by Harvey S. Keh Contributor JUST a few weeks ago, I listened to a National Situationer report given by the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), the socio-political arm of the Jesuits here in the Philippines. SLB is known to be one of the most credible institutions who can give an honest to goodness analysis of what is the real state of our country and in their report they emphasized the following: a.) Yes, the country's economy continues to grow and, in fact, we have one of the highest growth rates in Asia. However, despite the economic growth, more than 25 million Filipinos continue to languish in poverty. b.) 62 percent of Filipinos actually die without even having the chance to be seen by a healthcare professional. To make things worse, medicine prices are 5 to 45 times higher here in our country compared to other countries in Asia like Thailand, Pakistan and India. c.) 3.7 million families continue to be homeless in our country despite efforts being done by non-profit organizations, such as Gawad Kalinga. d.) P1.2 trillion had been lost to corruption in the last 5 years. e.) Out of 10 Filipino students who enter Grade 1, less than 2 will be able to finish College. f.) The brain drain continues in our country as 121 Filipinos leave the country every hour. By the end of this year, we can expect that there will be approximately 8.5 million Filipinos abroad. These sad realities made me discern the reason why we continue to remain a poor country, despite the fact that we have such a beautiful country blessed with the brightest people in the world. Is it because many of our best people choose to work and live abroad? Was Conrado De Quiros correct when he mentioned in one of his columns that the middle and upper classes of our country couldn't care less about what happens because we always have an escape hatch of migrating and living abroad when all else fails in the Philippines? I don't think that these are entirely correct assumptions since I continue to believe that majority of Filipinos still want to see genuine change and reforms in our country. Many Filipinos living and working abroad whom I have talked to and corresponded with via email still continue to hope and dream that they will one day be able to come back and live in a Philippines that can provide them and their families with the right opportunities to live a just and prosperous life. In the end, I think everyone will agree with me that one of the major reasons why we are here is the fact that we continue to elect poor leaders who would rather protect vested interests of their own families and those that have supported them in the last elections. It's depressing to note that the reality of Philippine politics is that a good, competent and decent person cannot be elected to power if she or he doesn't have millions of pesos to use in the campaign. Of course, we have already seen some exceptions to this "rule," in the persons of Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio, Isabela Governor Grace Padaca and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo. All three have clashed with moneyed and well-entrenched political dynasties and have come out victorious. But their victories remain only at the local level and it seems that we will need a more herculean effort to finally elect a President that will not become beholden to a few individuals, interests and families. According to some friends who have had experience in being part of a national campaign, they say that you need at least P1 billion to have a chance at the Presidency. Is it impossible then to elect a President that will not become beholden to a few wealthy families and will genuinely serve the interests of Juan dela Cruz? I don't think so but if we want that to happen, we should all make that happen starting with the growing Filipino middle class who are mostly living and working abroad. Imagine if every single Filipino living and working overseas will pledge to donate at least $5 each to support an upright, ethical and God-fearing candidate who has a proven track record in public service, then that would amount to $42,500,000 or a whooping P1.9 billion! This candidate could then have a fighting chance of being our next President and if she or he wins, she or he can govern properly without being beholden to a few people and their vested interests. As soon as we have enough pledges from Filipinos all over the world, we can then do something similar to a primary process to select the right person whom we can all support. I propose this idea to every Filipino working or living overseas who still dreams of a new Philippines. I think it's time that we all invest in choosing the right President for our country. We have less than two years to go before the 2010 National election. Thus the time to act is now. The power to choose our next President should not be in the hands of a few but rather it should be with each and every Filipino. If you believe in this idea and proposal, please send me an email at email@example.com so we can work together in choosing the right leader for our country who will run a government that will genuinely work towards promoting the common good. Harvey Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government, and is also the Executive Director of AHON Foundation, a non-profit organization that builds public elementary school libraries all over the Philippines. Harvey also teaches Theology at the Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools.
