Yet – a solution to freeing our people from poverty is out there. It has been done before. Many other countries are in the same boat as we are. Some have not done anything about it, some have done a little something about it and some are doing a lot about it. In his book, The Mystery of Capital, the economist, Hernando de Soto, cites these countries as having the following, among others, in common:

  • Strong underground economies;
  • Glaring inequality;
  • Pervasive mafias; and,
  • Flagrant disregard for the law.

 Sound familiar?

Yet, there is a way out.

 

(To be continued.  In Part 2 – the long, hard (but doable) road to freeing Filipinos from poverty and it’s not a through a POLITICAL DYNASTY LAW.)

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