When closely examining the issue of why the Philippines has turned out to become Asia’s Basketcase of Wasted Democrazy, a Tagalog expression actually seems to perfectly capture the essence of our society’s collective failure to progress, improve ourselves, and fix the very problems that turned us into a Basketcase:
“Kung talagang gusto, maraming paraan;
Kung talagang ayaw, maraming dahilan…”
(“If you really want it, there are many ways;
If you don’t really want it, there are many excuses.”)
The unfortunate Truth about the general collective failure of Filipinos as a society and the dismal performance of the Philippines on the world stage reveals that Filipinos simply don’t really seem to want to be successful to begin with.
I mean let’s face it: It’s already the year 2011 and here we are still sticking to a lot of old, outdated, and discarded paradigms that have impoverished other countries – many of whom have since decided to get their acts together by adopting new ways of thinking that are making them move forward. Worse, our problems just continue to get worse. Instead of simply working in the most menial jobs abroad, we increasingly have more and more of our people going into risky criminal “contract jobs” such as acting as drug mules or even getting into prostitution just to make ends meet for their families back home.
And yet, the problem is just right there staring at Filipinos in the face: Poverty and the lack of economic opportunities.
For some reason, many Filipinos still just don’t get it. The slogan “It’s the Economy, Stupid” isn’t strong enough to jolt many of us into lobbying for the right policies to be adopted. Until today, we still often come across outdated dinosaur types who would much rather emphasize romantic but idealistically-naïve rhetoric over and above the much needed practical realities of Filipinos needing jobs and food on the table.
To this day, there still exist a number of so-called “Nationalistic” Filipinos who would rather have Filipinos suffering at home from hunger or forced to work abroad in demeaning, dangerous, or even illegal types of work due to chronic unemployment back home as long as the so-called Philippine Patrimony is maintained and the so-called “avaricious” and exploitative “imperialist” foreign investors are kept away.
Most of them come from Left-leaning Marxist or Maoist ideological backgrounds who simply refused to be in sync with the rest of the world as even Leftists and Socialists from Europe, and Latin America have shifted over to embrace economic liberalization, globalization, and foreign direct investment as allies in the fight against poverty. Case in point: During one Ibero-American summit, Spanish Prime Minister José Luís Zapatero y Rodríguez, an avowed leftist Socialist with a thoroughly leftist pedigree (one ancestor was a Communist who fought against the Right-wing Franco-led Phalangists during the Spanish Civil War) told fellow leftist, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that in order to solve unemployment, one fast and effective way was to invite foreign investors in.
Not too long ago, even leftist/Socialist former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet herself oversaw the pouring in of foreign direct investments into Chile in her administration’s drive to improve Chile’s economy and create more employment opportunities. The same thing went on with Brazil’s leftist ex-President Fernando Lula da Silva, an ex-lathe operator & machinist: Foreign investors were welcomed in as a means to create greater employment opportunities in order to better serve the masses.
Just recently, even staunchly Communist Cuba has relaxed its rules against private capitalism and has decided to legalize private entrepreneurship.
Quite unfortunately, the Philippines continues to have quite a large number of so-called “intellectuals” still subscribing to all the wrong ideas.
Worse, whenever a clamor for reforms is made by well-meaning citizens, some of these so-called “intellectuals” come out in full force to make excuses on why such reforms wouldn’t work. It’s almost as if these people insist that the Philippines is doomed to failure. They complain that the Philippines is poor because of wrong policies adopted by government, but when corrective policies are advocated in order to get rid of those wrong policies, they oppose those policy suggestions, saying “it’s not going to work” without even offering any realistic insight as to what exactly will work.
Very often, it’s really just a simple exercise in common sense. Other countries in the region have done certain things that worked and thus the Philippines should take concrete steps to try to emulate the successful policies adopted by those countries in order to emulate their successes. But still, we continue to have naysayers coming out the woodwork trying to dismiss any suggestion that the Philippines should learn from the experiences of other countries.
Below is a list of excuses that so many Filipinos used to make which seek to explain our failure as a society. Worse, some of these excuses are often aimed primarily against considering possible solutions that have caused other countries to succeed:
* * *
1. We are not successful because we have American bases. (This is no longer true, but for a long time, we used to have American bases and they left in 1991.)
Germany, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, and Qatar, all have American bases. They’re all rich and relatively successful countries. For a long time, Singapore and Malaysia relied on British and much later, Australia-New Zealand air squadrons to provide an ample security blanket to fend off any external aggression especially during the Cold War.
Why then did these countries succeed? Didn’t some of our ultranationalist activists keep saying that the American bases were the reason for our sorry state?
Had the bases continued on, we could have continued earning crucial revenues in rental payments as well as maintained well-paying jobs for local contractors and service providers. We also would have not had to deal with external aggression as the USA would have provided a security blanket for us, and we could have concentrated our efforts on simply building our economy.
Ok, so we kicked out the American bases… Did our society improve because we kicked them out?
2. We can’t learn from Singapore because Singapore is small and the Philippines is big. Singapore is easier to manage because it is small.
China learned from Singapore. China is the world’s third largest country in area, and the world’s largest in terms of population. Malaysia is almost the same size as the Philippines in land area, and yet Malaysia also learned from Singapore.
One of the largest ex-Soviet Republics, multi-ethnic but Muslim-majority Kazakhstan, decided to deviate from the other ex-Soviet Republics which took inspiration from Western Europe, and decided to “look East” for inspiration. Because of this realization by Kazakh leaders that they had more in common with Asians than with Europeans, they primarily chose similarly multi-ethnic but Muslim-majority Malaysia on how to run their society and took part of its economic cue from similarly multi-ethnic Singapore.
In fact, what many smart-aleck Filipinos don’t understand is that oftentimes, the issue with size is really just a matter of scale, but the underlying principles are often still the same. After all, a big corporation and a small mom-and-pop family business both have the same aims: to make money and not go belly up.
