This is why your vote matters. It starts off, like many things as a story. Perhaps, this is a story you’ve heard before. But please, indulge me?
It wasn’t so long ago, and it wasn’t in a galaxy far, far away that we were a nation of much uncertainty. So we’re here now. It has been three years after Noynoy Aquino became President. It has been three years of Daang Matuwid. The President’s analogy of a broken down house that need fixing is apt. Three years later, in many ways, democracy is out of the recovery room. Three years later, the economy is in the ICU, and poised to leave it. To think the story ends there, at the beginning, is why we had to begin again in the first place.
We can see the beginning of how government is using technology and apps to make a change. The MMDA, the Comelec, Project Noah, GovPH— are just a few of the sterling examples. All this change in three years is thanks to the reduced, but not defeated corruption in every strata of society. All this, thanks to the vote for the straight road that began in 2010. We have begun the slow, and enduring process of rebuilding our nation.
The peace, and quiet of course has showed us the weaknesses in our institutions. And there are many, many weaknesses.
We continue to live in a developing nation. We are a weak nation. There is hardly any money for social services, much less for the gazillion other matter that the government needs to be in on. Our education system is in shambles. We have seen for example how inept our police really are during the hostage crisis of 2010. How far, and how low it is? Compare that with the police of the Boston Police versus the Manila Police— not merely in terms of technology, but in professionalism. Our police is a laughing stock, but a representation of how far we still have yet to go.
Our nation too has weaknesses in infrastructure. Alessandro Magnoli Bocchi’s The Puzzle of the Philippines is still true. He pointed out weaknesses in our Telecommunications and Power infrastructure. Those remain to be true. In fact, the Philippines’ Global Network Readiness Index remain unchanged at rank 86 out of 144 countries. Meanwhile, Peter Wallace’s Examining the power crisis remain true. We have a power crisis in Mindanao, and today about 3,700 MW in total power was lost when the five facilities tripped in Luzon, tripped. And the 21st century is ever dependent on electricity. We have a weakness in the telecommunication and information technology sphere, with our broadband far behind our neighbors.
We have seen the Chinese breach our sovereign waters, and our “new warships” are hardly up to the task of doing anything. We see numerous attacks on digital infrastructure originating from Chinese proxy servers. Our defense is a slow beginning.
Drive along our nation, and you will see a nation that remain years behind. It seem impoverished. Decades away from ‘progress’. And many of our people troop abroad for decent food for their families.
That is the current reality. Change, yes, with many more institutional challenges ahead.
In the international stage, President Aquino is seen standing tall against this oppression. Bloomberg described Aquino as “leader with some spine takes on world heavyweight.”
Time Magazine had President Aquino on the most influential list, said, “became the face of the regional confrontation with Beijing over its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea. It is a brave stance, the long-term consequences still unknown.
In a country of nicknames, Filipinos proudly call their President PNoy — a pun on the word they use for themselves: Pinoy. For his courage, however, he really should have the pet name the family gave his eldest sister Maria Elena: Ballsy.”
Now imagine this. What can Filipinos be if we had the capacity, and the will to be a Force on the regional stage?
Recently, Wired published an article with the headline “Why Beijing Could Win the Great China-America Showdown of 2030” and this geopolitical reality is a probable shift in the balance of power in the region. Do you really want a Chinese hegemony?
Put that thought aside, for a bit.
The United States’ National Intelligence Council published a Global Trends Report. It is a document that seeks “to stimulate thinking about the rapid and vast geopolitical changes characterizing the world today and possible global trajectories over the next 15 years.”
In the Global Trends Report, the experts have identified four megatrends. The first, “individual empowerment,” described as an “acceleration owning to poverty reduction, growth of the global middle class, greater educational attainment, widespread use of new communications, and manufacturing technologies, and health-care advances”. The second is “diffusion of power,” meaning there won’t be a hegemonic power in 2030, with power shifting to networks and coalitions in a multipolar world. The third is “demographic patterns,” which is instability narrowing, and “Sixty percent (60%) of the world’s population will be living in urbanized areas, and migrations will increase.” Lastly, “Food, Water, Energy Nexus”, with demand for these resources increasing and so will supply and demand. These are some of the challenges that the world is poised to navigate in.
So what does this have to do with anything? Our people are poor, hungry, and poised not to look far beyond the groceries they get from politicians during Christmas.
Raissa Robles asked three important questions going into the election. I think two of those questions are important. First, “Who do I want to be President of the Philippines in 2016?” Second, “Which political bloc do I want to have control of the Senate, the Commission on Appointments, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal and the Senate Electoral Tribunal – The bloc of President Benigno Aquino (PNoy) or the bloc of Vice-President Jejomar Binay?”
And her answer?
“Those who want Binay to be President in 2016 should vote for Jack Enrile, Gringo Honasan and Migz Zubiri. Those who don’t want Binay to be President in 2016 should vote for Jun Magsaysay, Jamby Madrigal and Risa Hontiveros.”
Shooting the foot
People often ask, politicians are always saying they are “for the country, for the poor, and for progress”. And voters are always asking, “where is the change?” The government is saying, “we have investment grade status!” And the people go, “we do not feel it.” Where is the tickle down effect?
We’ve come a long way from being the Sick Man of Asia, and yet, there is a longer road to take to be a better nation. Investments are increasing, the economy is growing. And none of these changes happen over night. That’s something people need to get. That change is a matter of pushing towards a certain direction, and waiting for it effect.
