The REAL Philippine State of the Nation demystified

Again, like the federalism “issue”, political “analysts” and their dogs have recently been issuing their two cents on the whats and what nots of the state of the Philippine Nation. This is of course the gathering din of two-bit chatter in the lead up to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to be delivered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on the 23rd of July.

As expected, this all-too-familiar quibbling on “practical details” surrounding this trending “issue”, whilst comforting to those whose comfort zones don’t extend beyond the small details, misses the bigger point. The bigger point is that, in the bigger scheme of things, the Philippines really hasn’t changed much.

Concluding that the state of the Philippines has “deteriorated” in the last two years of Duterte’s presidency is like making an issue about a 100-foot chunk of ice breaking off the top of an iceberg. The Philippines’ fundamental character has not really changed across the dozen-odd presidencies since being granted “independence” by the United States in 1946. And so, the folly in asserting that the Philippines had changed over the last two years is no different to all the hype around “change” that supposedly happened, say, after the 1986 EDSA “revolution”.

It’s all just smoke and mirrors. Regarded over the scope of everything relevant to a proper and sound analysis (the proverbial whole iceberg including its submerged part) and over timescales covering decades, one will find that there is nothing about the character nor the future prospects of the Philippines that has really changed significantly.

The Philippines remains a Third World country at its core. It is a society of superstitious and religious people whose idea of “thinking” is praying rather than, well, thinking in the real sense of the word. Its people’s loyalties to political and showbiz personalities trump any semblance of consistent adherence to a coherent set of principles and ideas. Despite modern technology permeating many of its people’s ways of life, no evidence of a tradition of scientific and technical achievement seems to be taking root. Most important of all, Philippine society overall fails to exhibit a collective wherewithal to be self-reliant and accountable for its own future prosperity.

Regarded from this perspective, it is easy to see that comparing the Duterte government to the government of his predecessor, former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III is pointless. For that matter, comparing all Filipino presidents since 1946 yields nil insight of any real consequence.

The foundation for a truly prosperous, just, modern, and independent society, quite simply, remains absent in the Philippines. The ebb and flow of inflation, the jagged trends of currency exchange rates, the fluctuations in remittances of the Philippines’ army of overseas workers, and the petty political posturing of the who or what are of no great consequence to what really matters over the long term: a solid fixed capital base of infrastructure and private sector assets that supports sustained robust labour productivity gains, a workforce of industrious, disciplined, and innovative professionals, and a culture and ethic of curiousity and conquest tempered by a habitual critical regard for any issues and challenges to confront.

An evaluation of the reform agenda (if any such exists) or a retrospective stocktake of the achievements of any president or whatever politician should be measured in those terms. Only framed in those terms will a SONA be anything of real significance to the Filipino.