The New Revolutions

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The 2016 national elections are on, accentuated, of course, by the presidential elections. With a Messiah-mindset Philippines, so much is at stake in our imagination and expectation. It will take a few years under a new president when it becomes clear that life is more dependent on us than him or her. It is just unfortunate that this reality is largely lost on most Filipinos—the fact that the Philippines depends mostly on its citizens rather than on its president.

At any point in time, economic figures become the main parameter for assessing the performance of a presidency and an administration. It is not the only factor, of course, but it is the key in the eyes of locals and the international audience. It may be because the qualitative factors are difficult to measure even if they are easy to feel. It may also be that economic gains or failures affect so deeply the quality of life of a country still hosting so much landlessness, homelessness and hunger.

By all standards of measure applied to all governance bodies and presidents in the past till now, there is no question that President Benigno Aquino III has performed well. On the quantitative dimension, domestic growth rates have been high and sustained, so much so that global economic and financial institutions have been very expressive about their admiration. It simply means that the Philippines under PNoy has not only performed well in the economic sphere but did better than almost all other countries.

Economic accomplishment is not the only gauge of presidential performance. However, it remains the main one. And it will remain so for as long as our people are in great need – as at least 50 million are. If PNoy is seen as having done well, it is because there used to be more than 50 million Filipinos who were, and actually rated themselves as poor. Nor was it that long ago when more than 20 million were experiencing hunger.

What is not appreciated and talked about enough, though, is that any great performance of a leader rests on supportive followers. Presidential performance depends much on the cooperation and contribution of the people; in fact, it is totally dependent on it if any initial success is to be sustained. On specific issues, Pnoy has gone way up and sometimes way down before the eyes and hearts of the people—but he always had enough trust and approval from them to pursue his governance without immovable obstacles. For five and a half years, no other president maintained the same positive trust and approval rating as PNoy has done.

Social media has grown phenomenally, its coverage expanding with unbelievable speed. Internet coverage must now be over 50 percent, and Facebook accounts of Filipinos estimated at 45 million. People’s sentiments are expressed loudly and in scale, making it impossible for the negative to be suppressed and for the positive to be faked. The coming years will see only more of this because the next radical form of societal change will become necessary.

It is vital that we, the people, understand our role as citizens, or as the drivers of accomplishment and failure, way beyond what we attribute to our leaders. It may well be the quality of leadership that triggers motivation among us, but it is only the sum total of our individual contributions that becomes the national performance. So, if the Philippines has achieved unparalleled growth in the economy, it is because of you and me. As for PNoy, his achievement is that he encouraged, or at least did not discourage, enough of us to give our best. It so happened that the running total of that best went beyond the negativity it encountered.

Negativity comes when disappointment overtakes contentment. Sustained negativity will always signal an impending collapse, whether in economics or politics. This is what P-Noy avoided when the hard times came, and he had his share of them. He always managed to bounce back and regain the trust and approval of the majority. PNoy is leaving office with enough goodwill that his anointed presidential candidate is leaning heavily on it.

Unfortunately, the economic performance of the last five and a half years is not enough to radically change the poverty landscape. One term is cannot change an economic system on which all economic activities are grounded. That there has to be a cry for inclusive growth is an indictment of that economic, social and political system where the dice is heavily loaded in favor of the very few who have but prejudices the vast majority. The feudal system is still very much in place. It has survived quietly but effectively under the banner of democracy and free capitalist market.

It is not the corruption of politicians we always point to that has impoverished our people. It has always been the insurmountable privileges of the few protected by the powers and armies of the land. It has always been the enormous wealth of the same few that can corrupt politics and institutions, nourished powerfully by a value system that is subservient to money. It is true that a president of integrity can set a new moral tone for governance, but it would need the moral reform of a whole class called the elite to actualize transformation. It is not surprising that bloody revolution was the only pathway for radical change in the past.

It would still be if not for two other revolutions that are emerging. The first is technology, the revolution of information, the revolution of connectivity. Both bring light where once darkness reigned. The other is evolution, the younger generations of human beings with their new way of understanding things, with their idealism using technology to influence billions around the world. The new revolutions are signalling an end of a long era equivalent to thousands of years. They are beyond just a merry-go-round of political personalities, they will become the new politics.

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