How much can Presidents really do for us?

One way to regard Philippine roads and the motorists who use them is to see these as the putrid contents in a laboratory petri dish. In it we can study more closely certain behaviours that can be observed in a people that seemingly find it impossible to work with any of the systems they pay their hard-earned cash in taxes for. By isolating a small cross-section of Filipino society — our traffic ecosystem — within that hypothetical petri dish, we can more easily analyse why Filipinos quite simply cannot be expected to do the right thing.

Road systems in the Philippines are not designed properly. Most roads do not have coherently-laid out signs and lane markings. Where they exist, lanes can end just as abruptly as they may appear as you drive down a road. Six-lane highways are made to feed into two-lane roads. Signs guide drivers in a way that does not consider nor is consistent with actual road conditions.

You just cannot trust the system of road markings, signage, and traffic signalling, of Philippine streets to facilitate your safe arrival at your intended destination — not if you plan on observing traffic rules as you drive to where you are going. For example, sticking to one lane usually results in you at some point getting hemmed into a slow-moving cluster of jeepneys or gettng cut-off by other more aggressive drivers. And giving way to other motorists often results in a loss of one’s own chance to move forward as other drivers rush in to exploit your generosity. In other words a typical motorist does not see herself gaining anything from working with the system.

Scale this simple model up, and some insight into the whole reason why the Philippines does not work can be gleaned. There is a prevailing kanya-kanya mentality that copes with systems that are designed with little more than our renowned bahala-na and pwede-na-yan mentalities applied to the task. And this kanya-kanya approach is applied with impunity.

Note those three elements mentioned above:

– bahala na
– pwede na yan
– impunity

They are elements in that Filipino Cultural Trinity framework I described a while back and illustrated in the following diagram:

Taken in the above context, it becomes a bit easier to come to terms with the confronting reality of Da Pinoy Condition, which can be described quite simply thus:

In the Philippines, you play by the rules, you lose.

The above is a good response to the lament Dr Jose Rizal II makes in a recent article. In that article he observes how Filipinos, despite possessing some semblance of intelligence (believe it or not!), most often apply their thinking faculties towards the wrong things:

Sa totoo lang, maraming Pilipino ang matalino. At ang talinong yan ay nakikita sa larangan ng musika at iba pa. Ang BPO industry mismo (lalo na’t sa mga specialized sa back-office operations) ay isang larangan kung saan ang talino ng mga Pilipino ay nagagamit.

Ngunit sa maraming bagay, nagiging kahiya-hiya ang ipinapakitang “kalidad ng talino” ng mga Pilipino.

The short recommendation given these observations is that the problems of our nation need to be seen as a system of issues. It is only in that light that systemic solutions can be formulated and implemented.

Are our politicians up to that sort of world-class thinking?

Ben Kritz in his recent article MB Polls Voters on Critical Issues takes a stab at some answers. He provides insight into the way we regard that oft-bandied demon of Filipino society — corruption. Through the hollow-headed “insight” on “corruption” routinely disseminated by the Philippine Media and in the way our society’s leaders (politicians and the Clergy) follow-through on these banal moronisms by engineering “crusades” against it, Filipinos have been progressively assured of their helpless role as mere victims of endemic corruption rather than major contributors to it.

Because we Filipinos have become so comfy with the notion that “corruption” is an “evil” that “victimises” us, we don’t consider the part we play in propagating it. That goes the same for most other seemingly insurmountable problems our sad society need to overcome in our slow crawl to prosperity. Instead of electing Presidents to solve our problems, we should see ourselves electing them to lead us in a collective effort to solve them.

Note the word collective. It highlights that:

The problem includes us and therefore the solution needs to include us.

This is an important point to take given our messianic regard for Presidents. We see them — their person — as signs of “hope” despite the lack of any clear evidence of any strong causal link between who the president is and how probable our achieving our national aspirations becomes. On that note, I take us back to the example of the way Filipinos see “corruption”, with a bit more of Kritz’s take on the matter:

[…] a significant part of the electorate seems destined for a big disappointment in how corruption is handled by whoever is eventually elected president. For the most part, the root causes of corruption are not being addressed by the candidates. Dick Gordon is a significant exception, but even his message could use a little refinement, because the connection he makes between the fundamental problems underlying corruption and the fact of corruption itself is clearly not yet getting through to the voters. The same can probably also be said of Nick Perlas. Neither of the two supposed “front-running” candidates, Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino, have addressed the issue effectively at all, instead offering only vague administrative or institutional fixes. Apart from the fact that the sincerity of these ideas is questionable given the significant corruption issues dogging both candidates, they are simply not good ideas. The underlying problems that cause the administrative or institutional flaws that directly result in corruption are given short shrift or ignored entirely, and as a consequence, the proposals are as good as doomed before they even get the chance to implement them.

I think we need to be careful of what we wish for. If our presidential candidates somehow get around to delving deeper into the more fundamental causes of “corruption” in the way they pitch their value to us, I am willing to bet that their journey will bring them (and us) face-to-face with the real reason behind why corruption and Filipino society are such loving partners in crime. And many of us won’t like what we find, for I believe that all roads in the journey to gaining some clarity around why our society is corrupt to the bone will lead to only one thing — the fundamental nature of Da Pinoy Condition.

Only when we see ourselves as key contributors to our problems will we find solutions that we can consider ourselves to be part of. And only then can we come to appreciate how much our Presidents can really do for us.


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12 Responses to How much can Presidents really do for us?