The same goes when comparing small model airplanes against humungous jumbo jets like the Airbus A380. Regardless of size, model airplanes and jumbo jets all work within the same principles of aerodynamics. Their wing cross-sections have the same shape, and all of them move based on roll, pitch, yaw, are governed by the counter-forces of drag and gravity, and must create both sufficient thrust and lift in order to both move forward and stay aloft.
All that really differs is scale: small model planes need very short runways while humungous jumbo-jets need extremely long ones.
Besides, the Chinese, thanks to their more than five thousand years of continuous civilization know his big-small concept pretty well. When Deng Xiaoping announced to his colleagues in the Communist Party of China that they needed to learn from tiny little Singapore, the colleagues protested that Singapore was too small. But Deng was armed with a proverb:
(mă qüè sui xiăo, wŭ zàng jù qüán)
“The sparrow though small, has all 5 vital organs complete.”
In other words, the tiny sparrow and the large majestic eagle both can fly and both have the same concerns.
Besides, all we really need to do is to decentralize the Philippines so that we end up with easy-to-adminster regional entities and turn each of them into mini-Singapores.
That’s precisely what China did in order to make it easier for them to emulate Singapore’s economic success: They decentralized the economic administration of China into more easily-manageable provinces and autonomous regions.
Who says gigantic Mainland China cannot learn from teeny-weeny Singapore?
Now… If China can learn from Singapore, why can’t we?
3. We’re not progressive because we’re still a young country, we only gained independence in 1946.
The Modern State of Israel was declared in 1948, Singapore became totally independent in 1965. These countries are all younger than the Philippines. In fact Israel owes its existence to the Philippines because we broke the tie at the UN resolution in 1947 that partitioned/carved out territory from British-Mandate Palestine to create an independent Jewish State.
Kazakhstan became independent from the USSR only in 1991 and today it has emerged as one of the most economically progressive countries not among the former Soviet republics, but also among the fast-rising economies of East Asia. Why is it that despite having been under the economically debilitating Communist system of the USSR until as late as 1991 and being a young independent country, they are able to do the right things and become extremely progressive?
4. We’re not economically-successful because we’re not as huge as the USA, Canada, or Australia
So what was that bit about Singapore being progressive because it is small?
5. We’re not progressive because we’re not a solid country with one language and a single national identity
So what about Switzerland which has German, French, Italian, and Romansch all as official languages? How about Singapore which has English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil and so many more languages? Why are they rich? How about Spain which has Castilian, Catalán (and Aranese), Basque, and Gallego?
Were the Singaporeans (or the Malaysians) a “solid” group with a single identity when they decided upon independence to embark on a focused economic development program? They weren’t. They were divided by race/ethnicity, by language, by communal loyalties, by dialect (even the Chinese used to be divided and were oftentimes antagonistic towards one another), by religion, and by class background among others.
6. We cannot succeed because we are a Catholic country.
A large number of the countries in the top tier of the GDP per capita listing come from predominantly Catholic cultural backgrounds. In the 2010 listing, at the top of the IMF list was Luxembourg whose population predominantly comes from a Catholic cultural background. In fact, among the English-speaking countries of the world, the top country in 2009’s IMF and World Bank listing was Ireland, itself a Catholic country with a large number of practicing Catholic believers.
Besides, both Catholic Spain and Italy are still among the world’s developed countries.
There is no reason why the Philippines should not be able to enact modern policies that seek to solve practical and secular concerns. All that holds Filipinos back is the backwardness mentality and the refusal to want to progress.
7. We cannot succeed because we used to be a Spanish colony.
The Netherlands was once a Spanish Colony. Why then are they a relatively successful and prosperous country?
Moreover, we’ve all noticed how Chile, a former Spanish colony just like the Philippines, had actually succeeded in proving itself to be a developed country able to set high standards of planning and implementation during the rescue of the Copiapo Miners.
Likewise, Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century had actually ended up poorer than some of its former colonies who possessed the gold and silver mines which Spain did not have, and as such, the loss of the last few remaining colonies due to their defeat in the Spanish American war had actually taken its toll on Mother Spain’s coffers.
However, during the latter part of Generalissimo Franco’s reign in Spain, the Spanish Miracle occurred. Through the adoption of correct and progressive economic policies that promoted the entry of foreign investors and bringing in capital and technological know-how, Spain prospered, developed, and enjoyed the second highest economic growth rate in the world (second only to Japan’s post- WWII Reconstruction).
To a certain extent, Chile also went through a similar stage of rapid economic growth at some point during the late Gen. Pinochet’s rule.
It is simply not true that having been a previous Spanish colony should condemn the Philippines to permanent failure.
8. We cannot succeed because we are an archipelago.
Japan is also an archipelago. Why are they still one of the world’s top economies?
Moreover, Indonesia is also an archipelago, and yet its GDP per capita is higher than that of the Philippines.
9. We cannot succeed because we don’t have our own culture.
Many other great cultures and civilizations did not have their own “all-original” culture.
(a) The Ancient Greeks copied a lot of aspects of their culture (like the Alphabet) from the Phoenicians/Lebanese.
(b) The Romans copied their culture wholesale from the Ancient Greeks.
(c) The Japanese Yamato Dynasty first copied their culture wholesale from the Tang Dynasty Chinese culture.
(d) The Siamese/Thais copied their culture wholesale from the culture of the Khmers/Cambodians.
The Khmers/Cambodians first took inspiration for their culture from the common Hindu-Buddhist culture that had been developing in the same area around Java and Sumatra, who took their inspiration heavily from both Indian as well as Chinese influence. (Influences of Chinese culture common to Khmer-Siamese, Javanese/Sumatran/Balinese/pre-Islamic Malay culture: Architecture & Roofing, Recognition of the color yellow as the color reserved only for Royalty, Recognition of the color white as the color for Funereal Mourning)
(e) The Turks under Kemal Mustafa Atatürk Westernized Turkey by taking inspiration from the Swiss (Turkey borrowed its Constitution from the Swiss Civil Code), the Germans, and the French (their strong sense of Laïcistic-Secularism is taken from the French, aside from a lot of their modern vocabulary). Previously, the late era of the Ottoman Turks were already heavily borrowing from Modern French culture and even heavily used French for diplomatic, legal documentation purposes, as well as the medium for higher education and technical learning.
