The brutal business of implementing change in the Philippines

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act” – George Orwell

Improving systems and changing cultures invariably starts with looking under the covers, and with brutal honesty sometimes. Self-delusion doesn’t — shouldn’t — feature in corporate life, nor should it in national governance. Would you prefer your taxes be invested in somewhere managed like Microsoft, or to something more akin to a pyramid scheme? A ‘Bill Gates’, or a ‘Janet Lim Napoles’ in charge?

ChangeBeing politically-correct means being politically-gagged. My independent nature doesn’t like that, and nor should any free-thinking individual. Progress can only happen after first understanding the situation and accepting the issues, otherwise people simply revert to being defensive – a natural Filipino trait.

An external perspective, whilst different and difficult at times, can be useful, even if it only stimulates debate and clear thought as well as broadens the mind. If people just say – ‘negative’, ‘wrong’, – without backing up those assertions, then they are usually indirectly confirming that it is actually right, and that they are simply being resistant to change, and incapable of meaningful input and subsequent discussion.

Change is about self-discovery, ownership, and effort, and not unwrapping a bought-in solution. Those (the lattert) don’t exist anyway. Many here and elsewhere have offered numerous ideas and suggestions and are usually derided – ‘not invented here syndrome’, or ‘they can’t tell us what we should do’. ‘Pnoy is our messiah’. ‘It is god’s will’, ‘what have you done’ etc.

Debate takes maturity and knowledge.

Where are the brightest and best that President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III (PNoy) promised to have in the Cabinet? Seems more like a cosy club of friends, relatives, and shooting buddies.

PNoy’s Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez says something that encapsulates the development approach of the government: “Nobody invests ahead of demand.” That outlines the national problem in one sentence. No planning, no investment, and incompetent idiots in charge of tourism, infrastructure, and energy among other things.

No wonder brownouts — whether 4 hours or 8 hours — that do not impress investors and tourists, and costs local small micro businesses loss of trade they can ill afford continue.

If we see the Cabinet as already made up of the best assembly of brains that the Philippines can muster, then the country really does need help! Indeed, the brain drain generally is becoming a serious issue and future obstacle to progress.

Education, education, education!

Expert lecturers/centers of excellence!

Technology, engineering, planners!

Innovation, competitive spirit, dynamism!

Of course I can write many positive things, and enjoyed many places and experienced great adventures, and also met wonderful people. But within this context, isn’t that akin to only wanting to hear ‘good news’, and isn’t that part of the ‘cultural’ problem which pervades?

The focus has been on the systems, strategies, style of leadership, structure of politics, skills shortages, shared values (culture), not on individual Filipinos per se, and certainly not on coming up with a public relations piece. So many problems exist in the Philippines precisely because the raw truth is hidden, and honesty is not paramount. ‘Lie and deny’, complicated webs of deceit, confuse, divert, intrigue, sugarcoat everything, endless spin/propaganda etc. Isn’t the pork barrel scam/fiasco a case in point?

PNoy, as expected, touted the Philippines as an economic miracle this week at the World Economic Forum conference, and himself as the reincarnation of John Maynard Keynes. Such a snakeoil salesman approach will do him no favours nor win him any friends amongst hard nosed finance ministers and chiefs, who prefer honesty and facts, to propaganda and fancy. Motherhood statements may work with the Filipino electorate, but seemingly less so as time passes.

If Filipinos (beyond the top 5%) believe that PNoy Aquino is right about his economic miracle and believe the SWS that 70+% of filipinos are happy, including 70% of those surveyed in the Tacloban area post Yolanda, and that Filipinos are reaping the economic benefits then all is wonderful, so no need for aid, or to beg money from tourists.

Honest criticism is a sign of caring, and wanting better for those who cannot always express themselves too well, or too readily. People should campaign for compatriots who are less fortunate, and undertake voluntary work (which I have all my adult life – even in the philippines).

I did not see many passionate and articulate ‘champions for change’, a thriving chamber of debate in the Senate or House, cutting edge think-tanks, politicians writing newspaper articles, the cut and thrust of political debates, or a hunger for progress within the administration. But I repeatedly heard from struggling Filipinos who wanted food, education, healthcare, and more opportunity for their children. I also heard from workers who were experiencing rapid increases in commodity prices, but frozen wages, and the added stress of the contract system which releases them after 5/6 months in order that the company can avoid benefits. Tell me who in government and politics is fighting to change such a crazy and short-sighted policy, or that SM do not allow any union/workers co-operative. This list goes on and on.

