For once, the Philippines’ “vice president” Leni Robredo said something right — and with conviction — rather than pander to populist sentiment like she usually does. Asked what she thought of the reported hardships Filipinos could be facing if inflation rate trends continue, she urged Filipinos “to curb their spending habits, save and find ways to earn money”. Indeed, she makes a strong point. There really is no getting around the need to spend less and make more to stay ahead of the inflation curve.
More important is the notion that nobody else can save one’s self other than one’s self. On that, Robredo was spot on too. The Manila Bulletin report cited how Robredo encouraged Filipinos to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and take initiative to find ways to respond to inflation rather than overly rely on others. “Now that the prices of almost all [commodities] are high, we really need to save up. Don’t spend unless needed,” Robredo said in Tagalog.
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Robredo also advised the public to find other means to earn money. “Maghanap talaga ng ibang paraan para maghanap-buhay (Look for more sources of livelihood),” she said. For instance, she urged those who have means and resources to plant fruits and vegetables. “Iyong pagtatanim, malaking bagay iyong pagtatanim (Planting is a big help),” she added, citing that in Zamboanga, some people are able to eat because of the vegetables and fruits they have planted and harvested on their own.
There was mixed reaction amongst the various factions within the Philippine Opposition. The more left-leaning amongst this lot were, not surprisingly, most outraged by Robredo’s statements. This is likely because communists and left-of-centre liberals never see poverty as something that the poor are accountable for. Rather they would prefer to see poverty as the outcome of insidious (even “evil”) forces at work towards the goal of victimising the victims. In short, the more militant of the lot within the Philippine Opposition prefer to see poor Filipinos as “victims” rather than the natural outcomes of readily-explainable strings of cause-and-effect.
What Robredo was suggesting, however, goes against everything these communists believe — that the key to overcoming poverty lies in taking personal responsibility at an individual level over what one can directly influence. Hard as it may be, specially for the poorest of the poor, household expenditure and income are still vastly more controllable than the whims and agendas of politicians from an individual standpoint. Under that light, it is easy to conclude that whining over what politicians do and say and the imagined way these actions and words influence inflation rates is all but a colossal waste of time. Filipinos are better off switching off to the noise created by militants and so-called political “thought leaders” and, instead, focus on thinking — thinking about what’s good for themselves.
No matter what politicians do, no matter how world trade ebbs and flows, no matter how the wind blows or the cookie crumbs, it comes down to the simple arithmetic that governs one’s personal fortunes — that if you spend more money than what you make, you will remain poor. The solution to poverty is therefore quite simple: Strive to make more money than what you spend.
That is really all that “vice president” Leni Robredo was trying to say to her constituents. The trouble with the Opposition is that they pander to too many voices and too many ideologies in the hope of uniting against a “common enemy”. Because their agenda is personality-based, factions within the Opposition merely put up with one another rather than build upon each of their member blocs’ strengths. The factions that make up the Philippine Opposition are essentially in a perverse marriage of convenience. That, suffice to say, is no way to win against a popular and, therefore, formidable foe. Politics within the frame of the law simply don’t mix with the terrorist “revolutionary” virulence of communism and the pretend-legitimacy of its outer circle of “leftist” movements and “front” organisations. It’s time the Opposition recognise what a flaccid force they are and step up to a smarter approach to counterbalancing the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.