July 2008 Archives
Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front has joined President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's call for the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is also going to be the election that would test the automated election system mandated by law. Lira Dalangin-Fernandez also reported on MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu's disclosure about his meeting with the President in Shariff Kabunsuan not to discuss the pending peace agreement but to oversee the implementation of a government project involving the clearing and dredging of the heavily silted Rio Grande de Mindanao in the province. Arroyo's recommendation came after lawmakers have indicated plans to file separate bills to push for the postponement of the ARMM polls. Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo, however, wanted the ARMM polls to push through, but also noted that "it's up to Congress."
By Joy Aceron The Political Science Department POS 100 Plenaries 2008-2009 ELECTIONS may be insufficient, but they are a necessary and essential element of democracy. By allowing certain government posts to be filled through the choices made by the electorate, elections function as a mechanism for determining the legitimacy of the political leadership, while at the same time guaranteeing the representational requirements of a modern democratic state. It is because of these characteristics that elections create opportunities, as minimum as they maybe, for altering the status quo and serve as a vehicle for political change. Philippine elections, however, are largely a disappointment. The electoral process is often described as a space for ordinary citizens to select their leaders. Yet, Filipino voters always end up choosing those whom they perceive as the â€œleast evil,â€ or worse, those who are simply â€œwinnable.â€ It is also supposedly a time wherein prospective leaders would engage the citizenry on issues that matter to them. Yet, presidentiables hardly attend any fora for debates and discussions, unless they are the only center of attention and there are at least a thousand participants. Ideally, elections are meant to allow us to envision a common future and to craft the strategies to carry this out, armed of course with lessons from the past. This, however, hardly happens, since most candidates spend a large portion of their time thinking of the image that they will project to the public. Most importantly, elections are supposed to be empowering; yet, it is often seen as a tool for patronage. It is a means to secure particularistic ends and hardly to discover, protect and advance the common good. The list can go on, but the bottom-line is: we are miserably missing the point of elections. With the sorry state of Philippine elections, much re-imagining is necessary. There is a need for re-imagination not only because we want to remember the ideal by understanding the current state, but also because we want to go beyond the limits and bounds of practicalities, to think out of the box and reclaim the power not only to make a difference but to be the difference. We want to re-imagine elections because we want not only to reclaim its real purpose, but to redefine its meaning given our own identity and destiny as a people. We want to re-imagine elections because we want to strengthen our democratic institutions â€œin order to extend democratic principles to more and more social relations.â€ As a contribution to this process of re-imagination, the Ateneo Political Science Department is hosting a series of POS 100 Plenaries on Re-Imagining Philippine Elections. This school year, there will be six plenaries which will discuss the building blocks of a re-imagined Philippine elections and democracy. It is our way of awakening the studentâ€™s capacity to dream and re-imagine democracy. For awareness is the first step to knowledge, knowledge enables imagination, and imagination inspires action. The series of POS Plenaries this school year shall delve on the following topics: 1. Political Leadership -- This discussion aims to re-imagine the kind of leaders that the country will have after the 2010 elections. This endeavor, moreover, is a seen as a contribution to the task of creating a new batch of leaders who are committed to new politics and are active proponents of citizensâ€™ participation and good governance. 2. Electoral Administration -- Given the sordid perception on our electoral overseers, the topic aims to initiate a process of rethinking whose ultimate aim is the creation of a fair and independent elections commission, capable of withstanding undue pressure and influence from the political elites. 3. Political Parties -- The countryâ€™s political parties have been described as â€œtemporary and unstable coalitions of upper class fractions pieced together for elections and post-election battles for patronage.â€ With this in mind, the challenge therefore is to re-imagine our Philippine parties as repositories of the countryâ€™s reform agenda and as vehicles for social transformation. 4. Citizenship -- Since elections play an important role in the political life of most Filipinos, a number of watchdog organizations have emerged, especially after the 1986 such as NAMFREL, PPCRV V-Force and Halalang Marangal. Seen as a citizensâ€™ movement for fair, transparent and peaceful elections, they also perceive themselves as a reformers wanting to change how elections are conducted in the Philippines. But a re-imagined concept of citizenship does not only entail monitoring and non-partisanship but of actively engaging the elections, not as watchdogs, but as partisan political actors cooperating and converging to challenge the status quo and contest state power. 