erdinand Marcos didn’t
have it quite right. The early slogan of his martial law regime was: sa
ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan (for the country to prosper,
discipline is needed). While there’s no arguing that the Philippines could
benefit from a bit more discipline, the one trait that the country needs
even more than discipline, is respect. Lack of respect for one another has
kept the Philippines where it is, instead of where it should be.
It is understandable why
the Marcos dictatorship saw discipline as the most important trait to
instill on Filipinos—when the only tool you have is a hammer, you see every
problem as a nail; as the popular saying goes. Marcos’ nefarious martial law
plan was to rule the country with an iron hand and thus saw discipline as
something that needed to be hammered into the Filipino.
Respect on the other hand
would have been anathema to the brutal martial law regime. But respect is
one trait that Filipinos so desperately need. We see this lack of respect in
the rudeness of many Filipino taxi drivers and the near total absence of
road courtesy among drivers. We see it in the dismissive attitude of those
in positions of power.
Don’t be fooled by the
seemingly polite demeanor or the use of the words “po” or ‘ho” in
conversations everywhere in the Philippines. Appearances can be deceiving
for underneath it all is distrust and dismissiveness. Look around Metro
Manila and you see security guards everywhere. Notice the bars on the
windows of many homes, the high fences, the gates with even more security
guards. This is a society that is NOT inclusive but rather, exclusive.
What we Filipinos must
realize is that we will rise or fall as one. The rich and middleclass
cannot just dismiss the poor and carry on with their lives unaffected by the
pain and misery of the downtrodden. Because the problems of the poor will
eventually to intrude into their lives until it becomes their problems as
So rather than continue
hiring more security guards, and building taller more secure fences to keep
the “riffraff” out, why not work to lift everyone out of poverty. So that
there is no more high-class or low-class in Philippine society; so there is
no longer that Grand Canyon-sized disparity between rich and poor; so that
children in even the remotest barrios will be well educated and grow up to
be productive members of society.
It can be done and there
are as many ways as there are people with passion and dedication to achieve
it. But one prerequisite to getting things started is to treat ALL Filipinos,
no matter what their station in life, with respect. 2014 is finally here and
as Oprah Winfrey put it: “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to
get it right.”
For those who have been following the Janet Lim-Napoles PDAF/NGO* scandal these past months, it is easy to get caught up in all the rhetoric—the words and phrases repeated day after day. Words like "ten billion" or "fifteen billion" have turned into something akin to "gray" background noise. Words devoid of any real meaning or significance. So let us try to put back some meaning into those trite and often-repeated phrases in order to better understand some of the far-reaching ramifications of Napoles' actions.
With Senator Bong Revilla already in police custody in Camp Crame and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile set to join him any day now, people need to start asking tough questions going forward. The privilege speeches of the senators along with the histrionics that accompanied them are thankfully now over so we can all address this issue more objectively.
The Self-Perpetuating Elite of the Philippines
In an essay published in the July 1968 issue of the American magazine Foreign Affairs, a novice Philippine senator described his country as “a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. . . . a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy… a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite…a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.”
PHL Legislators Implicated in the Napoles PDAF Scam Face Definite Jail Time...Maybe
In the United States former four-star General and until recently Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced to resign as head of the VA by the ongoing healthcare scandal that has enveloped that agency. While one can safely assume that Shinseki was not involved in the actually transgressions being investigated, the fact that he headed the agency meant he had command responsibility over its entire staff. And their wrongful acts, whether he knew about them or not, cost him his job. That is the way things work in properly functioning democracies. In the Philippines however, things tend to get a little unusual.
Why All the Fuss? We Knew They were Corrupt Anyway!
So finally the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. But we Pinoys should not be surprised at all. We all know how corrupt our country is. Even before former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of electoral sabotage and the misuse of public funds in 2011; even before Joseph “Erap” Estrada—an earlier president was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007; even before Ferdinand Marcos, a president-turned-dictator, was booted out of the country along with his family and cronies twenty-eight years ago; we Pinoys knew they were corrupt.
The Case of Denise Cornejo and Cedric Lee, a Litmus Test for Pnoy and Philippine Justice
Now that the star attraction in the alleged Vhong Navarro rape incident is in police custody, the upcoming trial will be a litmus test for the Aquino administration as well as the Courts. The almost universal perception is that Philippine justice is broken and does not work. Laws are applied inequitably with the wealthy and powerful living almost above the law, while the common "tao" finds himself at the losing end of cases that usually drag on for years.
Obama's Visit a Shot in the Arm for a Struggling Ally
After essentially showing the American Military the door in the early '90s, Filipinos have of late come to the realization that they need their "Uncle Sam" more than they thought they did. And back then the United States was also more than happy to oblige as their Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission had been closing down hundreds of military installations all across the USA.
We Treasure Our Sierra Madre
In the1948 John Houston movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, three destitute Americans working as gold prospectors mining the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico are confronted by bandits posing as mounted police (“Federales”). When they are asked to produce their badges, the chief bandit's response is classic: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”