magkano ang dignidad ng pilipino?

The problems of the country are many. The solutions are elusive. You look to the next presidential election for someone who can build on the gains of the current dispensation. Revolutionary progress is what you long for, someone who can lead us towards a great leap forward. Sadly there is no one who fits the bill.

Why the great leap forward? Well, the world has left us behind. And the gap only grows wider as we bicker among ourselves on petty things like who graduated from Wharton or problems of our own making, e.g. Metro Manila traffic.

Even if we were somehow able to correctly diagnose the root cause/s of our challenges and start working on the right remedies for these problems, we would still be at least half a generation away from seeing and feeling tangible progress. This is what makes the conduct of the current presidential race unbearably frustrating.

This early, I see the 2016 election as another lost opportunity in a long line of missed opportunities. The current line-up of candidates focuses so much on destroying each other. This leads me to believe that none of them have a comprehensive plan for government which would at least start to chip away at the gap between us and the rest of the world or dig us out of a hole that we have been digging for ourselves since well – forever.

I cannot even disagree with anyone’s platform of government because either they don’t have a sensible one or don’t have one at all. Motherhood statements as the entirety of one’s platform of government are so frustrating because of the sense that they are made for the sake of having a platform. They lack the substance that would make one believe na nag-iisip ang taong ito. And to think that having such substance is just the first step towards progress. The actual doing and what comes before that are certainly more important in attaining tangible progress. It is sad but wala akong nakikita na kandidato sa pagka-Presidente na nagdadala nito sa hinaharap natin na halalan.

My imagined ideal candidate would:

1. Focus on the elimination of barriers that keep the majority of our people poor. Economic inequality has engendered social inequality made worse by the fact that we don’t admit that it exists. Tangible steps towards this would include:

– a total makeover of the educational system which currently produces uncompetitive graduates. The educational system should be made more rigorous with students who fail being made to go back. Substantially more funding should be channelled to teacher education to make them better, well – teachers.

– remove economic barriers which have served to protect entrenched interests. This would include the removal of foreign ownership limits on industry to generate competition; a competition law with teeth; amendment of existing laws which limit competition.

– building on agrarian reform by re-directing or otherwise increasing financial and technical support to the beneficiaries of the program. We have spent so much on buying land to be distributed yet the promise of better stewardship of the land by the beneficiaries has not been realized as evidenced by agriculture continuing to be a dead industry.

– incentivising research and development in agriculture and manufacturing/ technology. We cannot forever be servants to the rest of the world by an overly skewed focus on providing services (e.g. OFWs, BPOs). We need to be building things para sila naman bumili sa atin.

– a strong Freedom of Information law.

2. Reduce the size of national government. We are definitely not getting our money’s worth with the inefficient delivery of government services. Continue to reduce the number of GOCCs by privatizing what can be privatized and shuttering those which have outlived their usefulness or failed their mandates. Reduce administrative/services positions of line agencies by further automation/ technological solutions. Remove layers of middle-management. Consolidate what can be consolidated. Do attrition through normal means (retirement/resignation) and extraordinary means (one-time separation benefit). Use some of the savings to increase compensation of smaller bureaucracy to match private sector compensation to attract more candidates for public service.

3. We cannot beat China, or any other interested country for that matter, in a shooting match over our territory. The best we can hope for is a military that can hold on until help arrives from allied countries. That is not being defeatist, it is being realistic. As such, our military should be built through training (including on strategy and tactics), organization and equipment focused on finally ending internal insurgencies. The police cannot do it. Do not overspend on a military that will not be able to withstand external aggression on its own. Continue to be aggressive with multilateral initiatives to defend our territorial integrity.

4. Stop focusing on resolving the problems of Metro Manila and start focusing on the problems of the whole country. Build infrastructure elsewhere. Be more aggressive with geographic economic incentives to build industry outside the current capital. Give people in Metro Manila incentives to go to other economic centers.

5. For the second time, rebuild our educational system. This is that important. Make it simple – math, science, english, critical thinking. Make it more difficult, more rigorous. Provide support for after-school programs (nutrition, tutoring) for those who need it.

