Political, economic reform: Best left to the grown-ups

front20130601(From The Manila Times, Saturday, June 1. Apparently, the link to this article has been giving some readers a bit of trouble, which is probably attributable to the Times’ website upgrade being only a couple days old. Please bear with us.)

While President Aquino and the presumptive new Senate President Franklin Drilon have both expressed their disagreement with recent calls for constitutional amendments to remove perceived barriers to foreign investment, there is a sense that some kind of significant political and economic reform is nevertheless not only necessary within the next 18 months, but is actually entirely possible. Even though the Administration’s position that improved, more inclusive performance can be achieved through institutional corrections is spectrally opposite that of influential groups like the Makati Business Club and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the needed changes are structural in nature, a growing number of people on both sides have expressed an interest in raising what is ordinarily a contentious debate above the fray and exploring viable options.

The topic of “charter change” – for lack of a more succinct term for a comprehensive variety of possible political, social, and economic reforms – is a complex subject, and if any progress is to be made at all, those participating in the public debate have to remain open-minded to differing views. Despite the general official resistance to the idea of “charter change” in the strictest sense – meaning actual constitutional amendments – some key figures among the Administration and its allies have expressed an interest in continuing the discussion. For those who are inclined to take an open-minded, long view of the issues, there is reason for optimism that something can be accomplished.

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Unfortunately, evidently not everyone is capable of flexible thinking. A small but vocal group of extremist reform “advocates” led by a Singapore-based OFW named Orion Perez Dumdum and ironically calling itself the “CoRRECT” Movement has recently raised the intensity of attacks against critics of Dumdum’s prescription for reform, which includes a shift to a Parliamentary system of government, reconfiguring the present unitary system of administration to a Federal system, and removing all restrictions to foreign ownership and investment in the Constitution and other laws. Although no one has been spared, most of the vitriol from Dumdum and his small core group of followers has been directed against the group behind the long-running and popular Get Real Post website (http://getrealphilippines.com/), which has published an extensive series of articles (several of them authored by yours truly) critical of the “CoRRECT” agenda over the past three years.

The Get Real Philippines group (the collective authors of the Get Real Post, among of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I am considered a part of the “inner circle”) evolved from a loose affiliation of like-minded participants in the old Pinoy Exchange forum more than a decade ago, and despite efforts to pigeonhole the group into a defined agenda, such as characterizing it as “anti-establishment”, Get Real has studiously avoided developing a particular political orientation or imposing one on others. Although most of the group’s published output, which is extensive, is harshly critical of the current Administration (as it was of the previous Administration) and the country’s political system, if there is any sort of identifiable group ideology, it is a general understanding that the flaws and failures of the Philippines – and the likely solutions to those problems – have social and cultural causes rather than political ones, the latter being mere manifestations of deeper and more complex issues.

The “CoRRECT” agenda so fanatically pursued by Dumdum, who was one of the original members of the Get Real group, actually developed from group discussions in the months leading up to the 2010 elections. A schism developed, however, once Dumdum sought to promote the agenda as a group platform; not only did this run counter to the group’s philosophy of being as broad-minded and collectively apolitical as possible, but many of the group – who are nothing if not skeptical – began to question the characterization of the agenda as not only the “best” solution, but the only solution.

What astonishes most of the current Get Real group is that, despite varying degrees of disagreement with the specific “CoRRECT” agenda, no one has ever taken the plainly contrarian view that its components are completely invalid. They are certainly debatable, but worth debating nonetheless, in the same way that other ideas – the Administration’s “do something other than charter change” position, the economic liberalization advocacy of major business groups, and various ideas for progressive legislation – are worth debating. Because what is being proposed, nothing less than shaping the entire future of the Philippines, is so important, every idea should be subjected to intense scrutiny, and every idea should be expected to evolve as our collective understanding grows.

That, unfortunately, is unacceptable to Dumdum and his ironically-named “CoRRECT” movement, whose initial attempts to respond to criticism with some semblance of rhetorical maturity have devolved into gutter tactics intended to silence critics, including publicly divulging personal information about Get Real members and their supporters – including, in some cases, their spouses and children – and most recently, threatening legal action to take down the Get Real Post website, on the flimsy grounds that it “incites ethnic hatred”.

