The din of chatter and news releases about this and that crime suspect, presidential candidate, disaster relief effort, international territory dispute, plus the loud non-stop melodramatic rationalisations issued by a who’s-who of crooked politicians and their lackeys is so loud and pervasive that you could be forgiven for thinking that the Philippines is a hive of “productive” energy. Yet step back and ask whether all this activity is actually propelling the Philippines forward and we will likely get a lot more head scratching than actual answers. The Philippines, unfortunately, is like an inexperienced swimmer who produces a lot of splash but hardly any forward propulsion.
Perhaps it is because we are asking the wrong questions. Is it really a question of how much “improvement” a politician delivers within his or her short term in office?
I don’t think so. I believe the key question is no longer about whether the lives of ordinary Filipinos have improved, whether any of the “economic growth” the government crows about ad inifinitum have reached them, or whether any of the relief and recovery resources donated by the international community have trickled down to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan over the term of one or the other president, mayor, governor, or legislator. As far as the earlier is concerned (economic growth trickle down), no one six-year presidential term is long enough to measure at a useful level of precision how much or how little macroeconomic indicators influence quality of life at the grassroots. So there really is no point in engaging in a debate about how much or how little the President’s actions have changed ordinary Filipinos’ lives.
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With regard to the latter — disaster response and recovery in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan — well, how many victims of any natural disaster in the Philippines can be said to have really recovered to begin with? It just so happens that the scale of the disaster and the profile it attained in the global consciousness made the Haiyan disaster everyone’s favourite case study. Filipinos, however, don’t have much of a track record of running back up a hill after being knocked off its top. Rather, Filipinos will bumble and crawl back up said hill over a period measured in the decades. Indeed, when we talk about “Filipino resilience”, this “resilience” is akin more to the slow painful recovery of a man after he is kicked in the nuts. A man reeling after receiving it in the family jewels will likely get landed a knockout punch in the face before he could recover. On the other hand, a pro boxer who rolls with a punch can spring back in time for a counter punch or at least re-assume his fighting stance. It is the latter that one can truly call real resilience.
Much of if not all the problems the Philippines is facing today are not new. Pork barrel thievery made headlines as far back as 1996. Typhoons have been battering the islands for centuries. Big crimes, tell-all whistleblowers, and sensational scandals have attracted countless “inquiries” and “probes” and have been transfixing and entertaining generations of Filipinos for decades. That there is nothing new about the fundamental nature of the challenges Filipinos and their governments face is not much the problem as the way Filipinos employ the same moronic thinking, implement the same pathetic “solutions” said thinking produce, and apply the same stunted learning faculties as these “solutions” fail yet again. Different day, same shirt. And the thing with shirts used over and over again without being washed is that they quickly start to stink.
Unfortunately, Filipinos have a high tolerance for stench. Their politicians stink. Their big cities stink. The many palabas they mount to show the world they are a highly-switched on lot and supposedly all beavering away towards progress “progress” all stink. Indeed, where it all begins — their thinking — stinks to begin with. No surprise then that Philippine history is nothing more than a recurring national déjà vu. Look back 17-odd years ago and you will find 2006’s NBN-ZTE scandal star whistleblower Jun Lozada’s equivalent in today’s Ruby Tuason. Both bozos had a story to tell. Trouble is, they are coated in the same brown stuff they are trying to dish out. Will the crimes that these “whistleblowers” are singing ballads about ever make it to a proper court of law to be resolved the right way? The NBN-ZTE scandal never did. Neither have any of the high profile crimes that persist as curiosities in the nation’s newspapers under the watch of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. The one Aquino spectacle that actually resulted in some semblance of a “conviction” — the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona — did not make use of a court of law but relied on a bunch of costumed legislators to play Judge Judy for six months. Literally farcical.
So now we get to a point in this piece where we can play Jeopardy and come up with the right question having just faced its answer above.
This question may be the right one, but like its anwer, it is nothing new:
Is the Philippines headed in the right direction?
Quite simply, no. The Philippines is moving around in circles. No surprise there. Hand to heart, we can say with increasing levels of confidence that today’s issues will reincarnate into tomorrow’s unresolvable issues ad infinitum. In short, the Philippines is not only not headed in the right direction, it isn’t moving in any direction.
The thing is, the Philippines’ hope for a better tomorrow lies in coming up with a compelling response for that question considering that it has already repeatedly failed at convincingly answering the other right question:
Where are the results?
Years of asking this question has yielded zilch. So the next best relatively easier question is the earlier, and something that we could at least ask a sitting president to facilitate an answer being imbued in the national consciousness: the Philippines needs to be pointed in the right direction.
Ok, sige na nga, no need for results for now. Filipinos have long complained that this expectation is simply too hard to live up to. So at the very least, we should develop a clear view of what direction we are headed.
Considering that I’ve waited 14 years for the question on results and got nothing, all I can say now is that it will be just as interesting a journey seeing if a direction at least will emerge as a result of all this debate.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.