Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stepping up to the plate

Three years ago when the writer started this blog, friends – both Filipinos and foreigners – wondered aloud if Juan de la Cruz would ever be able to step up to the plate. To this day some continue to doubt the character of the Filipino. Could it be because Juan de la Cruz tends to personalize most things including matters of national if not international import? And the writer saw this while in Manila (during the family’s annual homecoming) when the Corona impeachment trial had just begun. Introduced to some lawyers during a clan reunion, the writer noted that those who were against the filing of the case had clear personal reasons. We have, like Washington, allowed patronage politics to define us – when patronage is the norm good governance goes out the window?

When the verdict finally came, the writer was in the heart of Eastern Europe. Our senators proved that in fact we could step up to the plate! BRAVO! And in this part of the world, they are just learning to deal with the judicial process. And so the writer does not expect them to be as mature as our senators have demonstrated. The writer – a non-lawyer –  has experienced being in the jury (and, as importantly, its efficiency) in a criminal case in Connecticut, USA; and he assumed that since we don’t have the jury system in the Philippines, Senator Santiago would wonder if the other senators, not being lawyers, could appreciate the judicial process. But others disagreed. Indeed, if the legal/judicial community is to step up to the plate, they would have to hold fundamental principles up high. For example, that justice delayed is justice denied. It will go a long way to raising our credibility in good governance and thus as a nation. Efficiency and timeliness engender good governance; while inefficiency and delays feed injustice like corruption. If we believe delays are part of our culture, it’s about time we deal with it?

The challenge to Juan de la Cruz is to move forward; and not to simply be resigned to the conditions obtaining in the country. We keep talking about poverty but don’t talk about our economic model that is generating a meager output and, consequently, elevated poverty. It’s understandable because we lead with our heart; and, unsurprisingly, the same mode CJ Corona adopted at the witness stand? Thankfully the now ex-CJ is putting country first.

We must step up to the plate and recognize why our neighbors are more prosperous; and it is because there is something common among them which, unfortunately, we continue to gloss over? They are outward- and forward-looking; while we are inward- and backward-looking? Between leading with our heart and our parochial instinct, have we missed fundamental principles like causal relationships? The writer remembers his high school PE teacher, a doctor, who talked about cause and effect. And he would add, “If you are interested in causal relationships, you may want to be a doctor. “ [Not this once lazy student.]

We have resigned ourselves to the belief that corruption is a given and so we simply accept it. We have resigned ourselves to being a third-world nation and so we simply accept it. We have resigned ourselves to the power of half a dozen entities to dominate the economy and so we simply accept it. Are we more wedded to an economic model that hasn’t moved us forward for half a century than the bamboo and iron curtains that came down? Our “kuro-kuro” culture generates lots and lots of prescriptions, but between our parochial instinct and leading with our heart, these prescriptions are suspect – because they miss causal relationships? And unable to lift ourselves up, we unwittingly turn fatalistic? We need to tap the power of the human spirit if we are to break free from the mold of fatalism!

And so when President Aquino is not receptive to revisiting the restrictive economic provisions of our Constitution, for instance, what do we make of it? [And because we personalize things, statements like that offend friends of the president? But as we know even the Vatican needs oversight re money laundering, for example, and can’t be shielded by sovereignty?] We know that we lag our neighbors in attracting foreign investments, but it doesn’t mean we are more patriotic than they are? As Senator Santiago wailed, we are a corrupt country? And it appears the Bureau of Customs ought to be a priority? Or are there bigger fish the president worries about? Still, to benchmark our ability to attract foreign investments must be a priority. Our challenge remains: We must step up to the plate!

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