Are Senators and congressmen working 18 hours a day every day? Maybe someone should conduct a ‘time and motion’ study on their activities and their effectiveness, and check on the number of overseas trips on expenses. Oh, but no Freedom of Information (FoI). How fortuitous for some.

It is also relevant to ask what sort of country and culture Filipinos actually want. That is for every Filipinos to answer. Being in the big world and moving away from island isolation means being more open to, and welcoming of, diverse and divergent opinions and being somewhat more thick-skinned and self-questioning, rather than instantly defensive. That in itself is a huge cultural change. Do filipinos want to be a truly open, honest, innovative, competitive, and liberal society?

Everything ultimately depends on what type of country and culture filipinos really want, are prepared to be passionate about, and work hard to achieve.
Change is not easy, culture is very complex, but the status quo is not an option if real progress is to be achieved for the benefit of all.

The first step is to be honest and self-critical.

The second step is to stop living so much in the past.

My limited observations, but your country, your choices, your decisions, your responsibility, and your childrens future.

Over to you.


About Libertas

A traveller, always learning, and hopefully still contributing. An attitude of work hard, play hard, and a love of architecture, design, and the creative spirit. A global ICT executive, who traded in corporate life for real life.

Post Author: Libertas

A traveller, always learning, and hopefully still contributing. An attitude of work hard, play hard, and a love of architecture, design, and the creative spirit. A global ICT executive, who traded in corporate life for real life.

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15 Comments on "The brutal business of implementing change in the Philippines"

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It’s a matter of the bottom-to-top approach for this country to progress further in terms of economy and their way of thinking (i.e. re-education of the masses by the concerned middle/elite-class). Problem is that those mostly on top would rather manipulate the bottom and the middle-class to suit their needs. And with the media manipulation and the lack of immediate access to real information, this nation is returning to the Dark Ages, only those with money and power would benefit from all of this.

Johnny Saint
Hallo mate. You mentioned education. Apart from that institution, you didn’t mention any other enablers to achieve change. We need public policies that create an environment for transformation. For example, the simple expedient of cutting personal income/withholding tax creates for individual citizens greater opportunities for uplifting their economic status. The Philippines follows the progressive system of taxation wherein the wealthy is supposed to be taxed more than the less wealthy. Unfortunately, our system of taxation punishes the middle income taxpayer who is taxed at rates closer to the wealthy. It is not only income taxes that Filipinos suffer. Because everything… Read more »
Pilosopo Socrates
I agree the key for change is brutal honesty and also a willingness to change. The harsh reality is evident as the Philippines deteriorate to the point of progressing backwards. The hard thing is that there are too many flaws that could potentially be fixed but all of them contribute to such a broken state of what is suppose to be a democratic republic. The majority acts like a hermit crab and with a crab as reference. It is easy for Filipinos to resist change. To make any progress, you have to seek out the hurdles then confront it and… Read more »
Toro Hyden
Our Choices…indeed, it is… It is a thought provoking article…we, Filipino GRP Bloggers want change for our country…the question is: who is courageous enough to come forward to lead the change? We have a Feudal Oligarchy government. We have political family dynasties…we have a culture of political patronage…we have a culture of corruption. Our leaders have too many baggages on themselves…baggages of self interest; that they will fight, tooth and nails for any change. Tske Aquino, for example…his family owns the Hacienda Luisita, which is almost 70% of his Province of Tarlac. He has tenants working on his huge land… Read more »
Toro Hyden

Oh…those YellowTard Hackers are playing with me again…somebody posted this comment for me; before , I was able to correct it…

The Philippines – positivity I think it is always important to try to turn negative thoughts into positive actions – including mine. And rather than tell it as i see it, it is better to ask how it really is, and inquire what could and should be done to drive the Philippines forward, or what is already being done, and maybe not so well publicised. My objective when i came to the Philippines was to help in whatever small way i could. 18 months later i left, a bit ‘stir crazy’, but still have the desire to help, for personal… Read more »

“Progress can only happen after first understanding the situation and accepting the issues, otherwise people simply revert to being defensive – a natural Filipino trait.” – You lost me there. In any case, I am sensing just as much defensiveness in the article.