Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Where are we?

“Corruption has plagued the poverty-stricken nation of 97 million for decades, fostered by a culture of impunity by powerful politicians, businessmen and their allies, weak law enforcement and a notoriously slow justice system.” [US wants to seize $12.5-M Napoles assets, Patricia Lourdes Viray,, 15th Jul 2015]

“The Justice Department will not allow the United States to become a playground for the corrupt or a place to hide and invest stolen riches," Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said. . . Napoles purchased properties and other assets in the US to disguise and enjoy her ill-gotten wealth.

“The FBI is committed to ensuring that the U.S. financial system is not used to launder the proceeds of foreign bribery schemes. Nor is the United States a safe haven for the fruits of corruption," FBI Los Angeles Field Office Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich said.”

We should take that as the indictment of Juan de la Cruz, not that the US is helping us fight corruption? 100 million of us must take responsibility, including our elite class even when we see them as a class unto themselves?

“What are we doing wrong? We can all agree that our political system is essentially flawed: It is designed to favor the moneyed, the popular, the established. There will be time to discuss this, and other structural causes such as unchecked population growth.” [Filipinos, what are we doing wrong (?), John NeryNewsstandPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 14th Jul 2015]

“But today I am more interested in Filipino habits, in ways of doing, that, like inclement weather, prevent progress from taking off. Herewith, four deadly habits: [1] We think that the rules are not fixed, and that anyway they do not apply to us. [2] We see what is wrong but believe nothing much can be done anyway. [3] We are inconsistently, selectively, proud, to the point of racism. [4] We lack national ambition.”

So where are we? “Poverty to linger despite robust growth,” Ben O. de VeraPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Jul 2015. “Despite the faster economic growth enjoyed during the past few years, the poverty rate in the Philippines will still be high as the gap between the poor and the rich widens, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) . . . By 2019, the Philippines will remain one of Southeast Asia’s poorest economies . . .”

Indeed, “Corruption has plagued the poverty-stricken nation”! “The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) wants a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is rooted in social justice and the Constitution, allows self-determination among Muslims, Christians and indigenous peoples in the proposed substate and respects the nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty . . .

“In a series of pastoral statements issued at the end of a three-day plenary assembly on Monday, the CBCP maintained its impartiality for the various drafts of the charter for the proposed Bangsamoro region pending in the Senate and in the House of Representatives . . . The CBCP also addressed the challenges of the K-12 program, especially to the poor . . .” [Bishops bat for BBL based on social justice, Jocelyn R. Uy,Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14th Jul 2015]

That sounds encouraging. Should the CBCP also address corruption – again – like Francis did? “Pope: Corruption is gangrene of people,”Agence France-PresseAssociated Press@inquirerdotnet, 13th Jul 2015. “‘Look what happened with ideologies in the last century … they ended in dictatorships, always,’ . . .  applause ringing out in response during the gathering attended by Paraguayan President Horacio Cortes. In a question-and-answer session, he denounced corruption, which plagues several countries in South America. But perhaps to avoid offending his hosts, he stressed that it was a recurring problem ‘among all peoples of the world.’”

“‘This country knows what needs to be done. We just have to do it,’ SGV & Co. Head of Tax and General Counsel Wilfredo Villanueva said.”[PHL only ‘half-open’ when it comes to FDI, Bianca Cuaresma, Business Mirror, 15th Jul 2015]

We know what needs to be done. Will parochial bias and comfort in the status quo mean we’d struggle to define and embrace the common good, a purpose higher than self or family – or the capacity to change the world?

“A weakening peso would do little to boost the country’s stuttering export sector, according to a new central bank study, which stated that policymakers should focus on cutting power costs and improving infrastructure. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the country’s export sector’s failure to move up the value chain had little to do with currency dynamics.” [Gov’t urged to focus on infra, cutting power cost, Paolo G. MontecilloPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 14th Jul 2015]

“‘Other factors that influence the trade balance are macroeconomic fundamentals, business climate, ease of doing business and productive capacity,’ a working paper by the BSP’s Center for Monetary and Financial Stability showed. The study noted that supply-side factors might be putting a constraint on production and, subsequently, on export performance. In this case, an appropriate policy is to strengthen supply-side factors (such as infrastructure, logistics and overall business climate) to support a country’s competitiveness, the study said.

“Philippine Confederation of Exporters (Philexport) earlier this month said the peso’s depreciation should help the country catch up in terms of competitiveness with trade-oriented peers in the region. According to the BSP paper, local exporters should not expect changes in the peso’s value to be the lynchpin for success. The BSP said the government should instead be pressured to ramp-up reforms that aim to help the country’s business climate.”

This blog has discussed the imperative of a sense of purpose that would then inform the principles critical to nation building. And we can ignore being principled at our peril. It is consistent with the characteristics of liberal arts which was discussed by a professor and cited before in this blog. As a private-sector practitioner, the writer is witness to how it plays out in the real world. And admittedly, the hard part is erecting the ecosystem that will respond to the premise.

Moreover, the Western educational system is founded on linear thinking, which is reflected in a course syllabus, for instance. And it doesn’t hone the ability to visualize and form a vision far out into the future. And hence the emergence of lateral thinking, which facilitates connecting the dots. Or how Steve Jobs would define creativity. [Today Apple is the private-sector benchmark. But Steve Jobs recognized that Apple would become commonplace; it can’t match the classic works from the masters. And change will be the constant. Sadly, we Pinoys struggle with change.] Still, ideologies as referenced by Pope Francis would miss the mark because silver bullet is a myth. And the world is witness to how an ideology played out in former Soviet satellite countries and how Vietnam followed China's capitalist path. And where are we Pinoys?

There are benchmarks – including the Asian Tigers – that can guide us. But that is again the hard part for a proud Pinoy. Benchmarking is not swallowing something hook, line and sinker. But we’re not only proud, we also believe in Pinoy abilidad! Yet it isn’t surprising when our prescriptions would be akin to a silver bullet with a parochial character? And it explains our inability to adopt best practices, for example?

And add to that our compassionate heart – that like nationalism can be misplaced? Even among justices it holds, and which CJ Panganiban calls “kinship.” We can't be objective with friends and relations. Or with the poor. Yet the Asian Tigers started out poor. Poor is not a barrier. It is the effect, not the cause. And we keep barking at the wrong tree?

Without the requisite ecosystem, poverty is the expected outcome – i.e., given our meager average income, there isn’t enough to go around. But because we live staring at poverty, it’s a struggle to internalize fundamental givens? And so we would fall into the trap of ‘learned helplessness,’ be in bed with political patronage and oligarchy, the big patrons of the war on poverty? And that explains the vicious circle that has held us hostage.

And with kinship, the expected outcome is our mockery of the rule of law? Where are we?

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