Category Archives: Philippines
(1st of 4 parts)
If we, Filipinos, think that our leaders by themselves could deliver us to the proverbial “promised land”, then we are gravely mistaken. If we think that among them is a messiah who could bring about the socio-political and economic reforms needed to make our country progressive and peaceful, then we are hallucinating.
It is not because nobody among them is qualified and capable to lead the Philippines to greatness. It’s just that nation-building doesn’t work the way we think it does – that it can be done single-handedly by whoever we elect as President.
That actually is one (probably the worst) of our major problems as people – the mindset that the leaders we elect have magic wands they can wave to solve all of society’s ills and all of our nation’s problems. This is the prevailing belief among Filipinos. We pin our hopes for a brighter future on our leaders. We expect them – the governors of our provinces, the mayors of our towns and cities, and the captains of our barangays to solve all of our problems. We expect them to weave their magic and cast their spell then when the smoke dissipates we suddenly live a better life. We, think of our congressmen and senators as witches and wizards who through their out-of-this-world powers could make our country a better place to live in. We think that our President is Ironman and the members of the cabinet as the rest of the Avengers who could slay all of our nation’s Thanoses. Well – they are not.
It’s time to wake up. We need to realize that those elected (and appointed) politicians and leaders manning the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government are not superheroes. They don’t have superpowers. They cannot solve all of the nation’s problems by themselves. They need our support as citizens. Each citizen – rich or poor, professional or not – has a role to play. Each of us should contribute to nation-building.
What can ordinary citizens do to help make the Philippines a better nation?
Let us begin by not selling our votes during elections.
We expect too much from our government yet we are not voting for the best and most qualified among those seeking public office during elections. Instead, most of us write in the ballot the names of the candidates who are willing to buy our votes.
Vote-buying is an open secret in our country. It is freaking rampant. It has seemingly become the norm. It’s making the electoral process lost its essence. Leaders are elected not on the strength of their qualifications, abilities, and platform of government but on the power of the money they are capable of paying each voter who would promise to cast their votes for them.
On the eve of an election day, bidding wars begin. Once candidates get the information that their political rivals offer a certain amount for each voter, they will likely double that. Starting price is usually P500. Then candidates will try to maneuver until the price becomes P1000 per vote. The desperate among the politicians would sometimes cough up P2000 (or even more) for each voter.
Would elected officials admit that they are guilty of vote-buying?Of course not. So, we could only wonder how many percent of our elected officials literally bought the positions they are currently occupying.
Stopping this culture of vote-buying and selling is difficult but it has to be done. One thing that we need to realize is that the leaders we put into office should have the moral ascendancy to lead. It is difficult, if not impossible, to look up to leaders whom we know cheated their way to their offices. They are not credible as leaders. We could not apply the principle of “public office is a public trust” when we know that the persons occupying public offices “bought” their mandate. These scheming politicians feel that the office they are occupying is their “private property” because they paid for it. They can do therefore as they please and their constituents cannot and (shouldn’t) complain because they have been paid.
Those who thought that they duped the politicians by taking the money they offered to them are wrong. They were so happy with that P500 (or P1000… make it P2000) which they received. Such amount is nothing as compared to the millions of pesos they will get when the politicians dip their dirty hands into the coffers of government. The money those politicians use to buy votes are considered an investment. Once they get elected, they would make sure that they will get the return of their investment… with the corresponding interest.
Then we complain about how our government is performing. What kind of performance would we expect from politicians to whom we awarded the mandate to lead not because they are qualified and capable but because they have the money to buy votes?
As Thomas Jefferson puts it, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”
This is what every Filipino needs to realize. Suffrage is not just a right but a moral obligation as well. It’s not for sale. Don’t reason out that you’re selling your votes because someone’s buying. “It takes two to tango.” Both vote-buyers and vote-sellers are guilty of this wrongdoing.
Don’t expect the politicians to stop buying votes. They would never do that. Politicians will do everything to ensure they would get elected and have the power they crave so much to have. It is not public service they are thinking of when they ran for elective positions. Power, as they say, is addicting. They want it so badly and on top of that, they salivate so much for the accruing benefits and the opportunities that they would get once they are in position. And only those who were born yesterday don’t know what benefits and opportunities are those.
