Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beyond the Constitution

It is more than the Constitution that is setting us back; it is our worldview or our mindset or values or culture? And which is why despite having the three co-equal branches of government – and a supposedly fairly crafted democracy where check-and-balance is enshrined – “the rule of law” is not associated with PHL? Is our parochialism setting us back in the 21st century world that is interconnected? Or is it our hierarchical system and structure in the era where people are risking their lives in pursuit of an egalitarian society? Is it our penchant to personalize when the higher order ought to be the common good? And not surprisingly, we nurture a cacique culture where rank and privilege is bestowed on the few in exchange for entitlement – i.e., paternalism as opposed to respect – for the rest? Have we then unwittingly created the fertile ground for abuse and corruption?

And we can't undo our Charter because we value and thus don't want to forego our control over our land, utilities and media? And we proudly pursued land reform in the name of social justice – that has proved to be shortsighted when it could have been a platform for a globally competitive agribusiness? We value and don't want to forego control over utilities because they are part of the nation's security but sadly confining us to the "dark ages" – unable to lit our homes and businesses? We value and don't want to forego control over media because of its power of influence – which is consistent with our value of hierarchy – thus reinforcing influence peddling?

And is the foregoing one way we would describe our culture – and which we accept as an accident of fate? The saddest part is we seem to know what we want yet because we are so “inclusive” in our perspective we can’t separate the wheat from the chaff. And we get deeper into the “trivial many” and find ourselves farther and farther away from the “vital few” – thus our inability to prioritize. For example, it is the 21st century and we are still debating about power and about NAIA 3! Aren’t they essential to day-to-day life? The JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) worked with a cross-section of society, both public and private, to develop “Arangkada Philippines” – which spells out the 7 strategic industries meant to attract $75 billion in foreign direct investments, generate intermediate industries and activity and thus over $100 billion in incremental GDP and millions of jobs. But we would rather pursue gambling – because it’s a quick fix like OFW remittances? “Pinoy abilidad” is about side-stepping a problem?

Could it be that President Aquino is not predisposed to revisiting our Charter because over the last two years, he has experienced how every initiative was not unlike pulling teeth? But how do we make the pursuit of major initiatives less painful? It is not the form but the substance. It is not the structure but our maturity. Unfortunately, maturity like morality can't be legislated – it is part of growing up and why certain economies remain underdeveloped. And which we recognize and thus are stepping up investment in education?

But that vendor is “kawawa” – let him encroach on the sidewalk! Oh, he just built our church, let him with his business endeavors – we need these basic utilities; better him than foreigners!” [Who cares about competitiveness and developing technology and innovation and people and products and markets anyway?] And that is how the common good goes out the window. And then we wonder why our system is not inclusive? Inclusive can't exist in a cacique environment and so we compromise and resort to paternalism – which all the more undermines political maturity. But everyone is happy because it preserves our most cherished value, hierarchy?

Of course we must revisit our Constitution! But it is not the be-all and end-all! And given it threatens our inherent values, we don't see it as a priority? Then, what we need is an understanding of what we are and what we believe in and what we value! We’ve relied on our institutions to set the norms and conventions, but just like the church, we are the institution, a reflection of Juan de la Cruz – whether it is government, industry or academia? How could we then address the future of Juan de la Cruz? It presupposes that Juan de la Cruz must grow up. Otherwise we shall be in the same trajectory as the US – where greed has undermined their Protestant work ethic.

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