Monday, May 17, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, Puerta Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

This past week the voters of the Philippines elected their newest president. Typically, names of leading candidates are from either military background or from the few politically and economically powerful families—and this year was no exception. This last week, it was “Noynoy” Aquino, the son of the late President Corazon Aquino, who received the most votes in this election for the presidency of the Philippines. One good point this election is that this year saw that the introduction of electronic balloting, which has actually led this year to less claims of fraud and corruption than in past elections.

In short, regardless as to whether the country is run by military or political oligarchs, one of the reasons that the majority of Filipinos have been forced to await decades without major reforms and changes to the status quo in terms of wealth and developmental distribution in vain since the 1950s is the practice of oligarchy. Both the newly elected president and out going presidents represent this closed-shop approach to running the Philippines. Noynoy Aquino’s mother and father were both politically active as were his grandparents. The outgoing president, Gloria Macapagal Aroyo came from a very similar oligarchical-driven family tree on the same main island of Luzon, as well.

By the way, outgoing President Aroyo was also just elected to a representative seat in congress last week. It appears that she desires to continue to try and hold on to legal immunity in dozens of fraud and corruption cases while serving as her region or family’s representative in the Philippines government till the end of her days.


The “Manila Bulletin” has recently printed a list of hopes and desires of a great variety of college students in the wake of the May 10 National Election Day and as the subsequent results have been discussed daily in this month’s newspapers. Here I would like share some of these in this publications of ponderings by university students in the Philippines as I think they are reflecting the aspirations of many, especially of those who are studying in the dangerous field of journalism here in the Philippines, a country which led the world again in reported murders of journalists for the second straight year.

The article in the “Manila Bulletin” was entitled “MR. PRESIDENT this is what the youth wants [sic] to tell you . . . “ This mosaic of opinions began, “We came. We saw. We voted. . . . With the country’s hopes greatly pinned on us, over 20 million young and first-time voters . . . We persisted [in long long lines] because our vote mattered.” The anonymous author continued, “After years of corruption-tainted politics, a new leader brings hope and optimism. Time to buckle down to work, Mr. President. Here’s what we want to say to you. . . “

Next, eighteen year-old, Eric Christian Estolatan at Ateneo De Manila University stated with great irony (& sarcasm), “Thank you for continuing to participate in making the voting population ignorant of the dire circumstances in which the Philippines has found itself by refusing to shed light on the sensitive issues (such as the need to restructure taxation to decrease our reliance on foreign borrowing) and taking the unpopular but rightful stance.”

I think such a statement would find accord if spoken by students in the USA, in Greece, in the UK, and in the European Union. Perhaps there are more than five dozen other nations around the globe these days where such cynicism and disdain arise due to lack of good media and good governance.

Young Estolatan continued his roast of the newest president by noting, “Thank you for spending the millions on advertisements during the campaign which ensures that the Filipinos would find themselves robbed blind in the next ten years. Thank you for ensuring that the government again would find itself without ideals and true political parties and be ruled again by political dynasties . . .”

I suppose that since America has had the Bush’s, the Clintons, the Kennedy’s, the American people might hold similar qualms and might certainly lack high expectation for reform in 2010 as well. However, there are more hopeful words in some other young writer’s voices.

For example, Iris Alarquez, 19, of the University of Santo Tomas writes to the new regime’s president, “ Filipinos are looking forward to change –an achievable change, not an impossible one. Please be one of your people (do not dictate . . .) in order for us to achieve our goals.”

Cliff Venzon, 19, of the same university as Alarquez [above] simply writes, “Prosecute and persecute GMA.” NOTE: GMA does not stand for “genetically modified anything”. GMA is the acronym for the former president described above-- Gloria Macapagal Aroyo.

Likewise, Kaith Casey of the University of the East notes, “Enough with the promises; now is the time. Dare to move on.”

Likewise, Katrina Cosme stated in another longer commentary, “Please watch every campaign ad that you aired from beginning to end at least once a day, and look around you.”

I would suggest that Americans force all their rolling-in-the-advertising-dough-candidates this 2010 to do that, too. Make them watch the videos of their many promises until they capitulate and implement change.


Finally, Glaizn Seguia writes, ‘You can either start the engine that gets this country running, or you can just let it continue to run downhill. I don’t see any reason for you to choose the latter, so … [change]. Change might not be easily accepted but we will all get used to it after some time. Choose the right road, the straight road., the one that’s barren and empty—so the greedy crocodiles won’t have anything to devour. . . . at the end of that road lies the fruits of our labor.”

The 24-year old Seguia then uses a metaphor that may be hard for many in outside the Philippines in rainy season to truly fully internalize. Seguia says that the people will be there to support change if the new government takes action as it should to get real reform.. She writes, “[Remember Mr. President] We’re actually behind, pushing this country towards the way [the desitination] as you control the wheel.”

To understand this metaphor as Filipinos do, recall that in rainy season many roads are awash in water and dirt. This means that vehicles, including passenger buses and large jeepneys, are constantly being pushed out of the muddy goo by the very passengers who depend on them (and pay for their passage in) to get where they desire to go. This is the image that Seguia conjures up to the Filipino audience when she created a road metaphor and reminds the new leadership that the people are there—actually ready to do the pushing when things get stuck.

Such similar metaphors were emphasized by several other students. For example, one 20-year old nursing student, named Renan Lin, stated, “As much as I hate to compare our country to the U.S.A. I hope you didn’t just build so much hope and optimism only to have us end up in the same rut we were before.”

In short, Filipinos feel like they have been living for many a generation in a long row of ruts (which their ancestors and the nations oligarchy) have built, and no matter how many times they have been in the ruts prior to this election, they seem to be traveling the same path again and again. In far to many veins, this is the reality of the Philippines. Such skepticism is warranted in a land that has some of the best fishing, human, and developmental resources in the world but has never lived up to its post-WWII potential. Nonetheless, these aspirations of youth for real change this decade are certainly not to be ignored.

A Final thought! One in every ten Filipinos is currently forced to go abroad and to earn money in order to keep their family and country afloat—or to keep the oligarchs or clans in each territory in power. Lack of land reform, lack of tax reform, and lack of truer regional autonomy have made real economic reforms and developmental growth outside of Manila extremely restricted. In contrast, neighboring East Asian lands, such as Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea saw many great reforms—even under autocratic regimes—since 1945-46, i.e. after both the USA gave the country its Independence.



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