6. Give more to local governments. They know more about what they need. They are closer to the people, they will become more accountable the closer they are to those they serve. Some local governments will be better than others. Some local governments will be more corrupt than others. That is what we have now, so what’s new. By giving more resources and responsibilities to local governments, those which are better at governance will reward those they serve with a better quality of life. Give people the opportunity to come closer to determining their own destiny. To curb excesses, strengthen national accountability bodies (COA, Ombudsman, CHR). Yes – this is a path towards a Federal state. The Philippines can no longer rely on a national government to do everything for everyone.

7. Most crimes that are committed in our country can be directly correlated to poverty or the lack of economic opportunity. This not only includes crimes against property but also crimes against people. Problems in our criminal justice system are mere symptoms of a more insiduous problem which are meant to be addressed by the other points in this platform. Yes – there are other crimes that fall outside the economic opportunity generalization and its solutions lie in making these difficult to commit, making them easy to detect and prosecute and making their consequences severe (motherhood statement, I know, but can be addressed later).

These would be the things I would lay out as a platform of government. It is a platform whose ultimate aim is more than the eradication of all forms of inequality in our country but rather ang pagkakaroon ng dignidad ng bawat Pilipino sa sarili niyang bansa. A dignity that allows him to provide for the needs of his family sa marangal na paraan. A dignity that allows him to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone in his own country. A dignity that he knows will allow his children to be proud of him in his own country.


i have a vote. i have choices. i don’t have a choice.

filipino_child_watching.jpgILOILO CITY – After 9 years of Martial Law, Ferdinand Marcos decided to hold a presidential election. The 1981 presidential elections is largely forgotten because it was a presidential election in name only with the outcome a foregone conclusion. Most of the mainstream opposition parties, stripped by Martial Law of its leaders (either in exile or in jail) boycotted the elections which they had no chance of winning anyway. The “main” challenger to Marcos was Alejo Santos of the Nacionalista Party (NP). By this time, the NP had split, with Santos put up by the NP-Roy wing as a candidate. Another candidate, Bartolome Cabangbang, ran under the Federalist Party. Cabangbang campaigned on the singular goal of making the Philippines, the 51st state of the United States of America.

The final tally – Marcos: 88%, Santos: 8%, Cabangbang:3% and Others: 1%.

I daresay Mr. Cabangbang was a visionary ahead of his time. A dated but still relevant article in the Atlantic by James Fallows entitled, A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines includes this quote, “This is a country where the national ambition is to change your nationality.” Mr. Cabangbang’s campaign for statehood might actually garner more than 3% in the 1981 elections if he were to run today.

I remember Mr. Cabangbang well not because of his being a presidential candidate. I remember Mr. Cabangbang because one of my titas said she was voting for him because faced with no decent choice, a vote for Mr. Cabangbang represented a conscience vote – a vote of protest.

The run-up to the 2016 elections has been quite messy. Filing pa lang ng candidacy, magulo na. Instead of focusing on the candidates and figuring who the best possible president of this country could be, we are instead left with the legal nuances of whether this or that candidate can actually run for President. The same goes for the candidates, instead of selling themselves to the voters, they are instead distracted by the fight to go on the ballot in the first place.

My two-cents worth. Sen. Llamanzares should just sit this one out. I have no sympathy for the plight that she currently finds herself in. It is easy to get lost and get confused by the natural-born and residency issues against her. These are separate issues. I stand with her in her being a natural-born citizen. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that her “staff” erred in filing her Certificate of Candidacy for Senator which led to the “questioned” entry regarding her residency. I also agree that her “alleged” use of her US passport in September, 2011 does not invalidate her claim to fulfilling the residency requirement of a President. The real question is – is she capable of fulfilling what I, as a Filipino, would like to see my President do? IMHO, the answer is No.

I know she desperately wants to help. Yet – she is not ready. Her litany of a platform of government as unveiled in her declaration speech lacks substance (with no substance provided since then). She cites these as her priorities but having too many priorities means that none of them are priorities. I have not seen a realistic and logical pathway that she has enunciated for her to attain these priorities. At best, I see this as a wishlist of idealistic goals from a well-meaning lady but with no reasonable road map to realization.