(f) The Assyrians borrowed wholesale from the culture of the Sumerians.
(g) The Indonesians and Malays have a culture that developed as result of directly borrowing from a combination of the Indians and Chinese. Their pre-Islamic culture which was steeped in a combination of Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Indian and Chinese culture was essentially shared with the culture of the Khmers which was later borrowed wholesale by the Siamese.
If we were to compare the culture and aesthetics of the Philippines during the late Spanish period against Siamese culture, Filipino culture is actually much more unique, because while Siamese/Thai culture is the result of an exact wholesale copying of Khmer culture and aesthetic sense, the Filipino culture that resulted as a blend of Spanish, Chinese, and Indigenous Filipino elements such as the bahay-na-bato and its use of capiz-shell windows is totally unique. Spain or Latin America do not have architecture or aesthetics that is exactly identical to what we have. Vietnam’s art and aesthetics, however, are a copy of China’s, and Thailand’s are a copy of Cambodia’s.
10. We cannot progress because our people are uneducated
Many countries that are today considered to be First World developed countries started off in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with a vast majority of citizens who were equally uneducated.
Singapore and Malaysia, which are today considered many times more successful than the Philippines, used to have a much higher percentage of uneducated people back in the 60’s. Even until today, there are many people in Malaysia, among the majority Bumiputras/Malays who exhibit cultural traits that are identical to the cultural traits of most ordinary Filipinos, and worse, the older ones among them are actually much less educated than their Filipino counterparts
India until today has many more people (who form the majority) who continue to be extremely ignorant or uneducated and similarly also exhibit the same cultural traits present in Filipinos.
However, India and Malaysia have both been able to prevent the emergence of airhead incompetent-politicians at the top of India’s and Malaysia’s government hierarchy. All this is because of India’s and Malaysia’s use of the Parliamentary System.
In other words, despite similar cultural traits and even similar low levels of education, the system in place in both India and Malaysia prevents them from ending up with the same disastrous results in leadership quality that the Philippines is so often prone to experience.
And yet, far too many Filipinos continue to make excuses on why the Philippines cannot or should not shift its system from the present-day faulty and totally dysfunctional Philippine Presidential System to the more superior Parliamentary System. Such naysayers don’t even have any facts or data to back their knee-jerk opposition up. They simply just happen to be resistant to change.
In fact, what actually determines the success of a society is primarily the quality of a society’s elite. A truly enlightened elite that properly leads a majority of uneducated masses towards real progress has higher chances of being able to make the society successful than a half-enlightened or pseudo-enlightened elite that leads a majority of half-educated or marginally-educated masses. It is the quality of elites that matters.
Singapore’s masses were much less educated than the Philippines’ masses back in the 1960’s. However, Singapore seems to have been lucky enough to have had extremely enlightened elites leading it when compared to the Philippines whose quality of elites is totally wanting. It thus does not matter at all that the Philippine masses were much more educated and literate back in the 1950’s and 60’s when compared to the thousands of poor, uneducated, and illiterate Singaporean coolies and menial laborers.
Our inability to progress is not a result of our masses’ level of education.
Our inability to progress is a direct result of our elites’ extremely low quality of enlightenment, exposing them as mostly being pseudo-enlightened or simply unenlightened.
11. We cannot change our form of government from the currently dysfunctional Philippine Presidential System to the superior Parliamentary System because we have never had a tradition of parliamentary rule in the past from which to draw experiences and best practices.
Really? Then what exactly was Spain towards the end of the Nineteenth Century?
Apparently forgotten in history was the fact that the Philippines did in fact experience parliamentary-based governance under Spain. Far from being an Absolute Monarchy, Spain, just like the United Kingdom of Great Britain had evolved into a constitutional monarchy and had a form of government that made use of a parliamentary structure.
In fact, a Creole-Filipino himself – born and bred in the Philippines, and with a maternal lineage hailing from the Bicol Region, Marcelo de Azcárraga eventually emerged to briefly become interim Prime Minister of Spain and later on returned to become Prime Minister twice again.
Moreover, during one particular point in the history of Spain was the creation of the Spanish Constitution of 1812, dubbed “La Pepa” – the nickname coming from the Feast of St. Joseph (Fiesta de San José), which stipulated for active Philippine representation in the Cortes Generales.
It is thus no wonder that when the First Philippine Republic was formed, the form of government that was envisioned to be put in use by the framers of the Malolos Constitution was one based on political system present in Spain at the time. One in which a Head of State would devolve most of his powers over to a more powerful Head of Government in the position of Prime Minister, who was to be answerable to the assembly.
It is also quite sad that such excuses continue to be made, considering that numerous countries previously under Presidential forms of government have shifted over to the Parliamentary System, despite themselves not having had any recent history of having previously been under parliamentary government such as Lebanon, Moldova, Kirghizstan, Georgia, and many others.
The common cop-out excuse made is that countries that are currently under a Parliamentary form of government inherited their systems from their previous colonizers so that the only reason why Singapore and Malaysia are parliamentary is that they were under the British. No attempt is made to do research on how numerous countries – regardless of their historical backgrounds – have sought to forge their own destinies by choosing for themselves what form of government they see fit for themselves.
Then again, our current Presidential System is a totally failed system. Such naysayers themselves would agree that the current system is a failure and yet they refuse to accept that we need to change the system. So are they saying they’d rather continue using the same system, doing the same thing over and over again, and expect different results? Isn’t that called “Insanity?”
12. We can’t shift from Basketball to Football because Basketball is ingrained in our consciousness and well-entrenched in the Philippines.
