(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 member 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.
Now, answer these questions – “How (did they perform) are they performing as leaders?” “What is the current economic, social and political condition of the country?” “Is the Philippines marching towards progress with them holding the reins of government for God knows how long?”
Of course you know the answers to the foregoing questions.
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. Eventually they stayed 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, 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, Filipinos should not wonder why the Philippines is until now classified as a “developing country”.
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? Are we insane?
(Second in a Series)
We also need to exercise our right to vote seriously. Refusing to sell our votes is only the first step. It’s about time that we should also set certain standards that candidates should measure up to before we write their names in the ballot – standards that are over and beyond the qualifications set by our Constitution for candidates seeking a particular public office.
It’s time for us to realize also that some personalities are venturing into politics not because they want to serve the people but because they think that they are so popular and such popularity could easily catapult them into a public office. Fame, like power, is also addicting.
An interesting question to answer is, “How many showbiz and sports personalities holding public office now were elected not because they are both qualified and capable to lead but because they are popular?”
There are other questions that we need to answer as honestly as we should – “What did those actors, actresses, singers, TV personalities, basketball players, boxers, and other celebrities who used their popularity to win contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in the localities where they were elected?” Those among them who were lucky to become President, Vice President, Senators or Congressmen (or were given cabinet posts), did they contribute anything to national development?” “What good if any did their ‘star power’ bring to politics and governance in the Philippines?”
If all those seasoned and veteran politicians who have master’s and doctorate degrees in law, economics, political science, public administration, and business administration and have been in public service all their life could hardly move the needle forward on socio-economic development, what do we expect from showbiz, media, and sports personalities who suddenly turned into politicians only because they are immensely popular and that they know that Filipino voters could easily be deceived. Do they honestly think that the skills and knowledge needed to run a public office can be acquired by taking crash courses in leadership and management?
Sadly speaking, this is how politicians and celebrities-turned-politicians think of Filipino voters – they can not only be bought and but they are also unintelligent. Most of those running for public office consider the Filipino voters cheap and ignorant – cheap because they are willing to sell their votes for a small amount of cash and ignorant because they don’t know how to choose the right candidate for a position.
Choosing the most qualified and capable among sets of candidates is not a rocket science. We can evaluate their qualifications corresponding to the position they are seeking. We can check their track record. We can hear them talk during the campaign period both in person and through any form of media. We can determine who among them are eloquent and could articulate their platform of government and who are dumb and merely banking on their popularity so they could get the support of unsuspecting voters or they have truckloads of money to buy votes. If we find those celebrities truly qualified, capable, and sincere in their desire to serve this country and they are the best among the candidates vying for an elective position, then we should vote for them.
We have to separate the wheat from the chaff. We need to exercise due diligence in distinguishing the qualified and capable candidates from a pretenders. Electing leaders unto whom we give the mandate to lead – unto whom we pin our hopes for a better nation – is not a game. Elections are not popularity contests.
Governance is a serious business and should be done on a full-time basis. One cannot be a public servant on a part-time basis who would attend to her/his duties and obligations only when there are no shooting sessions for movies and TV shows or there are no practices or games to play as athletes in any sport.
We should never entrust a public office to clowns.