(Last in a Series)
The first three parts of this series of articles identified our serious faults as Filipinos – we sell our votes, we use questionable standards when choosing leaders, we treat elections as if they are popularity contests allowing immensely popular but inexperienced and incompetent celebrities to win, and we either keep restoring from the “recycle bin” the same traditional politicians or replace them with a family member.
Our inability to choose the right leaders is clearly one of the factors preventing us from reaching our full socio-political and economic potential as a nation.
We know that the government plays the most essential role in leading all efforts to make this country progressive. We need the best leaders if we really want to become a “developed nation.” It is our responsibility as citizens to select the best ones to hold the reins of government. Unfortunately, we keep failing to do so.
The funny thing is that after we put them into power – the politicians who won because they have the money to buy votes, celebrities-turned-politicians who are inexperienced and incompetent, and “recycled politicians” and the members of their political dynasties – we expect them to perform well. After every election, we expect a better-performing government.
And why would we expect a different government – a more effective one – when we know that we keep electing the same politicians or use the same old rotten standards when choosing new leaders?
Let us revisit Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
But assuming that one day we restore our sanity and finally we refuse to sell our votes – finally we learn to elect into office the most deserving and most qualified among candidates – would the wheels of national development start rolling?
Not quite yet!
There’s one more problem, a problem more serious than our failure to vote wisely and conscientiously. The more serious problem of Filipinos, as mentioned in the first part of this series, is the mindset that that the leaders we elect are solely responsible in solving all of our society’s ills and nation’s problems.
We view our relationship with the state at the vantage point of “self-entitlement.” We think that it is the duty of our leaders to give us “this and that.” We say that the government should do “this and that” for us. See, we expect too much from leaders whom we don’t even choose using the best and most appropriate standards.
Is it the duty of the government to provide each citizen with food, cloths, and shelter?
Of course not!
What the government does, generally speaking, is to formulate, implement, and enforce the laws of the land, to build infrastructure, to ensure peace and order, and to create economic and other opportunities that would help its citizens enjoy the conveniences of life and have the best chance to get good education and find or create means of livelihood.
It is also not the duty of the government to provide everybody a job?
One of the functions of the government is to create an environment that would promote economic growth. They have to make sure that businessmen would be encouraged to invest and initiate businesses activities thus creating job opportunities. But jobs are not given in a silver platter. We have to search for job openings and apply and make sure that we have the required qualifications for the jobs we want. Getting ourselves ready for employment is a personal responsibility. The government will not deliver to our doorsteps the jobs that we want.
The government itself is also an employer but it cannot possibly provide each citizen with a job. It is also impossible for the private sector to employ everybody. That’s just the reality. Harsh it may be. Those who won’t get employed, or do not want to work for others because they have better plans for themselves, could perhaps succeed as entrepreneurs.
Not everybody would get a college degree. Not everybody are trained and destined to be in a workplace – either in the corporate world or in the academe. Some of us will be factory workers, sales clerks, farmers, fishermen, plumbers, drivers, gardeners, or what-have-you. It doesn’t matter whatever jobs we have for as long as they are decent and they allow us to earn a living honestly.
Don’t reason out that you came from a poor family and your parents could not send you to school to get a good education and have a better chance for a better life.
This is just how many of us Filipinos are. When we don’t succeed in life, when things don’t turn the way we expect them to, when we are not doing well in the different areas of our personal lives, we are always ready to check our “blame list” to find somebody or something to put the blame on. And our favorite whipping boy – the government. When we are done accusing our leaders for not doing their job well causing us to become losers, we next vent our ire on our parents saying that they did not work hard enough to ensure that we live a good life when we become adults.
We need to throw away that “blame list” for whether we like it or not we are personally responsible and accountable for our success and failure. There comes a time in our lives when we should become be self-sufficient, a time when we, not the government nor our parents, decide for ourselves and take full control of our destiny.
We Filipinos need to realize that unless we recognize our faults and change there’s no way our country becomes progressive and “developed.” We will never gain the respect of the community of nations if we remain the way that we are now.
