The Philippines – En Route to Being Better?

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“Change is good.”

And I think this start of a new administration is something all of us have been anticipating and hoping for.  I, for one, feel optimistic about things.  The fact that President Noynoy recognizes that he cannot do it alone is a start.  And I can feel that all of us know that he can’t take on it by himself, that we have a shared responsibility.  It’s like Christmas.  The positive outlook and eagerness for positive change seems to be in the air.

I write this after his inaugural speech last June 30, 2010.  It was twenty minutes of very direct-to-the point statements.  They were concrete.  They were simple.  They didn’t sound like him reaching for the moon and making us wait for the fulfillment of what would be empty promises in the end.

They require a lot of cooperation though from the people he shares the administration with.  It will require strong discipline and implementation.  It’s funny how the promise on not abusing the siren or the wang-wang caught everyone’s attention.  It probably got tweeted and Facebooked about so many times just on that day.  Because it’s a real problem.  It’s a very tangible sign of abuse of power that all of us have experienced at one point or another.  Although, as I write this, I know some crafty (and downright corrupt) politicians have found a way around this by using the hazard signals instead but still with a motorized escort to help them cut through traffic.  And so they won’t get reported, they even remove the plate numbers of the vehicles.  With this policy alone, I think Noynoy already has a lot of work to do.

One of my favorite parts of the speech was the not-so subtle threat to former president GMA and her “midnight appointments.” It’s true that it’s a very underhanded way to put in place people that will favor you in the future.  It’s screaming, “I have a hidden agenda!”  I like the idea of a Truth Commission in government.  It provides the certainty that someone will be made accountable for his/ her wrongdoings.  It makes the quest for justice for definite.  And with former Chief Justice Hilario Davide heading the commission, after seeing him during the impeachment hearings of former President Estrada, a lot of us know that he has handled something of this nature before.  He has dealt with injustice against the people up to the level of plunder from a nation’s leader.  We know he has made the decision before to make someone accountable.  His appointment, for me, supports Noynoy’s statement of, “There can be no reconciliation without justice.”

In his speech, he itemized certain sectors that he will focus on namely education, transportation, tourism, trade, the police force, employment, tax collection, and agriculture.  He also mentioned plans to provide PhilHealth services for everyone in three years.  With the right people, three years just might be workable.  Given our population wherein citizens are either to old or too young to work, this is a benefit that many will find useful.  Let’s not abuse it also because funds for that will most likely come from the taxes that the working class pays.  Let’s remember we’re all in this together.

Lastly, I share his view that not all government officials are corrupt.  I also like to think he can say this with conviction because he knows he is living proof of that.  It’s the time now for all these honest officials to come out of the woodwork and rally their cause.  It’s now the time for them to not allow the prevalent system of corruption to dictate upon them and force them to quietly go about their duties within their areas of responsibility.  It’s time to really show that they’re not as bad as what we all perceive them to be.  Let’s just take the issue of red tape.  We all know it’s a classic characteristic of government.  From experience, I can actually say that at least the NCR office of the DTI Promo Permits division actually has a process that helps it bypass and avoid this red tape and “under-the-table” dealings.  I can’t say it’s a hundred percent honest but from there you can already see that some government offices at least implement controls to prevent any abuse or misuse of the government position.  There are people with integrity in government still.  While it’s too early to tell, somehow that’s still comforting.  If we believe there is good somewhere, that belief just might be powerful enough to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Because for so long we’ve believed the opposite about our government that maybe those in it even feel there’s no other choice but to play the game.  If they can’t beat them, they’ll join them.  This time, let’s hope they all join in on the right path and good, honest governance.

As part of this oath-taking, we are all stakeholders.  Let us not forget that.  While we see the opportunity for good change, we should not go back and slip into our own little worlds of obliviousness and ignorance.  We still remain vigilant.  And we do our part.  We obey the rules and not make them work in our favor.  We don’t cause an uproar just because something is inconvenient for us without thinking of everyone else’s welfare.  The mark of democracy is when the majority wins.  We are the majority.  Government only represents us.  As Noynoy said, we are his bosses.  True democracy will only exist if we do our part.  Then, and only then, will it be – as Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address – “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Photo courtesy of the office of the President

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