Despite All These

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

There are many voices cluttering the thought waves. Technology, driven by increased human demand for freedom of expression and transparency in everything, allows every Juan, Jose and Pedro to give his piece in every form of media available.  And we have to count all the Marias, too, for women are a formidable force in Philippine media and global cyberspace.

Every quarter, more or less, the President is graded. We have SWS and Pulse Asia leading the pack of  polls and research institutions who make it a point to assess people’s sentiments towards their highest leaders in government. Aside from these are international agencies who regularly evaluate political, financial and investment performance and prospects of countries.

Every fourth Monday of July, too, there is the President’s SONA timed with the opening of Congress – and it is an event that naturally invites the public to comment and serves like an important quiz on a most important subject.

In every platform where performance and trust are scrutinized and measured, in accordance to people’s sentiments and the various institutions who take interest, both P-Noy and the Philippines have earned good grades, often outstanding. It does not mean that P-Noy and the Philippines have no vulnerabilities and shortcomings, it means despite all these.

Despite all these.

First of all, “all these” start with the worst features of the environment – and I do not mean the usual garbage, pollution, traffic and flooding, I mean all these in their human forms. Who, not what, are the garbage of Philippine society? Who, not what, pollute our value system and work ethics? Who, not what, create the traffic that chokes harmony in societal life? Who, not what, can paralyze the dynamics of governance and actually drown the poor and weak among us?

Yet, despite all these, the corrupt among politicians, the bribers among business, the jockeying for positions of power, and the utak wang-wang in the bureaucracy, P-Noy and the Philippines performed and achieved.

In other words, the system sucks. It is not a system that P-Noy created, it is a system that he knew he would inherit when he was a candidate, it is a system he knew he would wrestle with when he took his oath as President, it is a system he swore he would confront and reform as the Chief Executive of the Republic. It is a system that is beyond blame, a complicated given in Philippine life, and the greatest challenge of change of P-Noy and all Filipinos.

Beginning with P-Noy, all officialdom are expected to view the system that sucks with a messianic spirit. If everyone did so, in only a few years, within one presidential term, the reform can happen and transformation can take place. But that is not the reality, as we all know. The system sucks because enough people running the system, leaders from government, from politics, from business, from the religious, from media, from almost professional haters and whiners who cheer every time P-Noy and the Philippines stumble, these not only abdicate their responsibility for reform, and change, they themselves cause the system to rot. In other words, the most dangerous enemies are from within, not China, not Taiwan, not Malaysia.

The enemies from within include obstructionists, of course. The system is still quite populated with them. Obstructionists are not creating obstacles for the fun of it, they do so because they want the present dispensation to fail and hope to take over the reins of power. In other words, the obstructionists have a purpose – they want to be in control of the system that they make suck.

Obstructionists, though, are more easily identified. In a situation where advanced communication technology too often forces transparency, it is not easy for obstructionists to hide in the shadows. Everybody talks about everything nowadays, and social media creeps into the privacy of almost everyone. How, then, can an obstructionist obstruct yet remain unknown and unseen? Even those who fund efforts in social media to promote themselves and their careers, political or otherwise, are quickly identified if there is a need to do so.

Democracy is its own worst enemy when it needs radical reforms and strong leadership. Democratic governance with its principle of check and balances, or shared power, is collective in nature. A certain amount of compromise and cooperation is necessary between the three branches before they can work towards the same goals at the same pace with the same passion.

The recent elections set the stage where the Executive and the Legislative have forged an alliance where they have the relationships and the numbers to more quickly reach agreements. Their give-and-take arrangements will facilitate the required budgets and laws of the Executive but make the abolition of the pork barrel system a virtual impossibility. Still, P-Noy, Senate President Drilon and Speaker Belmonte can exercise tighter control in the use of the PDAFs to avoid what happened in the Gloria presidency.

Corruption and poverty remain endemic even if the first attempts to dismantle them are clear signs of a determined presidency. Corruption is fought and defeated only by its opposite – integrity and courage to defy the dragons. It will mean P-Noy having more men and women serving as his alter ego with the same honesty and guts. And it will mean much more resources to be devoted to the poor and radically creative ways to empower them towards their own emancipation.

With three years to go, P-Noy is right in telling the Filipino people that the crusade for change has made headway and this should lessen doubts, not intensify them. P-Noy is right in reminding us that we have the power to demand how we want governance to be beyond his term.

Three years ago, we felt hopeless, choked by overwhelming corruption and a deepening poverty. Today, we have found basis for hope and a pathway for a brighter future.

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