The Philippines is a most massive outcome of lots of actions underpinned by very little thinking. So many initiatives, advocacies, “movements”, agendas, and vested interests driven by even more characters in a country of 100 million clueless people — it sounds like a chapter out of John Barrow’s book Impossibility. The Philippines is a case study in Impossibility. But it is only so because we barrel down slippery slopes without a lifeline to a basic plot. The vital few is a management concept that we can, perhaps, apply as we face the next six years as a way to keep our bearings even as we slog through the complex of petty politics and the din of chatter in our pursuit of clarity of purpose. Here are what I think the three vital few issues that define Filipinos’ aspirations.
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Population and environmental impact
Every new Filipino person born will require space, food, fuel, and public funds to develop into a productive citizen. He or she will also require parents — a resource essential to upbringing that is in short supply as well as employment overseas — and absentee parenting — is becoming more of a rule than an exception in our capital-deficited society.
We consume and depend on consumption to sustain the economy, yet our ability to produce and create is being atrophied by easy access to imported trinkets, imported food, and even imported capital. Increasing consumption without a commensurate increase in domestic capacity to both produce and create capital is a slow and imperceptible gradual imprisonment within a complex of dependency and a progressive erosion of self-sufficiency, independence, and reduction of ability to be on top of our future.
Poverty in light of this barreling down the slippery slope of wanton reproduction, consumption, and mounting neediness is therefore a simple issue that can be summed up in one little sentence fragment:
Locking ourselves into commitments we are inherently unable to honour.
We either acquire the ability to honour said commitments by stepping up production and economic value creation capacity or reduce the amount of commitments we enter ourselves into.
Law and order
Criminal elements can smell a weak and inept law enforcement capability and will. Gross loss of confidence in the police, perception of weakness, in-fighting, and lack of sense of purpose within the Government, and a President who seems more interested in sowing his oats than running the country, is emboldening criminals.
As such, we can now see the ripples of the degeneracy of our politics in the marked and renewed brazenness of elements engaged in banditry and thievery. All seemed to have come in the wake of the last six months’ spectacular unravelling of the quality of governance, the impotence of the justice system, and the continued abuse of the powers of the Executive branch to appropriate funds for political ends.
The overarching mission in the Philippines (as it has been for the last 50 years) is invigoration of the economy and reduction of poverty. Constitutional reform (as it is being pursued in its renewed form today) is a component initiative of that mission. The context therefore remains the mission and the component initiatives (one of which is Constitutional Reform) should be defined within that context.
Constitutional Reform has always been a highly-politicised “debate”. The climate today seems ideal for such an initiative to be pursued, given that it is no longer coloured by any cling-on-to-power agenda that gets used for the moronic scare tactics of those who might oppose it. So let’s give it a chance while remaining true to the whole point of it.
Randy David’s starting from the top most question: “Do we need a new Constitution?” illustrates the right perspective to maintain as we progress this worthwhile journey. As part of the Media, we do have a key role to play, and it is to inform rather than coerce. Mr David provides an insightful reality check:
The mass media and academe can play a vital role in situating charter change within the broader context of societal reform by asking the basic questions: How will charter change help put an end to mass poverty? How will it make our society more equal? What changes do we need to do to make government more legitimate, less corrupt and truly responsive in the eyes of our people? What kind of constitution do we need to help us survive and grow in a complex and globalized world?
A deeper dive into the detail that we need to conquer necessitates that we remain tethered to the basics to ensure that we do not lose the plot along the way. In this way, we keep this reform agenda relevant and the public engaged in the debate.
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We cannot solve all of our problems nor can we achieve every one of our aspirations. But perhaps by taking the Pareto (80/20 rule) approach — focusing on a vital few that could account for an influence over 80 percent of our challenges — perhaps we can all rescue the Philippines from the clutches of impossibility.
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