Laggard PH is tops in political chaos and strife


Marlen V. Ronquillo

THE release of a global survey is almost always a nightmare to Filipinos who love their country and still dream of a Philippines that meets the benchmarks of a performing country, a country moving up in the world. Or, one that overwhelms. The trolls won’t believe that there are Filipinos of that lofty kind. There are, and they are legion, and theirs is a kind of love for the country that is without the accompanying venom.

Because every global survey is a dagger thrust deep into their collective pride and ambition. A laggard on quality of life, a laggard on the quality of its major metropolitan areas, a laggard on competitiveness. An underperformer that can’t break through vicious cycles of mediocrity. One recent survey even ranked Metro Manila one of the Top 10 “most stressful cities in the world,” up there with the usual suspects—the South Asian countries that hosted Osama bin Laden.

Our universities, with three or four in the old lists of Top 50 Asian universities, are now on a slow, horrible downward slide, probably with the agenda of topping the mediocrity ranking. Whether it is the Times Higher Education Survey, the QS Survey or the ARWU survey, the verdict is the same: Philippine universities, once in the great or decently ranked categories, are marching inexorably downhill. This is universally true: a country with a mediocre university system is a mediocre country 100 percent of the time.

The fact that the huge conglomerates have been taking over many of our iconic universities is a sign that the universities are going commercial and are going to be corporate cash cows, not centers of academic excellence. (The agenda of the conglomerates is very clear: bleed the students for corporate profits, then hire them as clerks at starvation wages after graduation. There is empirical evidence to back this up.)

Once a powerhouse country that was second to Japan in overall Asian (the whole continent) economic might, PH is now an Asean laggard.

Question: Where else do we “excel” aside from the fact that Metro Manila is up there among the “most stressful” metropolises in the world?

After Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing issue, the exodus of its Rohingya, we are second in the Asean region in overall chaos and strife. Just look at what is happening to the three most sacred, supposedly co-equal, institutions of democracy.

President Duterte is right now at war with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the official who exercises the gravest responsibility – oversight-wise. A pliable House of Representatives is now trying to impeach CJ Sereno based on some ill-assembled articles of impeachment, for acquiring a Land Cruiser, among other things. The garage of an obscure congressmen may have a LC200 Platinum Edition, on top of a Audi Q7 and a premium Range Rover, the type used by the British PM. The CJ acquires a Land Cruiser for the use of the office and suddenly that is an impeachable offense? She will not own that once she is out of the CJ post.

That the war between the President and the CJ is now down tothe issue of “bank accounts“ has given the fight a lurid, pedestrian undertone.

The DU30 administration is also at war with the Commission on Human Rights, with critical voices in the Senate, the Left and the Lumadin Mindanao. It has a long-running feud with top leaders of the Catholic Church. A senator of the realm, Leila de Lima, has been in detention, for her alleged links to the illegal drug trade. The reality is probably this: her bad choice in men.

And the Office of the Ombudsman. And the UN’s office on human rights.

The sad thing is that Mr. Duterte brought the fight into the doorsteps of his adversaries, fights which are distracting, not enhancing his governance.

The sheer unorthodoxy of Mr. Duterte’s agenda, the war on drugs, and the single-minded pursuit of that agenda via strategies that challenge the boundaries of the law, will naturally bring him into conflict with the CHR, the Church, some elements of the judicial system and figures in the legislature who oppose his strategies. And the UN agency dealing with human rights. That the war on drugs has popular support does not provide a legal sanction to the strategy used.

From the initially calibrated statements of criticism, the opposition to many of the policies of Mr. Duterte is now a full-blown thing and the newspaper headlines have vividly and chronologically reported the drip-drip descent into open animosity between the institutions and the leaders of the institutions.

This is the current portrait of the country, this is the state of the country seen from the inside and the outside.

At this point in 2016,hopes were very high that Mr. Duterte would reform the country with some side fights with some of the public and private institutions, yes, but fights that were to be minor and inconsequential to his governance and his reform agenda .

Now, they are discussing bank accounts, hidden wealth and who amassed what while holding public office.

When the national discussion shifts to the stage of bank accounts and hidden wealth, we all know to what lowly depths, to what sorry state, the country has fallen.


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