Are we ready for the new year ahead? On the bases of the Facebook shout outs and Twitter tweets I have seen today it seems we are. We are ready with our New Year’s “resolutions”, our 12-month weight loss plans, our commitments to spend less and save more, spend more time with the kids, and promises to call our folks more frequently. We have promised ourselves to aspire to achieve more — run the extra kilometre, lift the extra pound, work the extra hour, make the extra peso, pray the extra rosary bead, take the extra holiday, and date the extra chick.
Yes indeed. The year ahead is full of promise. Good things come to good people, as the old theory of fairness goes. We think of ourselves as good and therefore feel entitled to all the goodness the world has to offer.
You’d think then that the Philippines as a whole is entitled to all the same good and blessed things. Filipinos pride themselves in being a country of hard-working and well-educated people. We are also a “democratic” country where people are free to select their leaders. It is a society where “human rights” are upheld as sacrosanct and where universal social justice is a priority aspiration.
That collective self-perception Filipinos harbour is supposedly embodied by the current Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. He carries an illustrious pedigree — the only son of national “heroes” Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr and former President Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco-Aquino — and, unlike many of his power-hungry predecessors, supposedly took the challenge to lead the nation reluctantly on the back of a purported massive clamor for him to step up to claim his birthright.
With all that going for the Philippines and its people, how can it go wrong?
The fact is, the Philippines is a nation that’s gone horribly wrong.
Philippine society remains within the grip of an unprecedented corruption scandal that has implicated pretty much all the key officers of the legislative and executive branches of the government. With everyone implicated, the Filipino is left with no one to turn to for justice — except, who else, their government’s judiciary branch. In the hands of the country’s Supreme Court rests the fate of the president’s personal slush fund, his “Disbursement Acceleration Program” allocation, one allegedly used to “motivate” Philippine Senators sitting as “judges” in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 to issue the preferred verdict.
That such an important decision that affects the fortunes of millions of Filipinos now rests in the hands of a body of government whose officers are selected on the basis of skill and experience and not popularity as is the basis for the ascent of key officials in the executive and legislative branches is an indictment of the notion that democracy has served the Filipino well.
On that note we turn to the plight of the victims of the devastation wrought by super-typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda) in November that left (as of last count) more than 6,000 dead and almost 2,000 missing. What have these people done to deserve this suffering? Nothing, other than to be born in a country socially, financially, politically, and militarily ill-equipped to help them and in a region of that country that was to be hit by the most powerful tropical storm stirred upon the face of the planet in written history. To date, there are reportedly about 1,400 bodies that remain unburied almost two months after the disaster struck.
And then there is the challenge the country currently faces in standing up to the Chinese military threat at its frontier islands. The self-respect of the country is at stake and managing the way this diplomatic crisis is handled is crucial lest the country be plunged into a war it cannot win alone or be forced to retreat, tail between legs, from its claims. Complicating this is the manner with which the Philippine government counts on the support of its key ally and former colonial master, the United States, considering the arrogance a bunch of Philippine Senators exhibited just a bit over 20 years ago kicking the US military out of massive facilities it built in Subic Bay and Clark Field (as well as other small outposts all over the country).
How then will 2014 pan out for the Philippines given these monumental challenges it faces — a vast humanitarian crisis in its central region, crises of confidence infecting two of its three pillars of government, and a military threat that can be successfully met only if a complicated relationship with a powerful ally could be resolved while saving face?
One will first have to consider the question of how all these priority issues will be addressed given that 2014 is the year that the subjection of the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan’s crown jewel, the sprawling Hacienda Luisita, to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) meets its deadest deadline. With the primary mission of the Second Aquino Administration to save the family jewels at its Eleventh Hour, President BS Aquino is in a bind. How can he save the Philippines and the Hacienda given that the game’s last two minutes have been called?
Fortunately for many of us, making our New Year’s resolution list is not as challenging as the one that President BS Aquino needs to make.
Surely, 2014 will see its share of deadly storms, will be marked by the same old vacuous debates over buckets of money that are all but invisible to the auditors, and will be full of lament over the pathetic equipment of the country’s armed forces. What is President BS Aquino’s plan to score some real achievements this year for a change? What makes us think that in the coming year we will be safe from another storm, won’t be stolen blind by our elected officials, and can face an external foe in the battlefield like true patriots?
Back to the old saying: Good things come to good people. The hard question we need to face as a people is thus:
Are Filipinos a good people?
As always, we are encouraged to abide by that familiar recommendation routinely issued by our esteemed thought leaders:
Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.
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