  1. bokyo says:

    I’d not believe in someone who said “Meron tayong pondo pagpagawa ng de-kalidad na ospital. Tama po! Pero eto, nakapila parin ang ating mga kababayan sa mga health center. NAKORAKOT” <- what caused the corruption? Politicians only?

    Na-uh. Big fish grows from smaller fishes, and that's the common Pinoy. Pay the traffic enforcer a lump amount to avoid traffic violation. look for a fixer to avoid the normal process of registering/renewal of government documentation. Keep the "extra change" from the driver who rushed his math while driving. Cross the roads UNDER a pedestrian overpass (we really don't need those extra barricades from MMDA if we really follow traffic rules, hence more budget for them). A lot more. And we shrug off these small "corruption" to spout out a lame excuse "nasa Pinas tayo".

    Great article btw.

    • benign0 says:

      That is my issue with the Philippine Media. They pretend to be “with us” in “fighting” corruption and keeping politicians honest.

      The truth cannot be farther from that.

      The Philippine Media propagate the myth that there is a “corruption” that we all should “fight”. There is none, not because there is no corruption but because it cannot be fought in the way that these morons have us believe that it should.

      • Wander-ruh says:

        The Philippine media is half of the reason why this country is stupid, poor, and corrupt.

  2. homer says:

    These days, the ads of Noynoy are telling us that corruption will be fought under his Presidency. I don’t see how he’s gonna do this. First of all, he doesn’t say how. Form a committee? Pray to Mom and Dad? Or are we supposed to second guess that it’s going to be done the same way it’s always been done? If it’s the latter, I guess we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief…..NOT!!!

    And what’s with this “Kapamilya” and “Kapuso” s**t? Are we, the viewers, supposed to believe that we are being regarded as “family” or ‘loved one” by these networks? How many idiots are actually falling for this pile of horse manure?

    Let’s see now…..what can a President really do for me? Ahhh…uhmm…..err….mmm……ahh…ohhhh……wait, let me think….hmmm….uhhh……s**t…..mmmm……ok, here’s what a President can do for me…..GET REAL!

    • homer says:

      Ok, let me rephrase my last line:

      GET REAL or GET LOST!!!

      (that’s more like it) 🙂

    • BongV says:

      even if it were a family, people have to be reminded – a president is bigger than a head of household – and if it were indeed a household – we have the opportunity to choose a head of household – one who can deliver, and is not a slacker.

  3. Jay says:

    I think overall its that people don’t honestly see pride in themselves. They don’t imagine seeing the president they chose and when it is come to face his nation that he may just embarrass him/herself and make themselves look weak, thus having a mentality that they will choose the future leader for whatever his jingle/dynasty was worth and leave it to them alone to run the nation. That is the bitter truth the noynoy and villar supporters are going to live with when their leader does get elected and damn it if they don’t feel that long, hard cycle is like being fucked over in the ass.

  4. ka fredo says:

    It’s very common for pinoys not to admit mistakes unless they are caught red-handed. I think we’ve all heard these statements before : “Lulusot ako, wag kang makialam” “wag kang epal”. “Hindi nyo naman pera tong ginagamit dito..”, “Wala ka naman pakisama eh”, ” wala kang utang na loob “.”Sumakay ka na lang”

  5. It seems now that not one of our Presidential candidates is really up to the task of making our country better.. However, if we think about it, we do not really need good Presidents to improve the country. What we need are good Mayors.

    Take BF for example, he was mayor of Marikina during the time of Ramos, Estrada and part of Arroyo (and his wife is Mayor for the rest of Arroyo term). Different presidents yet the same successful outcome for the city. This means, even who the President is, mayors can make it better for their own constituents.

    • ChinoF says:

      In that sense, the people overrates the national leadership. The local leadership is certainly more influential in bringing change and action programs to our own doorsteps, because that is within their territory after all. Thus, it makes more sense to remove the vote for national positions from the hands of the people, and use an electoral college or parliamentary system. That way, they won’t barge into local programs just to increase their rep for elections. The local positions will remain the ones elected by “controlled” popular vote, and it could help milk more achievement out of them.

  6. Wander-ruh says:

    Allow me to share my experience at the Makati City Hall itself last year.

    I needed to get a Community Tax Certificate (Cedula) from the Makati City Hall last year. As you all know, to get one, you need to state your annual gross income, and based on that amount the community tax that you have to pay will be computed.

    When it turned out that I had to pay several hundreds, the person manning the CTC window told me to JUST DECLARE A DIFFERENT GROSS INCOME IN ORDER TO PAY LESSER CTC AMOUNT. Sure, having my tax slashed down to several tens of pesos was attractive indeed, but I stuck to paying the right amount and told the guy, “OK lang. Babayaran ko na lang yung tamang presyo.”

    A couple of things came to mind from this experience:

    1. The government employee itself (yeah–“itself”) whose salary comes from taxes is the very person who encourage people to cheat AT THE VERY SAME LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICE WHERE COMMUNITY TAXES ARE FILED.

    2. How many people were asked–NAY, ENCOURAGED!–to file the wrong community taxes at this government office? If you count it by the thousands, then we don’t have to ask why personal and collective corruption are so endemic in this country.

    • benign0 says:

      A Wander-ruh: That’s right. Corruption is ingrained at the very DNA of Da Pinoy. That’s where the “Laban” should begin. It should start at a purge of every single bit of Da Pinoy Condition from the very blood that flows through our veins (and that is a metaphor, by the way Mr GabbyD 😉 ).

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