The problem over the years is that the Philippines keep shooting itself in the foot. Moving forward, there has to be Institutional Memory. We have to remember the good things, and keep pushing towards a certain direction.
What direction is this?
The principle of Daang Matuwid— its very idea should be institutionalized. Can it survive beyond 2016?
One of the key building block forward is the Freedom of Information Act. What does this mean? It means that any citizen can go into a government agency and request publicly available information. Road plans, and contracts by the Department of Public Works for example should be accessible. The Land Transportation policy on driver’s licenses is accessible. The statements of assets and liabilities by public officials can be accessed by any citizen. A student, wanting information from a past President’s archive for a dissertation could be accessed. Supreme Court decisions, available. Anything, and everything could be made available to any citizen. If information is power, why shouldn’t citizens— the sovereign— have this power?
Isn’t this available now? The nation is kind of lucky that the present occupant of Malacanang is a bit more benevolent than the last. What is to stop tomorrow’s leaders from preventing access?
One of the complaints that I’ve heard is how difficult to execute this. How do you organize information? What can be freely available? How to distribute? How do people petition for information?
There is always a cost associated to organizing this information. You need archivists in every agency. Most likely you need to digitize this. Who is going to pay for all this? And more importantly, how do you break institutional gravity from change?
Another is the seemingly shallow thinking on policy. Take the recent Cybercrime Law, and the fiasco associated with it (15 petitions in the Supreme Court against it!). The basic premise was good. Spam protection. Identity protection. Why not? But it stopped at the water’s edge, and basically was a shoddy written law that breaks civil rights.
We need a holistic approach to the Internet like the Magna Carta on Philippine Internet Freedom that Senator Miriam Santiago introduced in the 15th Congress that balances citizen’s rights, the need of governance, development, and cybersecurity.
As Global Trends point out, we will be entering a world where Energy, Water and Food will be in demand coupled with the increasing threat of Climate Change.
So we need smarter legislators going forward. And smarter government that thinks beyond our provincial attitude in spite of the increasing need to fulfill social services. We need rhyme and reason and continuation of good policies.
Nature abhors a vacuum
If the world is shifting to networks and coalitions, then there should be a force in the region. In the balancing act of regional politics, Indonesia is poised to be important to regional politics. And yet, between that country and the Philippines, the latter, if the nation can get its act together is in a far more ideal situation. The Philippines stands on the corner of East and West. We have access to the West Philippine Sea, an important trade route, and beyond, the Pacific. As Aquino proved, the Philippines can be ballsy. The Philippines is willing to act.
So we need to apply soft power across the region today, as we do so in our own country. Spreading information about the Philippines, redirecting public relations on the country’s side. Of course, all this is moot without Capacity— driven by a strong economy, which in turn drives a strong military.
We need to start playing chess with the future.
Nation building doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in one president’s term. It does happen over the course of years, and a nation with a sense of purpose. We need a Philippines with the capacity, and the will to lead in this part of the world.
The Filipino people is in prime position to be a leader in this part of the world; to continue on the tenants of liberal democracy; to ensure real freedom, endures. The Malaysians have their own ideas of what Freedom and Democracy mean. The Singaporeans, the Vietnamise, the Indonesians, and the Taiwanese have it as well, but Filipinos have that unique quality of being at the crossroads— strategically, and culturally— of the East and the West. The Philippines is in a unique position to strengthen the Japanese, and the Americans vis-a-vis the Chinese in the world order of 2030. If, and only if it has the Capacity, and the Will to do so. So we need an economically strong, and vibrant nation. That is the only way to grow capacity, and to strengthen the will.
Ideas are not bullet proof. We fight ideas with better ideas. When the government comes up with a terrible idea, oppose it. When the government comes up with a good idea, raise it up! The responsibility for the nation and its future begins on May the 10th, and renewed every three years. And every year in between we add up to the future, or we subtract from it.
Think who can best deal with the future.
Plato wrote the Republic. In it he dreamed of the Philosopher King: the perfect ruler distilled into an idea that a ruler acts on behalf of the governed.
Sun Tzu wrote that a leader should be a man of Virtue. Benevolent. Courageous. Righteous. Incorruptable. Caring. Decisive.
The future starts with a dream. This dream can turn into a story. This is the story I hope our people can write. There are clear, and present dangers going forward. A lot of those dangers, most people will ignore. I hope we don’t. The writing is on the wall. And these are the things we can see. Imagine how much more, we don’t know, can’t imagine, or can not predict. An economically strong nation moving forward brings capacity, and with that capacity, maybe the will to act. That in 2030, we are a nation respected by our neighbors, and allies around the world: known for fairness, courage and integrity.
This is why your vote matters on the floor of the Batasan.
This is why your vote matters on the Senate floor.
This is why your vote matters on election day.
We need men, and women who are benevolent, courageous, righteous, with integrity, honest, with resolve, vision, and brilliance. But is this what you want?
The current Filipino story is clear. Democracy is out of the recovery room. The economy is in the ICU, and poised to leave it. Sick people getting better can go back to being sick without proper care.
The future isn’t a fixed point. We nudge it towards a direction. I am asking for a higher purpose. I only have one question. What are you going to do next?
Images: Screenshot of DC Comics’ Justice League, Batman, and Batman and Robin, Fair use.