At first it seems baffling that the Philippines continues to suffer the same problems it had suffered over more than half a century after it was granted independence by the United States in 1946. The same inability to innovate, build industrial capacity that matches its enormous population, and move from labour-added-value up the food chain into design-added-value industries, and improve public services is as evident today as it was back in the kopong-kopong years. We’ve also seen how, despite ample time to learn from a string of catastrophic election losses, today’s Opposition remains an utterly flattened force — pathetic inconsequence at a time when healthy multi-partisan national debate is called for amidst a complex global landscape that the Philippines needs to navigate.
Why can’t Filipinos seem to understand that there are challenges far bigger than “the poor”, “gender equality”, and an imagined “fight” between “good” and “evil” that constitute the bulk of their national “debate”?
One word: comprehension.
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The future does not look bright for Filipino “talent” as there is mounting evidence that the Philippines suffers a severe deficit in even the most foundational of skills required to do even the most basic low-value work (the sort “outsourced” to Third World countries like the Philippines) and the sort of thinking that befits a modern democracy where ordinary citizens are enjoined to participate intelligently.
‘The most common challenge I hear is comprehension,’ Jack Madrid, who heads the country’s main BPO trade group, said in an interview, referring to failed job seekers. ‘I think they fail at a more basic level,’ he said in his office in Manila on Aug. 2.
We can see this utter lack in an ability to comprehend at profound levels in the quality of the “debate” today. Indeed, the fact that an Opposition that once prided itself in being a community of LABAN-deras has retreated into a palpable hiatus that even mainstream media columnists of their ilk such as Inquirer columnist Richard Heydarian are moved to wistfully daydream, “After UniTeam: A new opposition?”.
But with the opposition in a relative state of hibernation, thus failing to pose any real danger to the status quo, factionalism has become the inevitable dynamic within the ruling coalition.
In fact, the opposition—both functionally and ideologically—has now been divided into three main groups. There is, of course, the “Never Marcos” camp, which has been busy highlighting all the obvious shortcomings and vulnerabilities of the incumbent, while conveniently overlooking the true roots of its own weaknesses and political marginalization.
Heydarian makes two important points that highlight the barren intellectual landscape that is Philippine politics: (1) an administration coalition only held together by a common enemy that is the Yellowtard-Communist Axis and (2) an Opposition that poses the only real challenge to the status quo.
So far, the administration of current President Bongbong Marcos shows no sign of dismantling that status quo. Unfortunately for Filipinos, the Opposition that supposedly challenges that status quo remains hooked on a losing political strategy hinged on infantile and utterly obsolete Martial Law Crybaby shoutouts. And then there is the bigger status quo that neither camp is courageous enough to dismantle — the stranglehold the Roman Catholic Church maintains on the intellectual faculties of the Filipino people. With an entire belief system underpinned by, well, mere belief, Catholic influence does not contribute much to laying the fundamental foundation of economic competitiveness: intelligent people.
We can easily see why the Philippines is pretty much fucked at many levels by an inability to transform and smarten up. Stupid people cannot choose leaders wisely and stupid people will remain beholden to cults of personality whether those cults are led by a Marcos, a Duterte, a Robredo, a General Secretary, or one cardinal, bishop, or another. Positions on issues based on ideas and principles? Too hard. Better to watch It’s Showtime instead.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.