Something was said by John F. Kennedy that we should reflect upon – “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
We Filipinos need to realize that there are two requirements for a country to become progressive and developed – good government and cooperative citizenry. Remove one and a country is doomed. The citizens and their leaders need to work harmoniously towards achieving national goals. There’s no other way. Both of them need to work hard. They have to work hand in hand.
(Third in a Series)
We’re complaining about political dynasties, right? But haven’t we Filipinos realized that we are so guilty of creating the political dynasties in the Philippines? Yes, we have to admit it. We allowed the same politicians and their family members to lord it over in the Philippine political landscape.
When a politician, let’s say a mayor, could no longer run for re-election due to term limits, what would the honorable gentleman do? Turn his back on politics? Of course not! Power is so addicting. So many of those who experienced to be at the helm of either local or national politics (and enjoyed the benefits, including those “passed under the table”) would not just quit politics nor pass the torch to another person.
So, what would happen?
His wife would run for the position he previously held. Then that politician would run for another post – as governor perhaps. Most of the time, Filipino voters would allow them to win and usually they would be able to mesmerize (or buy) the voters to luckily get re-elected until they reach their term limits. Would it be the end? Would their thirst for power (and the so-called “benefits”) be finally satiated?
The couple would ask their son or daughter (or a grandson – or a granddaughter – or an in-law) to run for the positions they would vacate. The shocking thing (and you might not believe it), there are times that siblings, or even husbands and wives, would not give way to the other and so member of the same family would slug it out in the political arena. Anyway, this is not about family members squabbling in the political arena – this is about the political dynasty their families created.
Let’s continue then.
Let’s go back to the mother who just reached her term limit as mayor. Would she go back to being a full-time mother and wife? You were born only yesterday if you don’t know the answer to that question. Yes – she would run for the post vacated by the husband-politician. The husband would then aim for a higher position – run either as congressman or even senator. In case all family members win then for years that the power will change hands within the same family. The son (or daughter) is a mayor, the mother a governor and the father either as congressman or senator. When term limits are reached then they will just run for the position that a family member would vacate. Some siblings, and even in-laws, in the family are also occupying minor positions in the geographical units where they reside.
Did that family created their political dynasty? No! We ourselves did it. We Filipinos created the political dynasties in the Philippines.
And how did (have) these members of a few beholden families whom we allowed (are allowing) to exclusively hold the reins of our government – local to national – perform (been performing)?
You are either blind or dumb if you don’t know the answer to that question.
How many of the available positions in the Philippine government, local and national, are held by the same families who have been the gods and goddesses of Philippine politics since time immemorial? Most of them are offspring of the peninsulares who survived “America’s power grab” at the turn of the 20th century. They decided to stay in the country and reaped the dividends for doing so. And it’s not only the politics that they dominate. With the enormous fortune they inherited from their Spanish parents/grandparents (which the Americans allowed them to keep), they also control the country’s economy. That’s why Filipinos would sometimes jokingly ask – “Did the Spanish rule really end?”
Only a few pure-blooded Filipinos and foreign expatriates of Chinese origin who became wealthy when the Americans took their turn to colonize the Philippine had the financial resources to challenge the Spanish mestizos for political supremacy in the Philippines, especially after the American granted the Filipinos their independence after the World War II. Some of them succeeded and when they experienced how intoxicating power is, they (and their offsprings) kept running and we kept electing them as if nobody else were qualified.
It is no longer surprising to know that politicians occupying national positions have one, or two family members and in-laws occupying seats in the local government.
Filipinos might ask – “When would having the same people from the same families passing the reins of leadership to each other in both the national and local governments after elections end?”
That’s up to the Filipino voters.
So, we should not wonder why we as a nation could barely move the needle on socio-political stability and economic progress.
Socio-political stability and economic progress are the most important metrics that we ought to use when evaluating the performance of these leaders who are members of the few families whom we allowed to lord it over in Philipppine politics. We keep electing them then keep our fingers crossed that they will deliver.
According to Albert Einstein, “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Why in the world we expect a better-performing government when we keep electing the same politicians from the same families? Are we insane?