What I find an interesting aspect of the NAIA bullet incidents is that a group of OFWs have started a petition with so far over 6,000 signatures, addressed to government, asking them to investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of what appears to be a long-standing extortion racket at the airport.
Should it be necessary for “the people” to petition the government to bring about law and order? Things seem to be the wrong way around—it is the job and purpose of government to protect the people from each other as well as from any foreign aggression.
The Philippines ranks at No. 141 out of 162 countries on the World’s Most Dangerous Countries list, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace.
This makes it the most dangerous country in East Asia (other than Eastern Russia, which ranks at 152), putting it alongside Rwanda and Chad in Africa and Mexico, and only 16 places above Somalia.
The cost of violence in the Philippines, according to the analysis, is about $25 billion a year and interestingly, one of the worst elements within the the criteria assessed was “political terror”! I can only guess that they hadn’t factored in the number of bullets people were attempting to sneak through the security walls at NAIA.
Protecting the people from each other is a very big job. It is not just preventing people from killing extorting and carrying out other criminal acts against their countrymen, it is also about allowing them to go about their business without undue let or hindrance and relate to each other in a “brotherly” sort of way.
As it is government’s prime purpose to ensure that people feel comfortable and safe walking down the street and in their own homes, it is also its purpose to ensure that people can go about their business and economic activities in such a way as to minimize inconvenience and avoid any possibility of their being messed around with and having their time wasted by unnecessary procedures (the process obsession).
The World Bank has upset people by putting the Philippines lower in its rankings for ease of doing business. According to the World Bank/IFC, the Philippines dropped from No. 97 to No. 103 in its latest assessment. Government and others do not agree, albeit it will be unsurprising to many. So it becomes yet another unclear situation for which people just have to judge by their own experience, which in turn depends where you happen to be located in the local socio-economic triangle.
The Philippines is certainly not an easy place to do business in, as most people would attest. There are times when you just have to shake your head and wonder if there is indeed any united national focus to moving things forward. It is difficult to understand why so many impediments to progress are tolerated—don’t people want the Philippines to progress fast forward and provide better lives for all rather than just shrug about the hurdles that have to be continually jumped and say, “but that’s the way it is”?
What can be the engine for change and improvement, making it easier to go on a straight path rather than be continually put in a position of making improper payments in order to ease the way forward, if the people themselves just accept it? “Pay P30,000” is reported as having been asked, “or we will report you to the police and you will be arrested for carrying bullets through the airport.” If that is true, then extortion is becoming institutionalized. Protecting the people from each other? Better, as some say, to just confiscate the bullets and trash them in a brotherly sort of way.
So long as these types of behavior are not seriously and professionally rejected in an overtly and transparently just way, then the Philippines will continue to slide down the ratings, which slide will show that either nothing is being done about it or that nobody really cares anyway. But by my observation, people do care. They don’t like their nation to attract bad publicity and they don’t like to be continually messed about trying to satisfy the often very-difficult- to-satisfy requirements. Some say better to get out and find a living in another country and use their economic potential somewhere else. But they wouldn’t say that if they believed that things were okay back home.
Ratings from surveys are, of course, debatable. The methodology can be challenged. But ratings by international organizations have no axe to grind. They just attempt comparison as a guide but they are looked at by others outside as well as within the Philippines and, like it or not, they do have an impact. The apparent dichotomy between financial credit ratings and the great raft of other survey results that are continually being produced is readily explained as the credit ratings are purely about money and financial indicators. The other surveys demonstrate that there is rather more to having a well-balanced developing nation than just money.
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.