5. Campaigning -- While campaigners and image-handlers have mastered the art of selling candidates, we have yet to transform their craft into a science promoting much-needed political reforms. This discussion intends to re-imagine electoral campaigning, not only as a means of sending a message, but of altering the exercise of power. 6. Vision for the Philippine State -- the Philippine state has been described in many ways, none of which are actually flattering. â€œWeak state,â€ â€œcacique democracy,â€ â€œpatrimonial-oligarchic stateâ€ and a host of other epithets all point out to the same phenomenon -- elite capture of the stateâ€™s resources and institutions. What does a re-imagined Philippine state mean? How can we achieve stable and sturdy institutions that can discipline the countryâ€™s elites and ensure the fair implementation of rules and laws? Joy Aceron is a faculty member of the Ateneo de Manila Department of Political Science and coordinator of the Ateneo School of Government's Political Democracy Program. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines, holding a Masterâ€™s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
by Karla Angelica Pastores Contributor We live in a world of options. From the absurd to the monumental, we are constantly faced with a medley of choices. The truth is, we chose this world that we live in ourselves. As individuals, our choices influence and at the same time affect our collective decisions, which in turn build our society. Consumer choices affect what goes on sale. What goes on sale influences what we decide to put in our cart. For many of us, this buffet of choices is something to rejoice about. We are not limited to only one option; rather, we are free to express our interests and desires through the choices we make. Whether as consumers or voters, we love to have alternatives that would make our lives just a little bit different, and just a little bit better. Unfortunately, though, alternatives seem to be a missing ingredient in our role as voters. Democracy has given us the powerâ€”nay, the responsibilityâ€”to choose the one who will serve the Philippines as its leaders. Yet it appears as if this particular role has given us few, if not nothing, options as to who is truly capable of running the country. One does not need to look far to realize that in this country, we tend to put the blame on every person but ourselves. The economy is in shambles; itâ€™s the governmentâ€™s fault. The government is ineffective; blame it on the people seated there. The authorities are incapable of performing well, because millions of people did not vote wisely or did not vote at all. Not surprisingly, many Filipinos, especially the youth, become disenfranchised. If all we have to choose from are the same so-called â€œleadersâ€ over and over again, the people get discouraged from voting. No one wants to be part of the problem of electing poor-performing officials, but no one also contributes to finding the solution. The duty of every Filipino citizen to elect a leader does not come only after every three years, just as the duty of every elected public official to serve the people does not come only every election season. Thereâ€™s a reason why we call those people â€œpublic servants.â€ Theyâ€™re not at the top of the food chain. The people elected them to that position, the peopleâ€™s taxes pay for their salaries, and they work for the people, to meet the peopleâ€™s needs. Now tell me who the boss is here. The people, as the public servants' "boss," have the task of ensuring that the candidates for the next elections are fit and capable of tackling this immense job of holding public office. He will, after all, have at least thousands of bosses. Why then should we leave the decision of whom to place into the political arena solely in the hands of those we chose to serve us? Filipinos should make it their duty to encourage good people to try their hand at servant leadership. Who knows, maybe your neighbor has the makings of being the next President of the Philippines; only no one has told him what a good leader he is. Encouraging potential government officials does not have to be the gargantuan task of an all-out campaign or a huge rally. A simple â€œYouâ€™re doing a good job!â€ to a student, a little praise for the team leader in front of colleagues, an extra assignment the team captain can successfully undertake. Good people are not rare. It is precisely because they are good that they donâ€™t flaunt their many achievements and talents for the public to admire them. They do their job well not to gain other peopleâ€™s approval, but because it is what is right. These are the people who should lead us, the people we should look out for, the people who can. These are the ones whom we should be reading about and getting to know. Just as we go out of our way to get the best bargain, we should also take that extra step to look for the best servant leaders. Our chances of having good people in public office go up when there are good people in the ballots. When it comes to politics, being choosy is not a bad thing at all. Kai Pastores, 21, is the program officer for IamChange2010, a joint project of the Ateneo de Manila School of Government and Team RP. It aims to get the young Filipinos to register and vote in the coming 2010 Presidential elections and educate them on various political issues. For inquiries, you may contact Kai at +63 2 4265657.