Sen. Llamanzares is not ready. A significant part of being a President is being an administrator. The administrator of the largest entity of this country. She may pooh pooh those who bash her for her lack of experience. On the other hand, I see this absence of administrative experience as a severe and significant handicap to achieving what she has herself set out to do. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines is not the MTRCB. No one can really prepare for being President. Yet  I fear that her limited understanding and experience in managing an entity leaves her susceptible to being taken advantage of.

Mayor Duterte cannot run in 2016. That is my own conclusion but I am not the Supreme Court. He cannot run because of defects in Mr. Dino’s COC. I am willing to grant that Mr. Dino was not a nuisance candidate but I cannot accept that writing in Mayor of Pasay City in your COC was a mere “clerical error”. It is a material error and this should not allow Mr. Doterte to then run as President. I cannot vote for someone for President who seeks to run under these questionable circumstances. If one takes advantage or seeks by legal niceties to ignore the law, I cannot imagine what this person will do when the stakes are higher. Just follow the rules.

Sen. Santiago’s time has passed.

I do not trust Vice President Binay.

Which leaves us with Sec. Roxas. I remember Sec. Roxas for the sacrifice that he made in giving way to President Aquino in the 2012 elections. It was a tear-inducing moment that somehow made you feel that things were changing. Maybe it was a pragmatic move on his part but still it was something that was awe-inspiring. It also made you thing that he would become the next President with what seemed like a clear path to the Vice Presidency leading to a seamless transition to the President. Then, Binay happened.

Even then, all was not lost. Yet, there is the feeling that despite the many opportunities to distinguish himself as DOTC then DILG Secretary, he has not. There is the feeling that he not only has wasted these opportunities but also diminished the immeasurable goodwill that he had at the moment when he gave way to the President. In many ways, Sec. Roxas has not fulfilled expectations.

This brings into question his ability to lead this country. He has no compelling vision of his own having wrapped himself under the mantle of Daang Matuwid that is so 2012. Daang Matuwid has done a lot of good yet has not been perfect, as is to be expected. President Aquino’s presidency can be seen as a transitional one that brings the Philippines forward but not yet where it should be. In this light, I do not want more of Daang Matuwid, I want more, period. I want more than what Daang Matuwid has brought us. These are the high expectations that Sec. Roxas has so far failed to provide a compelling vision for. He has to show that he is his own man.

Which brings us back to Bartolome Cabangbang. We have choices but yet I do not have I choice. Do I not have to vote for a President? Is there a Bartolome Cabangbang to cast my conscience vote?

I have a vote but I have not made a choice.

This country will not go anywhere near being the country that we want it to be with our current political system. The political parties that we have are mere groupings which bring to life the phrase – “no permanent friends only permanent interests.”

The change that many of us seek which seeks to uplift the lives of many Filipinos will not happen because the choices that we are given are not strong enough nor courageous enough to acknowledge that the inequality (in many forms) that grips our country can only be addressed by radical solutions and not by sloganeering. Our political system along with its manifestations have conspired to perpetuate a nation which keeps the majority of its population in perpetual bondage.

It will take a movement outside our current political system to break these chains of centuries-old inequalities that have been ignored. A grassroots movement not funded by the elite who only serve to protect their interests. A movement bereft of the traditional politicians who have for so long robbed the Filipino of not only his money but more so, his dignity. A movement not wedded to traditional ideologies but one whose only ideology is to help Juan de la Cruz regain the dignity that has been trampled on for centuries. A movement that we have never seen before nor tried. A movement that will gain momentum by convincing people of the need to find a different way.

The path to a more equitable nation is clear. Academics and well-meaning multilateral institutions have given us prescription upon prescription of what needs to be done. There has, however, been no one courageous enough to do what needs to be done because it will hurt this constituency or that constituency. Worse, many of our politicians are actually clueless.

It will not be easy. The Philippines that many of us  dream and long for is just not possible under the current political system. The challenge is to find enough people to do the necessary sacrifice and work towards this – one barangay, one town, one province and one region at a time.