Dear Philippines: Hope is not a strategy


philippine_hopeHope springs eternal indeed as that other cliché goes. But then, we might ask: Hope in what exactly? Now that the Philippine Fiesta Elections of 2013 have come and gone, the hard questions must be asked, the vacuous campaign rhetoric ditched, and the motherhood statements junked. Perhaps the usual halfwits will continue to squabble and quibble over the usual trivialities that mark the coming and going of elections in the Philippines and exchange “statements” on who should resign and/or who should “concede” gracefully. All that is just part of the din of grandstanding and one-upmanship among this and that group clambering over one another for their three minutes on the karaoke mike to sing about the imagined “victimisation” of the sectors they represent or the political figure they speak for.

But as my colleague, the excellent Manila Times columnist Ben Kritz say in his recent article A dubious election brings high expectations for progress, “Now that the election is over, the challenge has moved quickly from generalities to specifics.”

Much like the way Filipino working-class expat communities in the United States and other Western countries flaunt their debt-funded Mercedes Benz cars at this or that community function, Filipinos like to show the world that they drive a shiny US-engineered “democracy”. Yet they fail to appreciate that the elections and consensus-driven approach to governing their ungovernable lot costs plenty. The latest elections was a devastating distraction to the bored, unemployed children of OFWs, the starstruck ignoramus minds of the masses, and the already thin credibility of the social media “activist” community. Indeed, this political “exercise” sucked up precious governing and leadership bandwidth from no less than the President himself and channeled it to an unethical tax-funded campaign effort.

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It was an unacceptable drain on the already meagre capacity for productive thinking of a people that could’ve been channeled to building a strong and prosperous nation. Kritz further observes…

Last Friday, the local office of the international analysis and consulting firm GlobalSource Partners released a report that concluded the Aquino administration has two years to make good on its “mandate”; by 2015, distraction and uncertainty will set in as the country looks to the 2016 elections, and not much will be accomplished then.

In short, when we consider the renowned collective attention deficit disorder of Philippine society, there will be only one potentially productive year in between this last orgy of empty self-promotion and the next one — 2014. The Year 2013 is pretty much gone. Its second half will likely be a morass of cheating allegations and election disputes fanned by the numerous hobbyist election “watchdogs” that proliferate whenever elections erupt then, in their aftermaths, attach themselves to the media (and consequently the consciousness of the chattering classes) like mollusks.

But, see, 2014 is the year Hacienda Luisita, the crown jewel of the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan, gets subject to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). According to the official clan statement on the matter issued in 2010, President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III is “committed to ensuring the distribution of Hacienda Luisita land even if he loses in the May elections.”

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), a flagship program instituted in 1988 during his mother’s administration, was extended until June 30, 2014 to allot more time for the distribution of agricultural lands. [See: Arroyo signs CARP extension bill into law]

“Kinausap ko yung pamilya ko, ang habol namin yung kapakanan ng aming mga kasamahan po dun at ilipat yung mga asset sa kanila (I have already talked to my relatives, we are concerned about the welfare of the farmers there and we want to transfer the assets to the farmers),” said Aquino.

“Ang problema lang po kung paano ililipat ng wala na pong utang dun sa mga aming kasamahan dun (The only problem is how we will transfer the assets without passing on the debts that have been incurred),” he added.

It does not really require a degree in Rocket Science to figure out what 2014 will be all about. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, the year where the whole point of the presidency of BS Aquino will come to light. After spending three and a half years of his presidency lining up the ducks — seizing control of the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, and now the Senate — and being in that coveted position of being able to dangle pork in front of the noses of both minion and opposition in the Philippines’ honourable legislative body, the President is now ready to pull the trigger.

Clearly, BS Aquino has a real strategy underlying his administration. And it was not hinged on the nebulous notion of “hope” that the vacuous minds of generations of his constituents have been conditioned to latch onto. In that sense, he is a role model for his people. He has taken control of his and his family’s destiny just as many who our “activists” paint as the bad guys in this picture do for themselves and their respective families. Filipinos, in turn, should take this bit of insight and turn it into an opportunity to learn the real lessons that abound in their history and lie right under their noses. There are no good intentions — only personal interests. As such, the whole idea that governments and the politicians that run them are out to make a noble contribution to their overall wellbeing is a myth. The real deal as far as nation building goes has long been captured and encapsulated in this simple seminal statement:

Great nations were not built on good intentions. They were built on business sense. Real change in Pinoy society will never be achieved through the “sacrifice” of altruistic “heroes”. True change will be driven by people who find no shame in expecting a buck for their trouble.

The only victims in this world are those who have allowed themselves to fall into a position that makes it easy for others to victimise them. This is a simple and first principle that determines who loses and who wins in a world we expect to be fair but is, in reality, anything but.

As of present, the Philippines has armies of its best workers (Overseas Foreign Workers or just “OFWs”) scattered all over the world making a living and propping up the Philippine economy to the tune of more than 10 percent of its national “output”. As more unemployable Filipinos are spawned then deployed overseas, this dependency grows and the bargaining chip that foreign governments can use to bend the Philippines in the direction of their respective national interests gets bigger. This is evident in how the Philippines has recently found itself on the losing side of any “negotiations” it presumes to undertake with its supposed “allies” in the region — Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan to name a few.

Amazingly, much of the rhetoric waxed and poetry sang by Filipinos around the “heroism” of their OFWs is where they derive the source of their “hope” for a “better future”. But the humiliation the country experiences everytime its government has to “deal” with their counterparts in countries that employ a sizeable number of its citizens is embarrassingly palpable. Even as OFWs temporarily enrich their celphone load-starved families in the islands, they impoverish the nation’s overall ability to stand as peers with other states in their neighbourhood and the broader global community. No election can fix that and, certainly, none of the “promises” of any politician will mean anything in this bigger scheme of things. It comes down to how well one can look after their best interests within the framework of the law and the broader context of what is right or wrong.

5 Replies to “Dear Philippines: Hope is not a strategy”

  1. Less is more

    – less economic protectionism and more competition is good for innovation, employment, consumers, and investment.

    – less political elitism and a more representative political system is good for a more equitable society, progress and prosperity.

    – less dynasty = more democracy

    – less bureaucracy = more businesses

    – less protection = more investment

    – less monopolies = more innovation

    – less control = more freedom

    – less corruption = more infrastructure

    – less tax evasion = more equality

    – less talk = more work

    – less bureaucrats – more professionals

    – less self-interest – more public service

    – less propaganda – more realism

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