Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where we are and what we aspire for . . .

President Aquino perhaps believes sincerely that we aspire for “daang matuwid” to continue. Of course we do, and give him credit for it. But it doesn’t follow we want to mess up with the Constitution. If we didn’t want to do it to eliminate its restrictive economic provisions – because we feared division and chaos – what more to allow a president to stay beyond his term? If there is politics behind it, PHL has had enough politics as evidenced by our underdevelopment – but not enough nation-building! Enough is enough! Whether an administration brags about the amount of roads it has built to the last kilometer or grown the economy by so much on average, the reality is we are laggards in both infrastructure and economic development. Thus our mantra to be “pro-poor” flies in the face of the imperatives of nation-building!

Of course, in a cacique system and structure, we would be expected to humor a president? Yet given where we are in economic development and nation-building, and thus pervasive poverty, Juan de la Cruz doesn’t deserve insult on top of injury? Simply put, “daang matuwid” didn't play out as advertised because the administration hasn't truly demonstrated good governance. It has in fact undermined good governance in spades starting with “kaklase, kaibigan, kabarilan.” And not surprisingly, decision-making has been questionable. Sound decisions are the outcome of openness, transparency and diversity. And what is its converse? Bad decisions yield incoherence and incompetence. And so despite all the advertisements, PHL reality remains: we are unable to attract investment and, as night follows day, rank poorly in creativity, innovation and competitiveness.

And not surprisingly, we are inundated by the consequences of PHL incoherence and incompetence: Senate wants coherent auto industry roadmap [Gian Franco, Manila Times, 18th Sept 2014]; Tsuneishi raises concern over poor local shipbuilding support industries [Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin 17th, Sept 2014]; China bans visits to PH [Virtual Reality,Tony Lopez, Manila Standard Today, 19th Sept 2014]. And they go on . . .

“All the problems besetting the MRT began on October 19, 2012. That was the day Sumitomo’s maintenance contract was terminated and a new contract was awarded to service providers with no record for the job.” [Imperfect, FIRST PERSON, Alex Magno, The Philippine Star, 18th Sept 2014]

“Unfortunately, after almost five years from the enactment of the Reita, the Philippines still has zero share in this huge global industry. The reason is simple. Despite the national policy on the matter laid down by Congress through the enactment of the law, the Executive Branch has prescribed some pills which have succeeded in aborting the birth of the Philippine REIT market.” [Asean integration and REITs, Point of LawFrancis Ed LimPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Sept 2014]

“Until the case of the scuttled LLRP (Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project) is settled, the assessment former [Belgian] Ambassador Christian Meerschman offered last year likely still stands, as nothing else has changed: Belgian firms, he said, were happy to look at opportunities involving the private sector in the Philippines but want nothing to do with any government projects, at least as long as the current government is in office.” [Not to be taken seriously, Ben D. Kritz, Manila Times, 17th Sept 2014]

And what about the private sector? “PLDT is making customers’ lives miserable these days. If you read Ergo this past Monday, you know my problem: PLDT’s DSL service was down for several days (it may still be down for other customers). On Friday, Sept. 12, I dialed ‘172’ to get connected to PLDT’s troubleshooters. When finally I got connected after a long wait, I was given the usual ‘we will coordinate with our technical department’ to find out what the problem was. Because of my newspaper deadline, I was anxious to get reconnected, so I asked to speak to a supervisor. After another long wait, the supervisor proved to be hopeless.” [PLDT’s ‘migration’ blues, Leandro DD Coronel, Manila Bulletin, 17th Sept 2014]

We stood bravely in front of those tanks at EDSA because enough was enough – Marcos had scuttled democracy and legitimized crony capitalism. Yet Marcos won in the end; that is say, decades later Juan de la Cruz seems to have forgotten the basics of freedom and free enterprise, is compliant to political patronage and oligopoly and submissive to oligarchy? Even President Aquino knows how much damage has been inflicted on PHL that he is hard pressed to anoint a successor – because who in public service could still be trusted?

Thanks to the bishops, they have been offering a perspective away from PHL established norms like our culture of impunity? But do the bishops need to be more like Pope Francis, truly the inverse of Vatican established norms? Undermining democracy and fostering cronyism are manifestations of tyranny which in more ways than one is a fallout of a cacique or hierarchical system and structure? And precisely why Francis chose to be the antithesis of Vatican’s culture? In short, if PHL culture is to be reinvented, the church may need to be the first to do the reinventing as Francis demonstrated?

For example, how could we still be celebrating crony capitalism? In ex-socialist Bulgaria, they threw out the Communist Party-led government because the latter demonstrated they were no different from the previous government they claimed was corrupt. They were openly in bed with vested interest, e.g., media and the tobacco industry, among others; and so the people needed little impetus to bring down the bank identified with them and where they allegedly stashed their booty.

“When you get past the details of the Scottish independence referendum . . . there is a broader story underway, one that is also playing out in other . . . nations . . . It is a crisis of the elites. Scotland’s push for independence is driven by a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades. The same discontent applies to varying degrees in the United States and, especially, the Eurozone. It is, in many ways, a defining feature of our time.” [Scotland’s Independence Vote Shows a Global Crisis of the Elites, Neil Irwin, The New York Times, 18th Sept 2014

“The rise of Catalan would-be secessionists in Spain, the rise of parties of the far right in European countries as diverse as Greece and Sweden, and the Tea Party in the United States are all rooted in a sense that, having been granted vast control over the levers of power, the political elite across the advanced world have made a mess of things.”

“The details of the policy mistakes are different, as are the political movements that have arisen in protest. But together they are a reminder that no matter how entrenched our government institutions may seem, they rest on a bedrock assumption: that the leaders entrusted with power will deliver the goods.”

“Power is not a right; it is a responsibility . . . People don’t think the way things are going is good enough, and voters are getting angry enough to want to do something about it.”

Where is PHL and what do we truly aspire for? Do we in our heart of hearts want to turn over a new leaf or is it about what we say in the vernacular, “weather-weather” – that there was a season for Marcos and his cronies and there will be seasons for others in the elite class as well?

Still playing at the Public Theater in Manhattan is David Bryne’s “Here Lies Love” – “Within a pulsating dance club atmosphere, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim deconstruct the astonishing journey of Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos retracing her meteoric rise to power and subsequent descent into infamy and disgrace at the end of the People Power Revolution” []. The audience attending the musical, Filipinos and Americans alike, were transfixed: “Here Lies Love is neither a period piece nor a biography, neither a play nor a traditional musical but an immersive theatrical event combining songs influenced by four decades of dance music, adrenaline-fueled choreography, and a remarkable 360-degree scenic and video environment to go beyond Imelda’s near-mythic obsession with her shoes and explore the tragic consequences of the abuse of power.” “The tragic consequences of the abuse of power” – which today even the media nurtures?

Sooner than later, New Yorkers would be transfixed by “Here Lies Love II” and “Here Lies Love III” given the abundance of materials from the EDSA series – and beyond? And Londoners won’t be short-changed with Bryne already prepping London’s first run.

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