Thursday, August 23, 2012

The redemption(s) of Enrile

Reading the Senate President’s “A harvest of dreams” – the speech he delivered at the opening of the Third Regular Session of the Fifteenth Congress – would arguably make one take in positive thoughts about Senator Enrile. Filipinos have had a roller-coaster relationship with him – from good to bad to indifferent? Yet every now and again, he demonstrates his altruism? And people saw how objective and impartial he was during the Corona impeachment trial – until, of course, the ex-CJ shot himself in the foot, admitting while justifying his unreported assets. The debate shall never cease – whether that was an impeachable offense. But if we are to establish the rule of law for the umpteenth time, we have to start somewhere. And since rank has its privileges, one occupying such a lofty post – and especially charged to uphold the rule of law – must meet a higher standard than Juan de la Cruz. Similarly, Juan de la Cruz must have no equivocation that a red light means stop. It is encouraging that the search for the next CJ has elevated the axiom that “justice delayed is justice denied.” There ought to be no two ways about it. Democracy and the free market presuppose transparency and political maturity.

Senator Enrile demonstrated once again his grasp of the nation’s ills and in such a short discourse. And it also says that the Senate is indeed the citadel of wisdom – as gleaned from the focus of its legislative agenda: from recognizing our cacique culture that perpetuates influence peddling and thus the need to create a level playing field to transparency to the imperatives of investment and technology to drive industry and the economy to protecting the interests of Juan de la Cruz and his future and thus the environment, among others.

The one item from the Senate’s legislative agenda that gives pause though is the one that says institutionalizing the participation of civil society organizations in the preparation of the annual national budget.” That sounds altruistic but it must not become a vehicle of discord and ultimately compromise that will only reinforce our “crab mentality.” The key to such an initiative is to strengthen our definition of the common good; for example, the budget must establish basic parameters like “purposeful enterprise” or critical mass. It cannot be akin to pacifying kids. For over several decades we’ve been patronizing to Juan de la Cruz – while giving a wink and a nod to oligarchy via a culture of poor governance (i.e., influence peddling) that favored special interests – thus stunting the development of political maturity and ensuring mediocre economic performance. And as we got deeper and deeper into our ways of sub-optimized allocation of resources, we had to resort to social engineering (to appease Juan de la Cruz) that proved shortsighted and counterproductive – e.g., land reform, a distorted wage index that overvalued unskilled work, party-list representation, regional white-elephant infrastructure projects, among others – and has only driven us farther and farther away from the common good and thus undermining the interests of Juan de la Cruz himself.

If we think democracy is flawed, the world now knows that socialism Soviet-style has failed most of the satellite countries with the balance carrying on with autocratic rule, adding insult to injury. And with Russia itself seemingly in denial, reasserting strong-arm tactics as oil revenue fills their coffers. But they may be pushing their luck, indifferent to the imperative of industrialization. (The old debate between industrialization and agriculture no longer holds: agribusiness is in fact an industry where success can’t come from the outdated passive model of contract production but via an ecosystem founded on state-of-the-art technology (across the supply chain) and product innovation (across the value chain.) And to be parochial is not the way to get there but by being a good global citizen.) And the writer is reminded about this by his Eastern European friends with whom he has worked and lived for most of the last 10 years. Socialism may sound romantic but its reality confined millions of them to what they now call “their dark ages.”

But to make democracy and free enterprise work, we must learn to embrace dynamism. A passive culture does not lend itself to dynamism and thus gives the fittest the playing field all to themselves? One prominent columnist wondered aloud why there is only one native Filipino among our billionaires, and is it our lack of dynamism that is at the root?

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