Before the 1960’s, the Philippines had a thriving Football scene as well as a more-or-less vibrant Baseball scene as well. Basketball was essentially the result of an extremely addictive fad of having American Peace Corps volunteers go to the remote barrios armed with basketballs and installable hoops playing with the barrio kids that got perpetuated and entrenched due to inertia, much like the adoption of Jeepneys as an originally temporary stop-gap measure that would meet the interim dearth of public transport after WWII. It was simply Filipino Inertia that turned what was supposed to have simply been a passing fad into a semi-permanent fixture.
Moreover, as can be attested by the prevalence of certain sports in certain enclaves, such as Football in the predominantly Ilonggo-speaking areas of the Western Visayas region and Baseball in both Cavite and Zamboanga, it is simply not true that Basketball has a definite hold on Filipinos.
Thanks to the success of the Azkals, Football is now getting its rightful prominence as the Team Sport fit for Filipinos.
13. If we opened up our economy to foreign investors by reforming the Constitution to remove corporate ownership restrictions for foreign investors, our local businessmen would not be able to compete and Filipinos will end up impoverished.
Singapore’s economy has always been generally open to foreign investors, allowing 100% ownership of companies, and in fact, aggressively attracting massive foreign direct investment (FDI) was Lee Kuan Yew’s strategy that was geared firstly towards:
(1) the reduction of unemployment through the creation of numerous job opportunities,
(2) poverty alleviation,
(3) generating tax revenue for the government as corporations and individuals paid taxes that would be used for infrastructure development and education-spending,
(4) causing local Singaporeans to acquire useful technical skills and useful technical experience that only multinational companies set up by foreign investors could provide (which were later tapped by Singapore’s own local hi-tech companies when they hired skilled Singaporeans trained by multinations to become managers and lead technicians at local Singaporean companies,
(5) allowing local Singaporeans to gain contact with Western managers and skilled engineers in order to give them an internationalist exposure that would make them more competitive, cosmopolitan, and “exposed” to a more globalized environment,
(6) creating a solid base of gainfully-employed local Singaporeans who would have money to buy local goods and services and thus fuel the growth of the local economy, spreading out economic opportunities to other local Singaporeans who opened up anciliary industries such as food catering and other services that would be patronized by Singaporean employees of multinational corporations.
Eventually, not only Singapore followed this model, but even bigger neighboring Malaysia as well. Moreover, gigantic China did the same, and not surprisingly, India copied China’s model as well as looked to Singapore for direction.
The allegation that Filipino businessmen would not be able to compete is totally unfounded. Even John Gokongwei himself is extremely supportive of Constitutional Reform because he agrees that there is a need to create jobs for people and that eventually, it increases the overall economic pie. Competitive businessmen like Mr. Gokongwei or the Chan family who own Liwayway and Oishi do not fear competition. In fact, right now, they currently compete against foreign competitors outside of the Philippines as Jack and Jill is present outside of the Philippines such as in Singapore, while Oishi is one of the top snack brands in Mainland China. It simply is not true that Filipino businessmen cannot compete. That being said, who should the government really be protecting anyway? The rich Filipino businessmen with millions in cash or the poor ordinary Filipino workers who depend on employment opportunities which the very few local businessmen are unfortunately unable to create all by themselves?
The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of liberalizing the economy in order to create employment opportunities for Filipinos. Sadly, far too many Filipinos continue to be imprisoned by old, disproven, and outdated protectionist economic paradigms.
Shockingly, of all the Constitutions the Philippines has had, it is the 1987 Constitution that is the worst and the most anti-foreign investor of all past constitutions ever. Whereas the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions placed 60-40 restrictions solely on natural resources and public-utility firms, the 1987 Constitution sought to create a blanket restriction on all economic sectors – unless otherwise explicitly circumvented by law. Worse, the 1987 Constitution placed a total ban on foreign ownership of media firms and even placed an explicit limit of 30% foreign-ownership on advertising firms.
14. If we changed our form of government to a Parliamentary System but the same lousy politicians are in place, then we will still end up with the same results. So it is better not to make any changes in the system.
This is yet another self-defeating wrong argument that far too many Pinoy-Pessimists use in order to justify keeping the status quo and doing nothing. In effect, even if the current situation is already lousy, let’s just keep it lousy anyway because trying to change it won’t yield such a big difference.
What these people don’t understand is that by changing the system from one which favors “winnability” – celebrity-status, popularity, and name-recall – to a system which favors solid team-work based on a common policy-platform, and better competence and track-record, the overall trajectory or direction is changed so that moving forward, the Philippines will eventuall be able to shift away from the extremely dysfunctional status-quo system and its dismal results towards a system that will continue to improve its results as it is the trajectory that has changed.
Certainly, one cannot necessarily expect instantaneous overnight changes to occur. Perhaps immediately after, the overall roster of politicians will probably be 70% similar in composition to the previous situation. However, that 30% change may represent major changes in the leadership structure, for instance, so that while previously, the overall Head of Government was previously taken from the winner of the Philippines’ biggest popularity contest: the Presidential Elections, and his cabinet of Secretaries to assist him would all come from among a cabal of cronies or campaign supporters, in a post-parliamentary shift scenario, the overall Head of Government will come directly from the top leadership of the party that wins a majority of seats. Moreover, instead of drawing the cabinet members from a pool of outside supporters and “cronies”, this time, the cabinet Ministers will have to come straight from within the roster of the winning party or bloc in parliament.
Cabinet Ministers, unlike Cabinet Secretaries, will not be beholden to the Prime Minister the way most modern Secretaries in US-style Presidential Systems are directly beholden to the President, and instead will be answerable to their own party or bloc which won a majority of seats.
Moreover, the threat of removal by Parliament due to incompetence and the constant auditing by the watchful eyes of the Opposition’s Shadow Cabinet keeps all Ministers – including the Prime Minister – on their toes.
Whatever all the naysaying cynics say about the “members of parliament” being essentially the same as the roster of congressmen, the fact remains that the dynamics of the Parliamentary System’s inner workings are drastically different so as to cause the results to differ.