By NiÃ±a Terol Team RP Authorâ€™s note: This is an abridged version of a blog post originally written for the Young Public Servants website. To view the full article, click on http://www.yps.org.ph/blogs/guest/?p=4 I RECENTLY posed this challenge to some like-minded colleagues: draft a want ad for this countryâ€™s next president, then letâ€™s see how we are able to articulate the skills, qualifications, and necessary track record of the Philippinesâ€™s Chief Executive. After all, we cannot even begin to seriously assess our current crop of presidential hopefuls if we donâ€™t know what we are looking for in the first place. I honestly thought that it would be quite easy because the exercise had to be somewhat similar to writing an ad for a CEO of a large corporation. How hard could that be, right? (The power of Google, and cut and paste...) Well, I apparently underestimated the task. While doing some online research on the subject it occurred to me that maybe my entire premise was wrong in the first place. The Philippines is not a large corporation. It is not large geographically, politically, economically, or even diplomatically the way the First World countries, or even China or India, are. It is not even a dark horse the way Russia is often viewed. In the local setting, the Philippines is not like one of those multinationals that are housed in one of the ritzier office spaces along Ayala Avenue. It might not even be located in any of the central business districts. If the Philippines were an enterprise, it could probably be considered a startup, or a relatively young SME at the most. Therefore, the kind of president that we need is not somebody who will saunter into the office in an extremely expensive suit -- with an army of executive assistants, senior vice presidents, and consultants in tow -- and be a â€œboardroom executive.â€ We need someone who has the mindset of an entrepreneur and who will be able to dig through the mud (literally, sometimes) to get things done. But because Iâ€™m a fan of social enterprises and social enterprises, Iâ€™d take it up a notch and venture to say that the Philippines could be likened to a social enterprise, and therefore needs a president who has the mindset of a social entrepreneur. Whatâ€™s in a social entrepreneur? According to the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurs are â€œunusually courageous men and women that pursue their vision of a better world by applying extraordinary creativity and resourcefulness to some of the worldâ€™s most challenging issues. They are not just dreamers... They have the rare ability to ground their dreams in reality and translate them into pragmatic, goal-oriented and measurable action. As a result, they have produced some of the most innovative approaches to social, economic and political problems that continue to defy conventional means of action [boldface mine].â€ On the other hand, Stacey Childress (2006) of the Harvard Business School, talks of the need for a â€œTheory of Changeâ€ -- a belief about how actions will contribute to the fulfillment of a larger vision. This â€œtheoryâ€ could be focused on either local or systemic change, but it has to define how the social enterpriseâ€™s activities will contribute to the big picture. Social entrepreneurs, therefore, are visionaries -- wild, passionate, big-picture thinkers -- first and foremost. They are unafraid of dreaming of WHAT COULD BE; to them, â€œimpossibleâ€ means â€œIâ€™ll Make it POSSIBLE.â€ Who in our current crop of presidentiable-wannabes thinks that way? Moreover, social entrepreneurs are able to link current gaps with current givens and future possibilities in ways that are extremely innovative, creative, â€œout of the universeâ€ and yet very, very logical. They are unafraid of asking the important question -- â€œWhy not?â€ -- and going, â€œWhat next?â€ For instance, one of my favorite social enterprises, Rags 2 Riches, linked the existing realities of dismal economic conditions in Payatas and the nanaysâ€™ current means of livelihood -- rag-making -- to the big dream of making â€œdesigner rags.