Between the lines

Between the lines of the President’s fifth SONA are important qualitative information about the state of the nation.

First: the choice of an IP, an Aeta, as among those who benefited from DepEd’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) points viewers to the country’s many native tribes hence cultural diversity. The Aetas, Ilongots, Mangyans, and Muslim tribes in Mindanao, the mountain tribes of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), to name some.

It further directs the audience to the matter of IP integration in Philippine society. What popular and negative names are Badjaos, for example, known by? because these impressions are why they’re not invited in mainstream activities. Scavengers and beggars on city streets are thought of as Aetas. But behold the featured ALS beneficiary. She’s articulate, confident, and dignified. I’m confident with higher education, more training and development, she can stand on her own, a Filipino IP, in an international gathering. That’s called transformative education.  And that is what funding for public education aims for.

Second: the superhero persona that Filipinos ascribe to the President and which the media promotes, I fear. I remember this particular scene from The Incredibles:

Like the star-struck boy waiting by The Incredibles’ front door, certain circles in imperial Manila wait at the door of the Executive Office for “something amazing” to emerge out of it. Beginning in the time of former President GMA, it has become a tradition to anticipate from the SONA podium utterances so amazing (thus the amazing gowns that go with the occasion). But the trouble with superheroes and their superpowers is they don’t exist in the human world. By pinning all hopes and dreams on another, one effectively gives up one’s life to this other. Only patients in mental wards do that.

When the other bungles up the life we’ve handed over, we get frustrated, doubly because not only have we lost control of our life but now the other has too, and enraged, we seethe for the opportunity to get at the other. I think this is the route that spouses have taken when we read in the news that one of them has decapitated the other’s body part which, ironically, had provided both with “something amazing” for some time. How do otherwise enamored couples arrive at the point where they want nothing more than to bludgeon each other? Putting one’s life on hold in order to wait on the other to do “something amazing” does that, eventually.

It is the twenty-first century but we still have to amaze the world with something that we’re able to produce in-country and offshore and mass distribute. South Korea has it’s unique management style and Samsung. Need I mention Japan? Or Singapore? The way I see it, it is more difficult for today’s developing and least developed nations to make the leap than it was for developing nations in the 60s (South Korea began seriously transforming it’s economy, one of the poorest then, around that time). For one, disasters due to a changing climate are more frequent and incredibly massive in scale. Another, countries and regions are now even more integrated that a crisis in one affects the rest, setting back what progress is being engineered in affected areas. Then global technological advancement and invention is happening by quantum leaps and bounds. To just catch up, this country needs to do double, triple, overtime.

The people are responsible for the state of the nation as much as the officials they have elected. Citizen and civil society (e.g. people’s organizations) participation in barangay and town affairs is the basic and most accessible means through which Filipinos can significantly influence the direction of development and progress. But, as is almost always the case, only five or ten barangay residents would heed the call for, say, attendance, to meetings, and almost always, these are the senior citizens. There are several civil society and private sector groups and organizations in Baguio City, for instance, but it’s disheartening that only two or three would show up when the City Government calls for participation from the community.

Expectedly, what could the Barangay Captain, Mayor, and consequently, the President report back to the nation? Garbage in, garbage out says the computer programmer. Mediocrity in, mediocrity out.

But, the Filipino can exceed himself. Filipino immigrants are proof of that, showing that when they imbibe the discipline and ethics of their country of choice, say, the US, they’re able to leave financial poverty behind and live the American Dream.

This discipline is lacking here which largely stems from poor enforcement of laws and policies. The US Government has not signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child yet this didn’t prevent it from providing quality infrastructures and services for it’s children. The Philippine Government is a signatory of the CRC but it continues to turn a blind eye to poor and severely undernourished children in the public schools. The DepEd cannot compel it’s schools to perform academically when half of the students are brain dead from hunger. What can the Department do to address this? Or, what is the Department doing to ensure that it’s programs e.g. school gardens are implemented on the ground? The Philippine Government has upheld the RH Law but it looks like the document will just gather dust on library shelves. Is it’s IRR being developed? Meanwhile, Barangay LGUs should’ve by now organized orientation-meetings to disseminate the law and get a feel of residents’ needs and expectations in RH services.

The President is not the enforcer of laws and ordinances. It is National Government Agencies and Local Government Units.

The private sector in many ways contributes to the perpetuation of corruption and arbitrariness. Many in the sector take advantage of the culture in public offices. For example, many businesses contribute to blight: a firm going into the gravel and sand business does not put up it’s own warehouse or acquire it’s own lot but instead utilize public streets as warehouse for their goods; ads are plastered on any available public surface and left there until shredded by wind and rain; business signages are haphazardly-written on whatever material available and mounted however owners like. Yet there are regulations for these things.

The responsible and competitive business owner will always choose quality when it comes to his or her business, regardless of government’s regulations because in the long run and in the context of globalization (i.e. there are increasing number of firms offering the same product and service) quality will keep the business running and ahead of it’s competitors. Besides, we are not in the Stone Age anymore.

The day the SONA will amaze it’s audience is the day when Filipinos and their elected representatives delivered on their duties.


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