Previously grandstanding-only types of politicians will suddenly be forced to show true leadership skills and managerial ability when assigned cabinet portfolios or else move aside and give the job to better-qualified colleagues. Not surprisingly, some politicians will later decide to quit the game altogether and retire, sensing that the old fun they used to have in a purely legislative environment is no longer there, what with all the added executive responsibilities now added to their workload.
It is thus this fact that shows how it is that a shift in system will actually cause the composition of parliament to eventually improve and shed off all the unfit members with each electoral iteration. Those who simply can’t hack it will stop standing for re-election and give way to more dynamic people to take their place. And those districts that continue to re-elect non-performers will obviously continue to suffer lousy constituency service, while other districts with far better MP’s representing them will visibly prosper and improve.
Eventually, after three to five electoral exercises, Parliament’s members will be almost totally different from the old system where non-performing congressmen continued to be re-elected.
In short, the trajectory changes so that while the immediate post-shift scenario may appear to yield only a small change in results, over a span of a few years or more, the results will have become much more obvious.
(A parallel exists in the story of Lorenzo’s Oil. A young boy who suddenly developed a rare generally-inherited nerve condition continues to deteriorate until his situation tapers off to a point where he appears to be a vegetable. But the boy’s parents, after doggedly conducting their own intensive research for a cure, find a type of oil which when fed to their son, does not instantaneously cure him all in one go, but progressively improves his condition so that as days go by of continually feeding him with the cure, the boy eventually begins to regain some motor skills and become more able to do things he lost. Obviously, the results are not instantaneous, but if progress is to be plotted in a graph, there is an obvious positive trajectory which shows that had the gradual progress been started much earlier, the cure may have allowed the boy to return to living a normal life. As with anything, most fixes are not instantaneous. They are gradual. Just because a fix is not instantaneous, however, does not mean that we should refuse to do it.)
To summarize, there are two main things that need to be noted as regards a shift in system:
(a) A shift in system includes a shift in determining what types of people emerge at the top of the country’s decision-making bodies. In other words, the selection-process changes drastically, altering the requirements for who succeeds and thrives in the new system. A parliamentary system adds special demands on members of parliament, so that those who cannot hack it will not shine. If they don’t shine, they won’t survive in the new system. Those unfit for service in the new parliamentary system will fall by the wayside while those most fit for this superior system will emerge.
(b) A shift in system includes a shift in rules of behavior, thus molding those members who do remain to change their behavior in order to match the requirements set by the new rules. If in the past, the legislature was limited to coming up with laws or “grandstanding”, a shift to the parliamentary system requires the top members to become actively involved in running the executive branch through Cabinet Ministries, where Question Time subjects them to public scrutiny by the Opposition Shadow Cabinet. Members of Parliament are forced by the new game-play dynamics to improve their behavior lest they fail. The behavior of members of parliament changes and a new political culture develops.
15. We are poor because the Philippines does not have the kinds of resources that oil-rich countries have, we could live better lives.
As a matter of fact we do have resources.
Perhaps we do not have an abundance of oil that Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Venezuela, or other Gulf countries have, but we certainly have mineral resources in extreme abundance.
Unfortunately, we are a society that loves to shoot ourselves in the foot. We have abundant mineral resources, but instead of properly investing in mining so that our society could properly profit from it, we either ban it, or we prevent cash-rich companies with the resources to invest in safe-and-responsible mining operations and on the other hand, permit small-scale mom-and-pop mining operations which unfortunately have a very poor environmental record as these small-scale mining companies do not invest in safety equipment, safety procedures, safety audits, and have no inclination to support the use of high-tech modern methods of mining which could better minimize environmental impact and ensure better safety for surrounding communities, environmental protection, and safety for the miners themselves.
The Philippines should rightfully be among the countries whose prosperity is in large part fueled partly by an abundance of mineral resources such as Canada, Australia, and even Chile, whose amazing miners’ rescue puts them on the list of countries with a track record of safety and precision-operations.
Whether we like it or not, mining is big-ticket economic provider in that it has the ability to create a large number of jobs, benefit numerous little communities near mine-sites, provide enormous royalties for the local and national governments to be able to fund a large number of infrastructure and social-development programs (such as education and other skills development), and ultimately greatly uplift the Philippine economy.
All we need is the realization that Mining is not exactly the evil industry as some misguided people paint it to be. Lest these people forget, there would be no Western Civilization without mining. After all, it was the Silver Mines of Laureion, in Greece’s Attic Region, which provided Athens with its economic base to become not just economically and militarily powerful, the silver-based wealth of Athenian society funded such intellectual pursuits as philosophy, mathematics, and science. There would be no Socrates without an economically wealthy Athens. And without an economically wealthy Athens and Socrates, there would be no Plato. Without an economically wealthy Athens and Plato, there would be no Aristotle and there would be no Plato’s Republic and his other philosophical discourses.
Without Aristotle, there would be no Alexander the Great, and without Alexander the Great, there would be no Seleucid (Hellenic influence in the Near East Levant – Modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Southern Turkey) nor Ptolemaic (Hellenic influence in Egypt) dynasties which, like it or not, were critical ingredients in the development of the Hellenized Judaic traditions which spawned Christianity. This clearly became the basis of Christendom (All lands under Christianity), which later split into West and East during the Great Schism of 1054 (West – Roman Catholic; East – Eastern Orthodox), the Western half of Christendom having become the basis of what we now call “The West.”
We also need to be reminded of the fact that without Mining, we wouldn’t be able to do many things:
(1) No computers, no internet, no e-mail, no World Wide Web surfing
(2) No well-cut or well-prepared food, no cutlery, no pots and pans
(3) No cars, buses, airplanes, no vehicles
(4) No tools with which to do other things like chop wood, build houses, etc
(5) No steel structures for buildings
(6) There’s a lot that we can’t do without mining or the products of mining
16. We are poor because we are rich in natural-resources. Look at successful countries like Japan or Singapore, they work hard because they don’t have natural resources.
So whatever happened to number 15?
