Tuesday, 01 May 2012 00:00
My last article urging reforms vis-à-vis the Philippine culture of graft and corruption drew considerable interest. Many vowed to do their part. Others expressed frustration. More still seemed resigned to what they see as our “way of life” in the Philippines. Desperate indeed. The question is, is a way out really possible? Is reform a realistic expectation? Is it too late? Have we missed our opportunities for societal and cultural reform?
Many (this writer included) rued the failure of Corazon Aquino to carpe diem when she assumed the presidency after EDSA I in 1986 and use her immense mandate at that time to fundamentally alter the course of Philippine history and initiate true and lasting reforms. She could have ruled by decree for a couple of years and the people would have backed her because of her husband’s ultimate sacrifice and her own personal honesty and integrity. What they wanted to see were results. None came. Hope fizzled. In due time the failed and discredited institutions, the empty shells of democracy, so to speak, were restored and as a result the oligarchy is back, established and stronger (and viciously destructive) than ever.
Twenty years after she left office her son is now entering the third year of his six-year term as president. And he is struggling just as badly, if not worse, as his late mother was with the forces of a deeply imbedded system of corruption that undermines fair and efficient delivery of government services. In every area of existence, it seems. Be it peace and order, public works, foreign policy, traffic, smog, energy issues, every aspect of daily life. Conditions get worse. Yet, he is all we have.
Yes, Noynoy is all the Filipino people have and they knew going into the 2010 elections that they were not necessarily voting for the wunderkind of the executive elite; they voted for him because he was the last best hope that, thru leadership by example, he can make a serious dent in the fight against graft and corruption that eats away at the very core of the Filipino soul.
His ability to take bold action is constrained by many factors. The Congress, one of the main instruments of the oligarchy, has demonstrated that it is adept at obstruction and tepid in its support of his programs. The Supreme Court, thanks to the rear guard action of the Macapagal-Arroyos, has become an instrument, not for carrying out justice, but undermining and hogtieing the administration. What exacerbates the situation is that the country’s overall infrastructure, already fragile at best, is once again showing signs of further collapse.
The brownouts that characterized the ineptness of Corazon Aquino’s government, is also now rearing it’s ugly head with reports of 8 hour power outages all over Mindanao. Noynoy and his government is touting and mouthing promotion of business growth yet how can this come about if the country cannot provide electric power for new factories and industries? How can commerce be enhanced when, thanks to traffic gridlock in Metro Manila and most of the country’s major cities the efficient movement of people and merchandise is dramatically impeded? How can business and enterprise thrive when people are literally suffocating in the smog that hangs a pall over the metropolis? How can the country progress when its police forces cannot be relied upon to keep the peace, protect the population and reassure both the business community and the citizenry that thieves, murderers and all kinds of scoundrels do not have a free run of the country like they now do? The list of ails seems endless.
Clearly there is a need for bold and decisive leadership. Example alone will not curtail graft and corruption. Desire alone will not lift the country’s economic standing to the aspired “Tiger” status one sees all over Asia. Concrete actions are needed. The problems are many thus priorities need to be established and set.
The police forces need to perform at higher professional levels; criminal elements within the ranks must be uprooted. Police officers must rededicate themselves to the oath of serving and protecting the population, not enriching themselves thru means both foul and dastardly.
The infrastructure problems need to be addressed and fixed. Roads, bridges, public thoroughfares, transportation systems, electricity and water supply systems need to be upgraded and modernized. Short term solutions, such as those seen during the Ramos years must be brought on-line immediately while long term solutions are reviewed and implemented.
All government offices must be reconverted into service centers for the people, not instruments for the enrichment of government officials and employees. As with the police forces, clean out the grafters and only those willing to truly serve the country be kept in employ.
It is true that Noynoy cannot simply wave a magic wand and bring order to the chaos of inefficiency and incompetence that abounds. But he can openly demand that all segments of society join him in the crusade to turn the tide around for the Philippines. He must issue the clarion call for reform and progress and entice, induce, persuade, cajole and if need be, embarrass, leaders of all segments of society to actively join the crusade to bring about the needed changes. And the people, all the suffering multitudes who seek a better tomorrow, must take strong and concrete steps to pressure their institutions, be it corporations or businesses, schools or churches, organizations or clubs, to be active participants in the process. The people will have to be the daily monitors and auditors of progress in the many areas and arenas of action.
Their voices need to be heard and loudly when there is police inaction, when government workers do not perform as expected, when corporations and businesses cheat and oppress their employees or gouge the public for unjustified profits and largess, when political leaders look only after their vested interests, when those in media lie, distort and serve as minions for those adept at bribery.
The people must rise in unison and demand that their country once and for all become the “ bayang Magiliw” that they have hoped it to be for countless generations. It must become a country that speaks to their highest aspirations, reflective of their best ideals and worthy of the very nobility of their race.
It is a country worth working and fighting for. It must start with Benigno Aquino III. He must fully awaken to the dreams of his father and truly embrace the spirit of selflessness of his mother. He must make his voice heard not in the shrillness of political gimmickry but with the deep, full throated commitment and intensity that will finally awaken his people. There is a way out. He must find it. He must lead the way. And he must bring his people with him. It is a worthwhile journey. It must start now. All must join him or get out of the way so that he can accomplish a most worthwhile mission.
by Leandro D. Quintana
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