One of the country’s leading “economists” and University of the Philippines (UP) professor, Winnie Monsod recently did what many of our leading elites have been doing for the last several decades. She has managed to divide the sentiments of the citizens of the country once again. The issue is around the speech she gave to her economics students at UP that contained threats against those who plan to leave the country to work overseas and a labeling of them as disloyal.
The debate around this speech rages on, and this time it has moved to an article in response to Monsod, written by a Filipina doctor based in the USA, Joy Antonelle De Marcaida titled, “No Winnie, Filipinos who go overseas are not traitors” published in the GMA News.TV online.
The discussion over Monsod’s speech has reached fever pitch with comments ranging from agreeable to highly disagreeable. Discussions like that are not very common in mainstream publications online because responses deemed offensive normally get edited or disapproved by the editor, however, it is something we are used to here at AntiPinoy.com. In fact, I can only rejoice with the knowledge that such a discussion is now openly taking place in a more public forum. Finally, the ideas that we discuss in underground conditions here are slowly going mainstream. Exposure is really the key to bringing forth new and brilliant ideas to the attention of the common man.
Ironically, the last time I went to the GMA News.TV website to check the article, there was an advertisement on top of it promoting jobs overseas. Really, having that advertisement there for everyone to see should have been enough proof to those who agreed with Monsod that not everyone’s economic stability and happiness can be achieved within the Philippines. It makes the argument on whether or not it is unpatriotic to leave the Philippines to find a better opportunity overseas, pointless. Check out the ad for yourself:
One can only hope that more Filipinos will start to realize that opinion makers like Monsod do not always say the right things and that people like Monsod who may have the best intentions, more often than not have misguided solutions to the problems of our country. It is unfortunate that since Monsod is considered part of the elite, she is highly sought after for her opinions by many similarly misguided Filipinos.
A lot of her “fans” tend to think that she is always correct in her recommendations. Never mind that she has always been in the country and has always been giving her advice, which means, if she was even right half the time, our country would be at par with industrialized nations in the first world by now. Her credibility is undoubtedly very questionable, indeed.
Monsod’s speech couldn’t have been more out of touch. In her speech, she was like a disgruntled lola who has reached the twilight of her years but has not had enough of the rock star treatment and so continues to ramble on about life even when she wasn’t making any more sense. The threats she made to haunt her students who go overseas after her death is enough indication that she is nearing the end of her wits.
Instead of using sound arguments to convince impressionable young adults to stay and serve the country, she used ghost stories effectively treating her students like they were still in kindergarten when the threat of being snubbed by Santa Clause or a visit by the Bogeyman in the dark of night still worked. Funnily enough, her threats worked because the video of her speech has gone viral and more Filipinos now think that the solution to our economic woes is for every Filipino to stay in the Philippines even if not everyone can be guaranteed a job in the market place or a decent quality life.
Coincidentally, in another part of the world, Italy is also suffering a brain drain. There are many young Italians who are frustrated with the current government headed by an octogenarian Silvio Berlusconi. At least the head of an elite university in Italy recently gave more realistic advice to the graduating students of LUISS University in Rome. In an open letter to his son published in the La Repubblica newpaper, Pier Luigi Celli wrote:
“This country, your country, is no longer a place where it’s possible to stay with pride…That’s why, with my heart suffering more than ever, my advice is that you, having finished your studies, take the road abroad. Choose to go where they still value loyalty, respect and the recognition of merit and results.”
The above letter sparked a session of national expression of distress. I guess the discussion in Italy was just a few notches above the debate sparked by Monsod’s speech among Filipinos here and abroad. Apparently, many Italians harbored the same sentiment and had articulated a growing sense that the best hopes for success for young Italians lie abroad.
According to statistics taken from a TIME magazine article, “the number of Italians ages 25 to 39 with college degrees registering with the national government as living abroad every year has risen steadily from 2,540 in 1999 to about 4,000 in 2008. The research institute Censis estimates that 11,700 college graduates found work abroad in 2006 – that’s one out of every 25 Italians who graduated that year.”