This is just another one of those extremely absurd and I dare say idiotic ideas spawned from the brains of self-defeatist ultra-pessimist cynic-types who secretly wish that the Philippines remained to be a hell-hole forever.
So previously there is the excuse that we are poor because we don’t have the same abundance of resources that oil-rich countries have, and now there’s this absurd remark that we’re poor because we’re rich in natural resources.
So what exactly is it? Poor because we have or because we don’t have resources?
Seems more like “Poor because we don’t want to succeed.”
17. We are poor because we are a tropical country
Before I issue a rebuttal, let me say that this excuse does indeed make sense. Yes, tropical countries are overwhelmingly poor. Yes, there is a natural tendency towards complacency and laziness among cultures spawned in tropical areas. Both are true. However…
Why then is tropical Singapore a rich and successful country?
Why is tropical Malaysia fast-rising to become a developed country?
Why is tropical Vietnam the country in ASEAN that has the highest amount of investments and one of the fast-rising economies in the region?
Why is tropical Panama turning itself into one of Latin America’s most economically prosperous and dynamic societies?
Why is tropical Costa Rica able to have a relatively decent GDP per capita?
18. We are poor because we are using English which is not our native language. Look at Japan, they use their native language that’s why they are rich.
(1) Most Singaporeans do not natively speak English as their first language and instead, have mother tongues like Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese, Henghwa, Hokchew, Cantonese, Hakka, Malay, Javanese, Baweanese, Tamil, Malayalee, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, or others.
Yet they are educated primarily in English as that is the official medium of instruction. And lo and behold: Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world, and in 2010’s IMF ranking for GDP per Capita has surpassed Japan as being the richest East Asian country.
(2) Ireland’s native and national language is Gaeilge, aka “Irish Gaelic.” But in fact, their educational system uses English as the medium of instruction. And Ireland is number 12 in the IMF’s 2010 GDP per Capita top ranking.
(3) Luxembourg’s native language is Letzeburgesch, classified as a dialect of Low German that is somewhat similar to Flemish and Dutch, yet Luxembourg’s primary medium of instruction is French with German acting as a second official language. Both French and German are technically foreign to Luxembourg.
Nevertheless, Luxembourg has ranked as number 1 in the IMF GDP per Capita ranking, and is therefore the country with the highest per capita income in the world for both the 2009 and 2010 data sets. Moreover Luxembourg is also number one in the World Bank’s 2009 GDP per Capita ranking.
(4) India has so many different native or “mother” languages for its extremely diverse population. English, however, serves as its primary official working language especially in business and education. One of India’s biggest advantages has been its reliance on its English-proficient white-collar sector in providing outsourcing services to the developed world. This was its main ticket to becoming one of the world’s emerging economies.
Quite obviously, the whole idea that using one’s native language as a medium of instruction or official language determines success and that not using one’s native language impoverishes a country is clearly absurd.
In fact, despite Singapore’s use of the English language as its major medium of instruction despite the multiple ethnicities present in Singapore who have their own native languages, Singaporean students’ test scores are among the highest in the world.
Speaking of Japan, most Filipinos who love to use Japan as that poster-boy of “native-language use” are totally ignorant of the fact that during the Meiji Restoration, it was extremely common for élite Japanese university students studying some of the most technically-challenging courses in the Natural Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, and even Music, International Diplomacy and others to actually make use of textbooks in German, English, or French, (for some music majors, Italian) and were instructed by foreign professors from Germany, Austria, Britain, the USA, or France. This tendency actually even continued until long after the Meiji Restoration.
19. We are poor, undisciplined, and lack a sense of nationhood because we never went through a cataclysmic experience of intense suffering and bloodshed
This is certainly another one of those weird (but common) views espoused by many Filipinos out there. They claim that we need a Great War where the bloodshed should be so terrible so as to make the blood spilled flood the cities. Others insist that we have a Civil War.
So these people want Pol Pot’s Killing Fields for us to get our act together, is that it?
But wait, didn’t we already go through intense suffering World War II? (Sure, we didn’t get the A-bomb dropped on us, but our grandparents still suffered.)
Didn’t we also go through massacres during the Japanese occupation? Didn’t we have the Philippine-American War where the Americans tried a campaign of “Pacification” and many of our people actually suffered? Didn’t we already have relative-versus-relative “feuds” during the Philippine Revolt against Spain where Pro-Spain loyalists were pitted against Katipunero revolutionaries?
Truth be told, we’ve already gone through these types of tragedies and hardships. We should stop making the excuse that we need to have major bloodshed before we can progress.
Independent and multi-ethnic Kazakhstan is progressing rapidly despite the absence of such a cataclysmic conflict or bloodbath.
20. We shouldn’t allow for Regional Decentralization because it is going to strengthen local and regional Warlords and local political dynasties.
Evolving Regional Decentralization, which others would call “evolving Federalism” is a two way process. Devolving powers to the regions does not just mean granting them autonomy and greater political control. It also means lessening their subsidy from the national coffers. It means that regions will increasingly have to fend for themselves.
Local kingpins and local oligarchs and “warlords” are therefore going to receive less assistance, and in exchange for that, they will have the ability to set policies for their region. Since they will receive little or no subsidy, regional governments will be forced to create policies that will make their regions more attractive to businessmen and investors. They will be forced to become more focused on the economic development of their respective regions because they will no longer receive as much subsidies from the national government.
If they were planning on enriching themselves, they simply aren’t going to be able to do it unless they increase regional tax revenues by attracting businesses and investors in. But perhaps the most important point is that the CoRRECT™ Movement proposes not just evolving Regional Decentralization, but it also proposes Economic Liberalization in order to attract foreign investors as well as a shift to the parliamentary system.
With Economic Liberalization as part of the “package-deal” together with Regional Decentralization, the idea is to get all the different regions competing against each other to come up with the most attractive economic policies and incentives that would get local Filipino and foreign investors scrambling to set up operations, offices, and factories in their respective regions.