Reform for the Philippines – in whatever form it can take – is critically important, too important for attention to be diverted by immature fanaticism. And it is most unfortunate that this fanaticism has raised its ugly head just when the country has achieved some measure of healthy stability and created an environment in which reform is not only possible, but has the best chance of success. The curious timing, in fact, has led some to speculate that the CoRRECT movement might actually be pursuing some ulterior motive; by presenting an “agenda” that is at best unrealistic and impractical at this stage of the country’s development while silencing or vilifying all alternative views, the speculation is that CoRRECT may actually be attempting to prevent any sort of reform. For what reason and on whose behalf, no one knows, nor should anyone waste any time wandering down that unproductive path of inquiry. The need for reform, so long as otherwise sincere discussion is diverted, will only continue to grow, and the window of opportunity to accomplish reform is not limitless. Those who have demonstrated their inability to participate in a rational and inclusive public discussion should be given the attention they deserve – which is none whatsoever – while the rest of us grown-ups find ways to work together and find solutions for a better future.

10 Replies to “Political, economic reform: Best left to the grown-ups”

  1. WOOT…..

    Yea lets leave this to the elites because they know so much better than us. Pit one against another and then…. KAOS through conformity. Look only real development can come from the masses and no group can change that except that the masses and then you come upon the problem that the masses fallow the KAOS.

    But it is a good read Ben.

      1. The issue is there are always going to be far left and far right groups that from first look are complete opposites but they are actually very similar in the approach the use. The phrase ” the ends justify the means” articulates exactly how these groups work. They do not care who or what gets destroyed only that their agenda get though. The Philippines does not need to change the form of government but change its attitude towards foreigners in general. Like opening up just businesses to foreign ownership and dramatically reducing tariffs on imported goods, really I mean a 150% tariff on electronics imported, that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The Philippines is never going to be a big manufacturing power because it has so many islands and that really hampers any cohesive infrastructure that is necessary for a large manufacturing base. So why not just let the barriers down and let the people have a choice of what they want to buy.

        A parliamentary system would be complete chaos and that might be what Correct wants because it would allow them to become the “savior” of the Philippines and take over like all the other despots do. This is the problem with progressives is that they think they have all the answers , and they do have some good ideas, to all our ills and they are so much smarter that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Their agenda would work in a perfect world but as we all know things are never perfect and that is why the Correct agenda will never work.

  2. This “Dum-dum” has really gone so far as to publish names and address’s of GetReal’s author’s? family members? places of schooling of children?( A pretty Ballsy move, yes?)
    if this is so, WHERE? WHEN? and more importantly HOW was this information obtained? also, WHY would “DumDum” do such a thing?
    anyone who ever wants to remain anonymous, should have that right AND WHO is this “DumDum” knucle-head to make it otherwise without anyone’s permission OR against the personal wishes of those so named? it seems “DumDum” lacks manners, class and WISDOM.

    That aside, people who wish to keep an anonymous Identity should always employ methods of ‘self-protection” from such “Detection” via the use of Virtual-Private-Networks (VPN’s) that are available for less than P400/month (in some cases PROXY servers are FREE!) and are readily available on-line and are installed in mere minutes. The avoidance of using REAL names is also an obvious tactic for Identity shielding and appears to be used by just about all post commenters (curiously, Foreigner’s/Non-Filipino’s seem to be un-concerned about Identity privacy) and should be the right of all who wish to remain anonymous.
    BUT , for the fact that Politics being the SLEAZY and sordid world that it no doubt is it follows that no one should be surprised by the tactics of the “DumDum”.
    MAYBE those named publicly by the not-so-bright “Dum”-one should be proud to be so named and actually go to where the “DumDum” is and present themselves for inspection and while they are at it, ask the “DumDum” to dance for a few minutes?
    Just for the SPORT in it, u kno?

    BTW, BenK is a big deal? and has a regular column in the Manila Times? Well then, the editors must know his Identity for purposes of paying him for his services rendered, yes? The Times exhibits discretion in not publishing Ben’s surname and so deserve to be commended for their discretion and in respecting the Man’s PRIVACY.
    Unlike others…..

    1. Orion was privy to personal information about the inner circle of GRP because he was once part of the inner circle and some point in time they are actually considered Real Life Friends. Unfortunately after they had a falling out, he betrays all this old trust and divulged personal information his old friends entrusted to other people to get even and started a campaign full of vitriol and ad hominems.

      CoRRECT started out as genuine cause for change and it did convince a lot of people to join their cause. I for one was on the verge of joining, but I still had questions if the shift to parliamentary they’re pushing for is really “the best” solution to the country. I wanted to study it further, and it was really enlightwning to say the least to quietly read through all discussions in the related FB pages. One thing is for sure, dueing that course of time, I’ve seen the way Orion defend their ccause so fanatically that even the mildest of criticism is already perceived as an attack on his group. The sad thing about this is that with the way he acts recently, it turns off a lot of potential supporters of their cause which is kind of the opposite of what their supposedly aiming for.

  3. cultural mileu vs. political mileu. you were saying charter change will not achieve reform because it was purely overhauling the political infrastructure– you would rather overhaul the cultural structure…

    mechanics please?

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