Thursday, March 3, 2016

Of tyrants and thieves . . .

“‘I remember my father saying, ‘the EDSA revolution may have removed Ali Baba but not the forty thieves. They are all still very much around. In fact they have grown in numbers.’ [Bongbong, Martial Law and People Power, Sara Soliven De Guzman, AS A MATTER OF FACT, The Philippine Star, 29th Feb 2016]

This writer remembers Max Soliven too. He must have already shared how he met Max, whom he had sought. His old MNC-company had just brought in a new country manager and given the undercurrents re Marcos rule, he wanted the new expat to get a quick lesson on the Philippines. And he thought of Max Soliven.

It was a pleasant surprise that Max was easy to reach. “Here’s Mr. Soliven on the line,” said the writer’s assistant. He simply asked her to call the office of Philippine Star and to request for Mr. Max Soliven. Max was true to form: constantly puffed on his signature pipe, a walking encyclopedia, feisty, empathic and profuse with his curating of Philippine history and the Marcos rule. Those near their table in the Manila Hotel coffee shop wouldn’t be disrespectful if they kept up with the conversation.

And the expat’s jaw dropped – that turned into a nervous laughter – when Max explained, “I'm an ex-convict.” “My dad, the late Maximo V. Soliven was incarcerated. He was among the journalists who were imprisoned at that time and put under house arrest until martial law was lifted in 1981.” [De Guzman, op. cit.]

“Yes, today our country is still lurking in the shadows of the past generation. But our young leaders will surely change the political and social landscape of the Philippines. What is necessary is to remove the remnants of the Marcos years. The Cory Aquino years and years after are all transitional years. This is the time for a new change, the real change. Our leaders must think country. We are in a new epoch of life. It’s about time we discern about our future.

“There is no daang matuwid in this country. Even if our P-Noy claims that it exists. In reality the practices Marcos did are parroted by the leaders today. The candidates continue to buy votes and spend millions of pesos in order to get that golden seat in government – again with the ultimate goal of corrupting our society. If the past and present Administrations have been serious in building a strong nation, they should have achieved that by now. It is very easy to change things – just put your heart and soul into it and most important work with the true dedication for public service. But then again, our leaders continue to carry on the ‘Marconian’ (my own coined word) tradition of glut, avarice, selfishness, indulgence, torment, tyranny, despot and kleptocracy.”

What drew the writer’s attention in the above piece is the line: “It is very easy to change things – just put your heart and soul into it and most important work with the true dedication for public service.” If spirituality is an element of development, this line has a spiritual dimension (to paraphrase Richard Rohr's daily meditation) which goes: God is a God of love not of fear; he loves man so he can change. In Genesis 1:26, he is not looking for servants or slaves to make “pa-pogi.” Translation: we don't have to walk on our knees to get brownie points or be holier-than-thou.

“Buffett Says Politicians ‘Dead Wrong’ With Negative U.S. Outlook,” Noah Buhayar & Michael Riley,, 27th Feb 2016. “‘As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do,’ Buffett wrote in a letter to shareholders of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. posted online on Saturday. ‘That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.’

“Buffett’s annual message, released as part of the company’s earnings report, rebuffed a central theme in campaign to succeed President Barack Obama in the White House: that the U.S. is in decline, and that middle- and working-class Americans are feeling it the most.

“While he touched on risks including terrorism, cyber warfare, climate change and economic dislocation for workers, Buffett also suggested that the picture of woe was generated out of politicians’ self-interest, not because it accurately reflects the nation’s challenges.

“‘It’s an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve),’ Buffett wrote. The real story of America has been a dramatic growth in prosperity, he said. Citing the six-fold increase in U.S. economic output per capita since he was born in 1930, Buffett said the ‘all-powerful trend’ toward more efficiency and productivity would continue.”