By getting in as many investors – both local and foreign – to come in, more and more denizens of those regions that can successfully attract investors would get employed, paying income taxes and improving the local economy as more people hopefully have more disposable income to spend in the regional economy. This in turn eliminates whatever peace-and-order problems may have originally existed as insurgencies are really nothing but reactions to the lack of real economic opportunities.
As more and more people improve their lives through employment, others who are more enterprising can get into business and prosper as a result of the improved regional economy. Numerous newly-rich people will emerge and inevitably challenge the existing regional oligarchs, forcing them to be competent and competitive, producing real results rather than simply relying on patronage politics.
Like it or not, the Three Point CoRRECT™ Agenda of Economic Liberalization, Evolving Regional Decentralization, and a Shift to the Parliamentary System will shake up the entire socio-economic and economic-political landscape as economic fortunes change.
The entry of numerous foreign and local investors will induce a massive infusion of cash into the various regional and local economies, creating numerous opportunities for the old rich as well as the new rich. The old rich may decide to improve their competitiveness by learning new ways and reinventing their businesses to move away from a previously monopolistic set-up where perhaps they may have been the only provider of a particular product or service. The ordinary hardworking employees may decide to take advantage of the new economic opportunities that a full implementation of the Three Point CoRRECT™ Agenda will bring about. Some of these hardworking people may in fact end up becoming a class of “nouveaux riches” entrepreneurs, capable of challenging the existing old rich. Whatever the case may be, the competition will be good for all as opportunities for upward mobility will be created, while members of the old rich will be forced to ensure that they keep themselves competent, competitive, and relevant.
Monopolies will be dismantled and more opportunities will be created both on the economic and the political scene. Moreover, widespread economic opportunities and massive employment created by the influx of investors (foreign and local) will mean that ordinary people will be less susceptible to patronage politics and largesse.
Overall, such a scenario will result in the obvious diminution of the monopolistic chokehold that old local oligarchs would have used to hold on their own respective regions or locales. Such a scenario also means one thing: The full implementation of the Three Point CoRRECT™ Agendawill not strengthen local or regional oligarchs, political dynasties, and local warlords.
Ultimately, economic monopoly is the basis of political monopoly. By breaking economic monopoly by ensuring the massive entry of economic opportunities for the masses – which will happen when regions are forced to fend for themselves economically without receiving subsidies in exchange for granting them greater autonomy, and the political monopoly exercised by traditional politicians and warlords will also be broken as upwardly mobile citizens will eventually challenge the old existing order and keep everyone competent and competitive.
Pessimistic Cynicism is NOT Get Realism
It is extremely important to note that ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism is the exact opposite of the other extreme which is Triumphalism: That everything that Filipinos do is perfect, fine, and that there is no need to improve things.
(Note: The CoRRECT™ Movementi actually started off as an initiative within Get Real Philippines — and the principal co-founder was a key co-founding member of Get Real Philippines and was its spokesperson until the spin-off occurred)
What is referred to as “Get Realism” is actually the Middle-Way between Filipino Triumphalism (“Everything that Filipinos do is perfect. Filipinos don’t need to improve”) and ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism (“Everything that Filipinos do is wrong. No amount of fixing things will work”). As such, a true “Get Realist” holds that while a huge number of things that Filipinos currently do are wrong and are precisely the reason for Philippine society’s failure, by simply adopting the right policies, attitudes, and making sure that the right results are achieved, Philippine society can in fact improve.
Unfortunately, the main problem of “ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism” which to the untrained observer may sometimes seem to resemble “Get Realism” is that it tends to paint the Philippines as a hopelessly irreparable Basketcase that no amount of rectification can ever fix. It also paints the Filipino as a hopelessly incorrigible fool, destined to continue to wallow in mediocrity per omnia saecula saeculorum. Such a view holds that Filipinos will always be beyond redemption and that proposed solutions that are suggested in order to fix the problems of the Philippines will always be perverted by Filipinos and no amount of seeking solutions to address said flaws will ever work.
I totally reject such a view.
For me, I personally find that such “ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism” is not only incompatible with true Get Realism, any Filipino who unrepentantly adheres to such “ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism” should just commit suicide.
Why? Because if there is absolutely no hope in finding solutions to the problems that make the Philippines such a failed society and cause the Filipino to be such a disappointment, then why bother living if one is a Filipino? I mean, what’s the point?
If you’re Filipino and you feel that no amount of solutioneering is ever going to succeed in bringing about positive change, then why even bother commenting about the Philippines? Why even bother criticizing the Philippines if you think we Filipinos are just never going to succeed in fixing our problems?
What point is there in mentioning just how failed the Filipino is if you honestly believe that no amount of finding solutions is ever going to work?
Get Real Philippines does indeed criticize (quite harshly, in fact) the failures of the Philippines and the flaws of the Filipino, but those criticisms are in fact issued because of an inherent faith in the fact that the Filipino can improve if those flaws are removed and the problems solved.
The sad part is that many “ultra-Pessimistic Cynic” Filipinos have decided that Filipinos are destined to fail, and they’ve already made a bet that Filipinos are going to fail (even if they themselves are Filipinos),and that any sign that Filipinos might just be able to learn to succeed by learning from their mistakes and doing the right things invalidates their thesis. They thus treat any sign that the Filipino can succeed as a threat. They bet against the Filipino so they feel that Filipino success means losing the bet.
Hence, these “ultra-Pessimistic Cynics” will do everything to prove that nothing that Filipinos try in order to fix the Philippines, change the way Filipinos do things, change the way Filipinos think, or even improve Filipino Culture is ever going to work. In short, for them, no solutions exist that can fix the Filipino or the Philippines and that whatever Filipinos do – we’re all destined to fail. Sometimes, they even go to such lengths to sabotage any solutions or dishonestly present such solutions as being flawed, even if said solutions are actually sound.
As can be seen, “ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism” is an extremist point of view that everyone must avoid. It must be avoided in just the same way that Triumphalism is to be avoided.
