First of two parts
Reader Hector has written me again and sent a long commentary on the 2016 elections and the challenges before the nation, apparently provoked by what I wrote last Thursday (“Grace Poe as alien-in-chief of the Philippines,” Times, Oct. 22, 2015).
As many readers and I have already noted, Hector wields a mean, erudite and incisive pen (or computer). He is often provocative, always in command of his facts, and critical of our national leaders. He feels assaulted by the extremes of inequality in Philippine society, where 1% of our 100 million population own 76 percent of the wealth, while 99% of the people have barely the necessities of life.
I presume he is Filipino because he cares deeply about what is happening to our country and the quality of governance today. But he could also be an expatriate who has resided in the country for years.
Hector’s commentary on the 2016 elections is too long to publish in one go, so I am splitting it into two parts.
Let his alarms about the national situation and his ideas for change help to open your eyes, as they did mine.
* * *
A political rubicon
As smuggling reaches epidemic proportions, and with crime, kidnappings, and drugs becoming part of everyday life, something fundamental must change – and soon.
Aquino has allowed the country to become a den of iniquity, and bastion of inequality, with desperation and frustration seen throughout the land.
Someone must step up. But it will certainly not be traditional politicians – it must be individual voters who take responsibility and drive change through a collective effort, aided by a new breed of politicians unencumbered from nefarious affiliations, and who do not languish in the past.
As Noam Chomsky has written: “Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.”
Democracy in the Philippines is in the last chance saloon. 2016 will be a political rubicon and will determine whether the country steps back from the brink, or blindly falls headlong into the abyss with the accompanying issues of economic deprivation and social unrest.
A chance for change
Look beyond the PR headlines, and the warning signs are there – politically, economically, and socially.
Examine the figures, and the facts confirm the downward spiral.
The success of a country is not measured by the lifestyle and excesses of the 1%, or by attracting high end western labels in exclusive malls. It is measured by levels of poverty, by equal opportunity, and by human dignity.
The 2016 election is a chance for change, but only if people think smart, act rationally, and vote strategically; and also by making the Senate the battleground for transformation, and the key catalyst of change, rather than primarily just focusing upon the position of the president/vice-president, where in reality there will be little/no choice, and maybe not even the ability to influence the outcome, given the Smartmatic/PCOS/LP track record of subterfuge and vote-rigging in 2010 and 2013. Will people meekly accept this again in 2016?
In the Philippines it is not the voting which counts, but the counting of votes which counts!
Technology is a two edged sword, and in the Philippines it has only made election cheating faster, more widespread, and no doubt more lucrative – the one thing the Philippines does well!
The paucity of choice for president also suggests that, whatever the outcome, it will likely be a case of “more of the same,” with high hopes being followed by broken promises, increased inequality, sustained poverty/unemployment levels, blatant hypocrisy, endless propaganda, and naked self-interest, with no real progress for the 90% + of Filipinos who continue to struggle and live day to day, whilst their elected Senate representatives each pocket on average 10 – 20 million pesos per annum, and live high on the hog! – so no surprise that elections are a bloodbath, and attract the greedy, the lazy, the corrupt, and the criminal elements.
Take back our democracy
Voters must look beyond simple name recall, free t-shirts, and dancing girls, and seek to redress the balance of power wherever possible, and take back democracy, before it becomes an irrelevant charade.
The Philippines must also fight to regain its former glory, and no longer accept being bottom of the Asean league table, derided by its neighbors, and shunned by investors.
From the world’s worst airports, roads, traffic, through to the worst impunity, and increasing human rights abuses, national pride has recently plumbed new depths, and the country can no longer ignore the shameful global image which it now has.
The election campaigns will likely follow previous templates by appealing to the emotions, and focusing upon the “story,” putting superficiality above substance, with little in the way of vision, strategies, solutions or concrete plans, and simply turning the whole process into a mix of telenovelas, and song and dance acts, liberally peppered with black propaganda.
The electorate must not let the clowns take over the circus again, – the past 6 years have been characterized by incompetence, hypocrisy, and disunity – or give the corrupt the key to the bank vault, and thereby, to their hard- earned, and highly leveraged, taxes.
And any rational voter should pay no heed to the mind conditioning “surveys” which hardly reflect reality. These survey companies should be investigated and/or banned, instead of hiding behind a cloak of secrecy.
A death grip by oligarchs
The Philippines – 100 million population – is in a death grip by a small number of oligarchs – 40 – and their compliant dynastic/political families – 150 – which between them account for 76% of the wealth, (hence inclusive growth is simply a mantra, and a myth), 80% of the corruption (power corrupts….), and are the instigators/coddlers of major crime syndicates, murders, illegal gambling, and wholesale scams, as they fight to maintain power, accumulate ill-gotten gains, and reflect a barbaric 3rd world feudal society, devoid of intellect, integrity, innovation, or independence.
The current crop of leaders/politicians are a cancer upon the Philippines, and have infected everything they touched, turning the country into a cultural desert, and a land of thieves, with more and more desperate Filipinos being forced to leave their families and work abroad, and also the brightest now following suit in search of opportunity, leaving the country bereft of entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, engineers, teachers, or thought leaders. Mediocrity rules! Anti-intellectuals dominate! Part-time amateurs play petty politics! Patronage pervades!
The Philippines even makes FIFA look like a paragon of virtue.
And the situation has got worse, not better, but without a collective effort then the tipping point will soon be passed – if not already.
The oligarchs/dynasties’ only goal is to ensure that the status quo remains, and that their power base – politically or economically – does not change. The people have allowed a creeping dictatorship to gain a stranglehold, and squeeze people to the point of no resistance, and little hope. Wages are kept low whilst prices are raised, and short-term labor contracts add to the dehumanization of the work-force, and the perpetuation of a low cost labor force, and monopolistic policies.