The writer recalls the genesis of the Great Recession and telling his Eastern European friends that it was a blessing in disguise. “Western MNCs would pull back, but we will step on the gas.” Wrote Sara Soliven De Guzman, “It is very easy to change things – just put your heart and soul into it and most important work with the true dedication for public service.”

The writer has referenced Greek philosophers: man’s greatness has been demonstrated since time immemorial by his sense of purpose and values. He’s been around the block (across different cultures and countries and markets) and indeed things can change and do change. But do we Pinoys make reference to the law of nature to invoke absoluteness? The writer talks “biology” to reference Darwin’s survival of the fittest – and the Francis’ declaration that creation and evolution are not incompatible.

To invoke absoluteness is to be like the “Tea Party” – when Christ is the only absolute? And why “Padre Damaso” was a fraud? And so the writer has said that we can compete against the best in the world – but not if we keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome. Because that goes against biology. In other words, Juan de la Cruz must learn to adapt if he is to be the fittest and survive and thrive in the 21st century world!

Consider: Arangkada gave us an industrialization blueprint. It was not just imposed on us. To get us on board, the exercise behind Arangkada called on the participation of a cross-section of society conducted over a period of time. Yet to this day the administration has not truly acknowledged the effort? To make “pa-pogi” bureaucracy keeps tooting its horn? And so an exasperated JFC had to put the failure of Arangkada on the lap of the administration! You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it to drink.

We can change and things will change – but we need to dismantle tyranny and thievery. And this writer was pleasantly surprised that a financial institution, instead of simply toeing the line of the economic managers, chose to get to the heart of the matter.

Isn’t it the financial community that has heaped honors on our economic managers despite our being the economic laggard and borrowing tons of money to supposedly address poverty – to no avail? Because their mental model is influenced by the charter of the Fed, the US Federal Reserve? [And why the left-leaning jumps the gun and calls it American imperialism?] In a developed economy, that generally works but not in an underdeveloped economy? The evidence? PHL – i.e., we don’t have the ecosystem of a sustainable competitive economy. More recently though the international institutions have acknowledged that growth alone won't solve Philippine poverty and likewise called for structural reforms.

Here’s what the above-referenced financial institution has to say: “Further economic liberalization in PH pushed: Presidential bets mum on foreign ownership limits issue,” Doris Dumlao-AbadillaPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 29th Feb 2016. “THE NEXT Philippine president must be able to champion economic liberalization as a way to boost the country’s productivity and global competitiveness, and to attract more foreign direct investments (FDIs), an economist from American banking giant Citigroup said.

“In a Feb. 19 research note ‘Philippines Economics View: Candidates’ Evolving Policy Agenda and Continuity Risk Implications,’ Citi Philippines economist Jun Trinidad said the presidential candidates’ recognition of the infrastructure gap and potential links to improving agriculture, and industrial competitiveness was easing continuity risk.

“But just like in previous elections, the economist said most presidential candidates held a strong ‘insular’ bias ‘perhaps due to domestic poverty and other economic issues closest to the heart of the average voter.’

“Outside the infrastructure issue, the research noted that most candidates have failed to articulate their stance on amending the foreign ownership limits of the 1987 Constitution.

“We believe liberalizing the foreign investment negative list (FINL) by allowing higher foreign ownership limits, which set a maximum of 40 percent for infrastructure, utilities and most service sectors (except BPO and banks), would offer strong investment opportunities, and fewer constraints on foreign investor participation in the big-ticket PPP (public-private partnership) projects . . .

“Trinidad said easing the FINL and amending the economic restrictions in the constitution could entice more local and foreign investments and expose these sectors to global business practices, new technologies and management systems.

“Liberalizing FINL offers a strong positive signal to the investor community while completing the basic legal work the country needs to be fully committed to TPP (Trans-Pacific partnership agreement) and other free trading agreements, which include granting foreign investors/trading partners liberal access to the services industry/markets . . .”

Why can’t we move forward as a nation? “Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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