Overheard on my Twitter timeline: Filipinos are an “angry” people. As such, the landscape of political chatter is fertile ground for the Opposition (specifically the cancer within it, the Yellowtard clique) to mount one distraction campaign after another. Whilst reputable thought leaders tackle the hard-hitting issues — like the drug menace, public transport, public health and safety, infrastructure, foreign relations, and domestic industry, there is a parasitical layer of chatter focused on the trivial, destructive, and, the earlier notwithstanding, virulent topics.
Whilst the government and people who are genuinely reform-minded hack away at obstacles to clear the path for progress, a noisy community of shills continue to angle for attention with the usual tired old emotional hooks — “human (a.k.a. victims’) rights”, “freedom” (a.k.a. temperamental bratty entitlement), “people (a.k.a. extrajudicial change of leadership) power”. Thus we see a continuous racheting up of efforts to undermine incumbent governance using extremely dumbed-down rhetoric primarily around liberal use of violence porn juxtaposed with an increase in the intensity of police operations in line with the government’s war on drugs.
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It’s been more than a year into term of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Yet the Opposition has not come to terms with Duterte’s almost monomanic focus on the “war on drugs”. They don’t realise that this is, quite simply, democracy at work. Duterte, after all, made the war on drugs the centrepiece of a successful campaign for the presidency in 2016. Democracy 101 applied to Duterte has some simple math at work:
War On Drugs promised during the campaign, plus War On Drugs implemented during the presidency EQUALS Popular President.
There are also three other facts that the Opposition seem to be incapable of wrapping their pointed heads around:
(1) A War on Drugs requires increased police presence and intensified police operations; and,
(2) Where there is increased police operations there is an increase in use of potentially lethal means to get things done. As such;
(3) An increase in collateral damage and casualty is statistically inevitable during a War on Drugs.
The above facts may be cold, but they are facts nonetheless. And this is where the Opposition’s failure in imagination lies. They fail to find an innovative approach to working around the above immovable facts which, quite evidently, the majority of Filipinos have embraced. Instead, they choose, from their ivory towers, to bang their increasingly blunt heads against these facts ad infinitum — by using the same old tired emo arguments enumerated earlier.
The biggest blunted sword the Opposition uses in their “Laban” is the First World notion of the “sanctity of human life”. And here is where a fourth fact comes into play: Filipino life is cheap. And, yes, that is a fact. If that statement weren’t true, we’d see more evidence that Filipinos care — in the little things like being less tardy and more considerate about others’ time and space, in the medium-sized things like doing their jobs properly and recognising how the quality of their work impacts other people, and in the big things like putting people first before politics and religious piety. The reason Filipinos fall into open manholes and die, eat off garbage cans, are forced to get out and walk along MRT rails, are imprisoned in their cars for hours every day on their commutes to and from work, suffer from appalling Internet service, and get huge chunks of their taxes squirreled away by politicians into bank accounts and real estate overseas is because Filipinos, as a people, simply do not care.
Filipino lives matter — but only in slogan. The sanctity Filipino “activists” assume is relevant in their advocacies given the Third World realities of the Philippines simply does not exist. Proof of this is that no amount of legislation has changed Filipinos’ poor regard for human life. This sanctity, in short, cannot be legislated. It needs to be earned. Filipinos need to prove to the world — and to themselves — that they are assets.
The way forward, therefore, is to junk the following flawed notions that had, for so long, served as the key underlying principles of the obsolete rhetoric of Filipino liberals…
(a) Filipinos are “assets”, so the more such assets we produce, the more value is delivered to the society.
(b) The reason Filipinos remain poor despite their being an “asset” is that they lack “opportunit[ies] to work and earn income”.
(c) The “economic elites” have not done their “duty” to invest more of their resources into creating said “opportunities” for the masses.
…and subject these to the following hard reality checks:
Assets need to be developed.
Many activists’ biggest assumption is that Filipinos are “assets”. But then assets, in the real sense, are such because of their ability to provide an acceptable return commensurate to their intrinsic value. This value is a function of scarcity and income potential. Obviously, Pinoys fail epically in the scarcity aspect as there is enough of us to fill the staffing requirements of nursing homes around the world twice over. This leaves us with income potential.
What builds income potential?
Consider education as one such input investment into the enhancement of Filipinos’ collective income potential. Given a constrained amount of funds, every additional Filipino born (to the scandalous tune of a growth rate of more than 2 percent per annum), presents a reduction in the per capita density of investment in public education; that is, runaway population growth spreads thin already meagre resources available to educate each pre-adult Filipino with public funds.
Successfully leading a horse to water does not guarantee that it will drink.
The hollowness of the assumption that Filipinos are intrinsically valuable “assets” puts to question whether providing the “opportunity to work and earn income” will necessarily result in a sustained delivery of productive economic output over a long term.
Reduced investment density per capita reduces the rate of development of said asset and therefore reduces the ability of said asset to deliver productive economic return even with ample opportunity staring it in the face. Many “reform activists” simply fail to account for the reality of the need to develop assets before they can be expected to yield a decent return.
National prosperity is a two-way street.
This blame-the-capitalists emo-ism does not take into account the average Filipino’s personal accountability for securing their own future. Let’s not forget that the average savings rate of the average Pinoy is among the lowest in the region. Sure incomes are low. But that does not excuse not saving and re-investing said savings into secure assets — such as in savings accounts or other durable assets (in contrast to non-durable consumables like celphones, karaoke machines, and Tommy Hilfiger knock-offs). The Filipino Chinese managed to accumulate enough to re-invest spectacularly under the same conditions back when they were taho and balut vendors. That they made it and the natives did not says something about our character as a people, and theirs.
Indeed, all roads in this debate lead to our simple but real definition of poverty:
Poverty is the habitual entering into committments one is inherently incapable of honouring.
And this is the most important root cause underpinning virtually all of the important issues of the Philippines; for that matter, of much of the Third World.
Until the hard math tells us — and the world — that Filipinos can truly be counted as real assets, liberal rhetoric will continue to decline and lose relevance in the national debate. And the Philippine Opposition will continue its slide to total irrelevance. They will continue to distract but increasingly fail to contribute.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.