There is even a book and a blog called The Flight of Talent which covers the exodus. It highlights the fact that even Italy is losing its best and brightest to a decade of economic stagnation, a frozen labor market and an entrenched system of patronage and nepotism. Surprise, surprise! Patronage and nepotism are so rampant in the Philippines with the Philippine President, Noynoy Aquino and his mates representing the very epicenters of such practice. It’s no wonder the best and the brightest in the country leave for abroad to seek better opportunity, something that Winnie Monsod needs to accept.
It seems that the problems of the youth in the Philippines is similar to what the problems of what young Italians are facing. The old generation is disregarding the young generation. Too much deference to the old folks is leaving the young people disenfranchised. The Italians even have a word for the problem.: gerontocracy, or rule by the elderly.
“Italy has always suffered under a hierarchical system, with the young deferring to authority until it’s their time to take the reins. You are not considered experienced based on your CV, on your ability or according to your skills, but just based on your age.” A quote from a disgruntled former Italian interviewed for TIME magazine. “When you are under 40, you are considered young.” In some cases, entry to some professions is so limited that such jobs have become hereditary. “In a country where success is built on relationship and seniority, only the friends and children of the elite have a chance to cut the line.” Why do I keep getting reminded of P-Noy when I read something like this? Ahh…it’s because P-Noy practically inherited the presidency from his late mother, former President, Cory Aquino!
Just like in the Philippines, Italy has failed to produce reform-minded leaders like David Cameron of the UK and Nicolas Sarkozy of France. Berslusconi is already 74 years old and serving his third term as Prime Minister and the country’s other political players haven’t been updated since the 1990s. This is so very similar to the situation in the Philippines where the same public officials have been in their post for decades.
The likes of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Santiago have been the stalwarts for so many decades in Philippine politics. Unfortunately, deference to the elders has also stifled the young guns from replacing them. This was evident in the last Senatorial election when the vacuum in the Senate leadership paved the way for Senator Enrile to take over the Senate presidency once again. Obviously, no one has the guts to take on the oldies.
Deference to elders is most probably the only reason Filipinos still look up to the likes of Winnie Monsod even if she hardly makes any sense. At least those who are already abroad like Dr Joy Antonelle De Marcaida was ready to challenge the professor’s flawed reasoning.
Young Italians who leave their homeland share the same sentiments as what the Filipina doctor wrote in her article, “ Filipinos overseas are self-exiles. We chose to leave our homeland when this became intellectually, politically, financially, artistically or philosophically limiting or oppressive. We are drawn to another country because of the vitality of its intellectual, scientific or artistic scene, its support and tolerance for innovation, progress and intellectual energy, and by its high regard for the immigrant who brings in new talent and skill, allowing him or her the freedom to achieve success, find his or her identity and express his or her ideas.
Only a handful of people want to leave their homeland and part with their loved ones because they want a sea change. Most people leave their homeland because there’s just not enough opportunity for them to stay.
In Italy at least, they don’t give threats to the people who leave the country or label them unpatriotic. Members of the Italian parliament who have started to wake up to the problem of brain-drain even created a bill to lure those who have left back to the country by offering them tax breaks. Italy was once a great country after all and despite their stagnant economy in recent years, excellence is still embedded in their cultural DNA so there is no doubt that their country will pull through this hiccup once public officials who are already dinosaurs are replaced with younger blood.
It’s hard to imagine lawmakers in the Philippines creating a bill to entice Filipinos living abroad to come back. There are no jobs waiting for them in the first place and the rest of the public are just happy to receive remittances from abroad while they call OFWs ungrateful for leaving at the same time. Who would want to come back?
Unless the Philippines recognizes that investing in the greatest resource – the youth, and creating incentive for them to stay and not with threats, the Philippines will be in a permanent brain-drain.