Deconstructing our Nation's Crisis
One year later
When Congress opens on July 24, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be delivering her sixth State of the Nation Address (SONA). Exactly one year ago, many Filipinos felt that GMA would not finish her term, let alone 2005, as President of the Republic.
Dissent too reverberated within the inner circles of power. Also exactly a year ago that an unprecedented number of cabinet officials had resigned from their respective posts on the grounds of GMA’s adamant position not to resign despite her waning credibility and public trust as President as well as the economic impact of the lack of trust and confidence in her regime.
Exactly a year ago, there was consensus among Filipinos that GMA does not provide a template for true leadership and good governance.
Amid all the hoopla, there are two things certain in Philippine politics. GMA is still unseated as President. More specifically, GMA has gained sustained political strength.
Two kinds of analysis can be raised that explain our nation’s enduring political crisis. First, the Arroyo administration is displaying impeccable use of its political machinery. The 2004 elections and scandals that followed have harnessed this administration’s ability to deploy and employ combined strategies of patronage and mobilization. It pays to be the incumbent.
Despite elections, reforms and initiatives, we almost always end up having the same set of politicians: crooked, corrupt and immoral. No person, no rule, no group is spared from the touch of such political leaders, whether at the local or at the national level. This brings us to the second point.
The problem of the Philippines is not just Gloria. It’s far worse. Beyond such impressive, sinister display of machinery, there exists a fundamental reason that permits such actions, players and behavior.
Institutions pertain to socially-accepted structures, mechanisms, and arrangements that exert causal influence on behavior and outcomes, shaping and channeling the interests of every agent, from individuals to firms to states.
Piece-meal solutions and grand policy pronouncements will not solve the country’s institutional weaknesses. Amidst the political turmoil that has shoved this country into a debilitating gridlock, all is revealed to us: the dilemma of the Philippines is largely systemic and institutional. The folly of the current administration is but a subtle exposure of the country’s immense political debacle.
The increasing state of hopelessness in the Philippines, a phenomenon spurred by a permeating crisis of identity and a brimming crisis of legitimacy, contributes to the prevalence of divisiveness as the prevailing attribute in the wake of the country’s mounting political crisis.
The lack of trust and confidence in the leaders and institutions of government make it difficult for people to identify and accept the decisions, actions and initiatives made by government.
Filipinos no longer find a sense of relief and redress from their government. Many of us would rather leave the country than put up with the hardships experienced under the current administration.
We need to unlock the solution to our country’s problems. We need to reorganize our institutions, realign our basic priorities and reconfigure our political and economic systems to ensure the distribution of goods and services to the greater majority.
We need to turn the institutional crisis that has crippled this entire country into an opportunity to forge new beginnings for significant institutional reforms.
We need to address interspersed political, electoral and constitutional issues. These are inextricably intertwined issues. Addressing one will not solve the deficiencies of the others.
We need to put a stop to corruption and bad governance in our nation’s public sector; its wastefulness, its extravagance, its inefficiency, its slowness, and unresponsiveness.
We need a strengthened core administrative system in the Philippine public sector that is more responsive to the people; effective, timely, and cost effective in their service delivery; and capable of managing strategic policy directions. We need to promote and institutionalize a “people focus” in government.
We need to change our country’s political culture from a culture of patronage to a culture of public service and public trust as well as reduce the number of political opportunists, chameleons, and butterflies that have made our politics colorful yet embarrassing. We must engender a politics of vision, ideals and convictions.
We need to put an end to the culture of corruption prevailing in the Philippines and transform Philippine politics and governance from one dominated by money, elite interests, and particularistic demands to one that is committed to issues, ideas, and policy. The intention is to break the pervasive influence of corrupt money on the governance, political, and electoral process. The dominance of vested interests and personality-oriented political leadership must be condemned.
As we see it, there are two options presented to us at this point: we can take on the challenge and make brazen and bold measures toward genuine institutional reforms; or, we can succumb to the throes of the political debacle that has deepened the social divides in this country.
The problems of the Philippines are big and mounting. The road to recovery is not an easy path. There are no hard and fast rules to recovery and development. Leading the Filipino people into thinking that there is a quick-fix solution to our country’s most challenging problems is not part of our earnest and sincerest intentions. Rather, we appeal to all Filipinos to cast emotions aside and focus on the real trouble that lies ahead. Then as it is now, we have never placed a single ounce of doubt in the intrinsic and indomitable nature of Filipinos to survive.
We trust in the ability of all our leaders and citizens to realize bold measures that necessitate fundamental changes in our political system. We, Filipinos acting as a collective, must be able to find a lasting solution to our mounting and menacing political problems, if not for us then for our children.
More than anytime in our history now is the best time to act. # July 07, 2006