â€ Throw renowned fashion designer Rajo Laurel into the mix, and youâ€™ve got a kick-ass concept (which just recently won an international business plan competition) and beautiful bags that even Angelina Jolie will buy because (1) theyâ€™re great products and (2) they support fair trade. Imagine this: If we could reinvent the Philippines using the social enterprise model, what would it look like? More importantly, are any of our politicians willing to take the risk of painstaking -- but powerful -- transformation? Or are they simply promising the same old Spartan slippers and simply rebranding them as Havaianas? Social entrepreneurs also know what their goals look like and, therefore, how to know when theyâ€™ve already achieved them. Social enterprises are not just lofty causes filled with empty promises. At the heart of it all, social enterprises are income-generating operations for which metrics, indicators, and impact are very important. At the end of the day, we will know where we stand and what else we need to do to fill in the gaps. Think about it: if we had a president who at the very least was as entrepreneurial, as passionate, as savvy, as creative, and as progressive as some of our countryâ€™s top (social) entrepreneurs, wouldnâ€™t you feel a tad more hopeful about our future and more willing to help make things work? NiÃ±a Terol, 28, is a writer, editor, communications consultant, and emerging social entrepreneur. She is also the Vice Chairperson for Internal Affairs of Team RP, a youth-led movement for truth, accountability, and reform in Philippine governance.
By Harvey Keh Team RP LAST March, I was invited as commencement speaker of the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) in Zamboanga City, one of the biggest state universities in the Philippines. During my brief stay, I was able to sit down and talk with some student leaders. I started our discussion with a question. â€œWho among you here still believes and supports President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,â€ I asked. About a third of them raised their hands. â€œWho among you here wants the President to resign and step down,â€ I continued. About half of them raised their hands. I pressed on and asked again, â€œWho among you here is still undecided?â€ still some few raised their hands. But when I asked, â€œWho among you here wants change and reforms in our country and government?â€ All of them raised their hands. When I got back to Manila, I held the same discussion with some student leaders from Miriam College in Quezon City and I got a similar response. What am I trying to say? 1. Yes, our country is divided on how we view President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. You have on one side, a group supporting Arroyo despite all the anomalies, allegations of corruption and scandals that have rocked her administration, while on the other, you have groups and highly-influential leaders which have called for her immediate resignation and ouster from power. 2. However, it seems that judging from my experiences in dealing with these student leaders, the people I talk to and the e-mail I get from Filipinos here and abroad, we all want to see positive and lasting change and reforms happen. That is why I think that if we want to help in bringing our nation together towards a common vision to move our country forward, this unity should not be based on certain personalities like President Arroyo or other politicians. Rather, we need to work together towards building, strengthening and transforming our democratic institutions; that would make them more responsive to the needs of the poor and the powerless in our communities. Isn't it sad that we are now facing a food crisis when we were once one of the world's top agricultural countries? This could be an indirect effect of the one-billion-peso fertilizer scam that was allegedly used to fund President Arroyoâ€™s election. If it was used properly and for the right purpose, then we might not be facing this crisis now or if we do, the effect wouldn't be as worse. We at Team RP believe that a fight for change and reforms continues regardless of who becomes the president, vice president, senators, congressmen, etc. We are doing this because we believe that many of our government leaders have failed us and that its time for all of us to take control of our own future and work together for that genuine and lasting change that we all want to see in our country. Letâ€™s quit making excuses, being inactive, hopeless, indifferent and whiny; these all amount to nothing if we ourselves don't participate in proactive solutions. 2010 is a big deal for all of us. We will vote for the Philippinesâ€™ next top leader in less than two years. Our decision on who will lead us to progress and prosperity is a very important one that could potentially change the course of the countryâ€™s future. Change is now. Hope lies not in our country's leaders and those in power but in every Filipino. Change does not happen overnight, but when we work together, it can happen in 22 months. IamChange2010 is a joint project of the Ateneo de Manila School of Government and Team RP. It aims to get the young Filipinos to register and vote in the coming 2010 Presidential elections and educate them on various issues concerning elections. For inquiries, you may also contact Kai at +63 2 4265657.