Why many Filipinos can't save themselves
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-10-30
It's amazing how we Filipinos can outdo ourselves when we do the wrong things. It's as though we have the national genius for rationalizing our errant ways and the national amnesia to forget that they ever happened.

Have you ever heard of a government that rushed to pardon a plundering president barely six weeks after his momentous conviction? Did you ever see or hear of a convicted plundering president behave as though he deserved this pardon and then act as if he is without sin and therefore does not even have to profess contrition or show remorse?

"I may have committed mistakes in my career but corruption is not one of them," ex-convict Joseph Estrada proudly roared as he addressed the San Juan crowd that welcomed him like a conquering hero last Friday.

He outdid his 1998 inaugural speech when he vowed that there is no place for crony and kin in his administration ("Walang kamaganak, walang kumpadre, walang kaibigan"). It did not take long before mistresses, gambling buddies and other flaky creatures started streaming to Malacañang even in odd hours. One of his cronies even caused a stock market collapse with that most brazenly executed BW stock manipulation scheme.

The nation suffers this humiliation because of the morally bankrupt Malacañang resident. To add insult to injury, the ex-convict is now talking as though the Filipino nation owes him an apology rather the other way around.

Few Filipinos dared to step out of their comfort zones to express outrage, or at the very least, tried some other way to right this terrible national wrong? But when a work of fiction — the television drama series "Desperate Housewives" — shows a lead character uttering a derogatory remark over the quality of Filipino medical schools, we react as though we were ready to declare an all-out war with the show’s producers.

The outside world wonders how we as a people can stomach all these without even attempting to seriously reshape our pathetic conditions. We stomached Marcos plunder and murder for 13 years of martial law. US vice president Walter Mondale called us a nation of 40 million cowards and one sonofabitch during the late 1970s.

"There are no tyrants where there are no slaves," Jose Rizal wrote. But then we are a people who never bothered to study and learn from our history which is why our story is like a never-ending modern jeremiad.

In countries where national self-respect and pride exist, a conscience group would have emerged to wield just retribution to the sins of tyrants. Corrupt and abusive government officials would be directly targeted by vigilante bombs. Here we cannot even imitate the peaceful protest of the Myanmar people who went to the streets and boldly challenged a brutal regime.

As I've written in previous columns, this abuse is made possible because of the state of the four gaps that sum up what are wrong with Philippine society. These are:

1. The wealth gap — the most visible of the four gaps.

2. The opportunity gap

3. The education gap, and lastly

4. The information gap

To bridge all four, the two most critical gaps to tackle first are the information and education gaps. These are the two gaps that allow the oligarchs to perpetuate themselves in power, to exploit a large number of Filipinos.

Our oligarchs seem to have perfected Abe Lincoln’s dictum that “You can fool some of the people all the time.” The masses have been suckered time and again to electing corrupt and self-seeking leaders for decades. Joseph Estrada was the biggest rip-off of them all.

The information and education gaps are what allow the opportunity and wealth gaps to thrive. Of the two, the information gap is the most crucial. There will always be education gaps in any society. But if a society is to have a viable democracy, voters must have a bare minimum level of information.

Solving the information gap is not as simple as creating efficiencies in mass media. Our mass media dispersion has improved by leaps and bounds but the information gap remains a big problem.

Values largely determine who becomes affected by the information gap. Just look at television viewing habits and print media readership and you will appreciate this better.

In many upper class households, the domestic helpers have access to cable TV channels. But compare their viewing preferences with those of their employers. Very likely, the domestic helpers will be attracted to shows like Wowowee while the people they serve will prefer to watch Discovery Channel.

In print media, the poor would prefer to read tabloids while the well-off will read newspapers that provide a better analysis and appreciation of the issues that affect their lives.

It is not a question of language. If the poor will read the more substantial publications, there will be a Philippine STAR (content of Pilipino STAR is different), BusinessWorld and Business Mirror for them.

Indeed, we have to overhaul our values before we can move forward.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

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