Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Illusion of Philippine Independence

Yesterday was Philippine Independence Day. It was 111 years ago on June 12 that this country won its freedom from Spain. Shortly thereafter, the Philippines was colonized by the U.S. and did not become a sovereign nation until 1946.

It seems to me that this year's celebration was more subdued than in previous years. Perhaps this is due to the anger of the people over an ongoing attempt by the Philippine House of Representatives to ram through a change in the Constitution that could change the present presidential form of government to a parliamentary system. This would allow the current and very unpopular lame duck President of the Philippines--who cannot run again for this office again due to the term limit rule of the current Constitution--a shot at running for a seat in the proposed parliament and sooner than later becoming Prime Minister. This is because she must find a way to stay in office to retain the immunity that protects her from civil and criminal charges that await her once she is no longer in power. The corruption in which the President and her husband appear to be involved is also rampant throughout the Philippines, and the resulting diversion of billions of pesos in public funds to pockets of crooked politicians and dishonest government employees keep the people from social and economic advancement.

Along with this corruption is the phenomenon of patronage, which extends to personal and family relations, creating a culture of dependency. An example of this mind set is reliance on friends and relatives, especially those in key positions for jobs, loans, and other forms of assistance in exchange for personal loyalty and votes .

Examples of dependency are over reliance by children--even after reaching adulthood--on their parents for protection, shelter, and emotional sustenance; reliance by families for financial support from family members who are OFW's (overseas Filipino workers); reliance on live-in domestic help (a must-have for the middle and upper classes) to do household and child care chores that their employers are usually capable of doing themselves but which are considered beneath their dignity; reliance on the Church for family planning decisions and on patron saints for protection no matter what kind of unnecessary risks believers take, such as reckless driving.

Not surprisingly this national character trait of dependency has led to a personal and social lack of discipline and restraint. No less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, of the Philippines, Reynato Puno, weighed in on this issue, decrying the sad state of ethical, political and economic state of affairs here. He declared that under these circumstances the country "has no reason to celebrate our freedom".

The sad thing is that the Philippines has so much potential in both natural and human resources that will never be realized unless through some "miracle", the country can pull itself together and its citizens can begin to act responsibly. Until then, the phrase "Philippine independence" will remain a contradiction in terms.


Alan said...

Wait...I realized that DO understand the Philippines. It's just like Chicago and Illinois, corrupt to the core and nobody in power gives a shit -- except that this is a whole country!

Secular Guy said...

There are parallels. Yet I can't help but wonder whether corruption here is more endemic here. But then I haven't been to Chicago in decades. So you may well be right, Alan.

Matt said...

The thing is I think so many people become blind to corruption. Recently in the UK we have seen the rise of the most disgusting politicians to pollute this earth which seem to be lining pockets with taxpayers money at every opportunity. Aswell as Tony Blair seeming to have set himself up with a nice job for the future and no doubt the real cost of it will come out after he dies.. Truth is President or Parliment makes no difference as they can change the laws to suit themselves or make investigations take decades allowing them to slip away unnoticed. There is no such thing as Freedom its more of a myth than a realistic statement. Because even if you moved into the mountains in the middle of nowhere you are escaping from society so it would no longer be classed as freedom. At best we can live our lives in the way we want. At worst a slave to a corrupt system.

Secular Guy said...

On that note the "Cha-Cha" (Charter Change) movement to revise the form of government in the Philippines from a presidential to a parliamentary system in order to end corruption is futile without a different kind of "Cha-Cha" first: Character Change.