Of course, sometimes, even the most die-hard “Get Realists” themselves can fall into the “ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism” trap – especially if they’re extremely exasperated with too much news of everything that’s wrong with the Philippines and “da Pinoy.”
I have in fact previously clashed with a few Get Realist colleagues in the not-so-distant past due to such differences. It has happened that after a string of major mishaps in the news (such as the Bus Hostage Tragedy and many others) colleagues may have sometimes gotten carried away and have ended up expressing such “ultra-Pessimistically Cynical” sentiments that essentially condemn the Philippines and “da Pinoy” to the eternally-damned state of never being able to get out of failure or disaster.
In fact, getting inundated by a constant barrage of the images of Filipino failure coming out in the news had even caused some colleagues to even suddenly go into a friendly-fire frenzy of attempting to shoot down well-meaning solution-proposals that seek to fix the Philippine situation churned out by their own fellow-Get Realists.
That is the danger of this “ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism” tendency that lurks in everyone. It can affect even the staunchest of Get Realists who should know better to stay in the “middle.”
My “hope” or my realistic view that the Philippines can be fixed or that Filipino can improve is not some misplaced hope or misguided optimism. It’s actually based on fact.
The Philippines was not always a hell-hole. Under the late Spanish period and even during the American occupation, the Philippines was relatively better off than most other countries and even enjoyed higher standards of living, levels of education and literacy compared even to Mother Spain (which was impoverished because of the Spanish-American War) or other countries in Asia that are currently enjoying better standards of living.
The main difference between then and now, however, was the overall quality of leadership most exemplified by the combination of the quality of the local élites in conjunction with the relative quality of the colonial administrators back then when compared with the quality of post-colonial Filipino leadership most evident today.
All we really need to do is to Enlighten the Filipino Elite and ensure that instead of having low-quality pseudo-enlightened and unenlightened elites, our elites are progressive-minded, forward thinking, and at par with the elites in more advanced societies.
Last but not the least, the Middle-Way of Get Realism must be chosen as the default paradigm.
Triumphalism (“Filipinos are the Best and are Perfect“) is downright wrong because it represents total complacency and self-delusion, while “ultra-Pessimistic Cynicism” is also wrong because it rejects the reality that if the Filipinos cultural and behavioral flaws are corrected Filipinos can in fact improve and instead holds the view that Filipinos are destined to be failures.
Get Realism is essentially the same paradigm from which Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia operated. He criticized his own fellow Malays for their backward attitudes, tendencies towards laziness, lack of drive, lack of entrepreneurial ability etc – essentially traits that are also present in many Filipinos. But he did so in the belief that by getting them to get rid of those cultural and character flaws, they could succeed. Moving forward, major changes did occur. Many Malays, originally uneducated and lagging behind their Chinese and Indian compatriots ended up excelling in school.
To boost the country’s success, he rallied all Malaysians – his own fellow Malays included – behind the slogan “Malaysia boleh”, which means “Malaysia can.”
For Tun Dr. Mahathir, as long as Malaysians – and his own fellow Malays – did the right things, they could succeed.
And succeed Malaysia did!
Do we really want to succeed?
I essentially want to make it clear to all Filipinos that our inability progress is not a static, unchanging, and immutable given. We are not progressing not because our Filipino-ness condemns us to eternal mediocrity and failure. There’s nothing genetically inherent in our inability to succeed. There is nothing fixed about our constant state of failure.
Instead, we are not progressing simply because we continue to do things that retard our own progress and we refuse to do the very things necessary for us to progress and succeed. If these are things we do because they result from our faulty attitudes, our faulty paradigms and ways of thinking, or our faulty culture, the truth is:
- We can change our attitudes if we really wanted to
- We can change our ways of thinking if we really wanted to
- We can change our culture and improve it if we really wanted to
- We can do the right things that can make us successful if we really wanted to
The real problem is that we simply refuse to change our attitudes, we refuse to change our paradigms, we refuse to make the appropriate changes to our culture in order to make us more compatible with progress and success, and we just simply refuse to do the right things that would have made us successful. We refuse to make the necessary sacrifices that would allow us to move up the ladder and instead, we just want to have our cake and eat it too.
There is absolutely no reason in the world as to why we should continue to be a “collective failure” as a society because we actually do have the talent and the skills. We have a lot of the inherent advantages which – despite our falling standards – continue to make us the envy of many of our neighbors. We have a high literacy rate. We are very much exposed to English. Our people can learn new things if we wanted to. We are generally talented, and even people in Singapore and Malaysia (two of ASEAN’s most dynamic economies today) as well as people in China, Taiwan & Hong Kong thoroughly acknowledge this!
But we just need to have the focus and discipline in channeling our talents and energies towards doing the right things, avoiding the wrong things, and concentrating on prioritizing those things that make the most sense, while relegating the less important ones to the bottom of our to-do list.
If we’ve realized that we’ve been doing the wrong things, then we simply have to stop doing all those wrong things. If we realize that other countries are executing superior economic strategies and we’re not doing those, well it’s high time we learned from them and asked ourselves why we’re not doing what they’re doing in order to improve our situation.
Like it or not, being able to discipline ourselves and focus our energies and abilities towards progressing as a society is not a question of whether we are capable of succeeding, but rather a question of whether we really do want to succeed.
Again, this should be worth looking into:
“Kung talagang gusto, maraming paraan;
Kung talagang ayaw, maraming dahilan…”
(“If you really want it, there are many ways;
If you don’t really want it, there are many excuses.”)
Ask yourselves, fellow Filipinos, as to whether you really want our society to succeed or you’re all just content to make excuses on why we have every reason NOT to succeed.
* * *
The Filipino CAN change
The Filipino CAN learn
The Filipino CAN improve
It’s all a matter of whether the Filipino wants to…
* * *
About the Author
Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.
Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.
Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is also a semi-professional Stand-up Comedian who won first place in the 2014 Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival Best New Act Competition and is the January 2016 Comedy Central Comedian of the Month. He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.