First of three parts
CANBERRA: My 30-day sojourn in Australia made me realize that the Philippines can become a progressive and prosperous country in Asia like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand. I did not include on the list the small city-state of Singapore although it has become a paragon of progress.
Governance is not the proverbial “rocket science.” All that is needed are competence and integrity in leadership in government, both at the national and local levels. Of course, it goes without saying that there should be a strong civil service composed of professional and dedicated public servants.
My month-long stay Down Under also made me realize how our country has been badly-governed for at least the past half a century from the mid-1960s to the present. It is easy to see how the Government here in Australia works with the delivery of basic services – education, health, parks for sports and recreation, peace and order (police), public works and transportation and others.
It seems rather simple that taxes paid should go back to the people. This is why the Aussies do not complain of their relatively high tax rates that are double that of ours. In the Philippines, it is apparent that pubic funds coming from payment of taxes by individuals and corporations are not properly spent for the benefit of the Filipino people by elected and appointed public officials.
The profligate mismanagement has been going on for at least the past 50 years that is responsible for the Filipino Global Diaspora which began in the mid to late 1970s. This explains why the best or only option for millions of Filipinos to have a better future is to either migrate or work abroad as OFWs.
So what lessons can we learn from Australia?
Parliamentary & federal system
First and foremost is the kind of government operating here Down Under. In spite of its enormous natural resources, Australia would never be what it is today if it had the same flawed presidential system as the Philippines. The same can be said of the neighboring New Zealand and Canada, Singapore and Malaysia – four prosperous nations under the British Commonwealth.
In the European Union (EU), the most progressive and prosperous nations have a parliamentary system. The same is true for non-members of the EU like Norway in Scandinavia that has a parliament.
Unless and until the Philippines shifts to the parliamentary system like Australia and the other countries mentioned, there is really no future – no hope – for our beloved country and people. Under the flawed present system, all that are needed to become president is popularity and funding. Qualities of leadership are not a consideration to reckon with as shown in the incumbent.
The dearth of desirable candidates for the highest position of the land is due to the single criterion in the selection: winnability, as indicated in the surveys! President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd is now talking to the popular Senator Grace Poe who won in 2013 because she is the daughter of Fernando Poe, Jr. P-Noy is now desperate for a candidate of their coalition who can win in 2016.
In a parliamentary system, the prime minister is chosen from one hundred to two hundred members of parliament (MPs), particularly the MPs of the ruling party or coalition. There is a wider choice to choose from among themselves for the position of prime minister whom they believe can be the leader of parliament and the executive branch of Government.
Hence, there is NO Need for the entire electorate to vote for the prime minister, who does not have to spend billions of pesos in the nation-wide campaign to win an election. The MPs choose among themselves in a similar manner that the Cardinals choose amongst them on who would be the Pope. There is no need for all the Catholics 18 years old and above to vote for the Pope!
Other than the parliamentary system, Australia also has a Federal form of government with the states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory. Like the United States of America composed of 50 states, these seven states are able to govern their own affairs and benefit from the revenues generated therein.
The Victoria state was able to host the Melbourne Olympics in 1954, while the New South Wales state was also able to host the Sydney Olympics in the Year 2000, as well as built the iconic Sydney Opera House completed in 1973 and also the famous Harbour Bridge much earlier in 1932.
In Europe, Germany – the richest and most powerful nation – has both parliamentary system and a federal government like Australia.
Time to shift to parliamentary system soonest and the federal government can follow afterwards. It is long overdue. It was the great Albert Einstein who once defined the meaning of INSANITY as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Police presence & competence
What is noticeable in Australia is the presence of the police force in the cities, communities and the highways. I have seen them in Melbourne and Sydney, whether on foot or in their patrol cars. The police Down Under can be seen in action on television in the evening news or read about in the newspapers.
As it has been said so many times before, the police presence is an effective deterrent to crime. However, the police in our country is hardly seen and felt. They stay most of the time in the police precincts either watching television or playing with their mobile phones (“celfones”) or texting. You begin to wonder why police rookies are even recruited at all in the first place.
Even in Boracay Island, the country’s premiere tourist destination, the police force there of more than 100 men and women are virtually useless. They can be seen in “action” either watching the tourists pass by or doing the perennial texting with their celfones. They should be doing foot patrol in the 4-km Long Beach and the other adjacent areas.
As in the words of a song in Les Miserables, “there was a time” when policemen did foot patrol in the 60s and 70s. I saw them in my younger years when they were still wearing khaki uniforms. But something happened along the way, everything now seems to have been lost. The policemen today even look smaller and not much mass in their bodies, short of being thin.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) hardly has any patrol cars to catch drivers who have violated traffic rules and regulations. In Australia, drivers are disciplined because they also know that they can be apprehended anytime by police doing mobile patrol.
The PNP procures motor vehicles and the local governments donate the same to the police to do patrol work, but they are hardly seen at all on the road. These patrol cars are usually parked in the police precincts due to budget constraints on gas or petrol. Sadly, the PNP does not even provide basic training for policemen to learn how to drive their patrol vehicles. It is a fact that I personally know of.
Rick B. Ramos at email@example.com