Who will be the real economic emancipator?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-12-29
No doubt, the economic emancipation of the poorest 25% of our society will weigh heavily on voters come May 2010 when they decide to choose the next president. In fact, even the 40% above the poorest of the poor are seeking economic relief although their needs are less desperate.

Even our middle class had suffered an erosion of their buying capacity with the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities and the constriction of the economy. It is only the top 5% of Philippine society that did not have to undergo major adjustments in their lifestyles and purchasing habits. Sure, they paid more for what they were used to consuming but they have the means to absorb the price increases.

When your Chair Wrecker was part of the Communications Planning Team for the campaign of Cory C. Aquino during the 1986 Snap Presidential Election, we had a briefing on the economic conditions of the country. It was then that we learned that many Filipinos in several provinces were down to eating just two meals a day.

To us then, that was a shocker. Up to 1970s, even poor Filipinos managed to eat three meals a day.

However, these days, many Filipinos will consider themselves fortunate if they were still eating two meals a day. These days, we are witnessing hunger incidence never before experienced since World War II. Many Filipinos who count among the bottom 25% are down to eating only one meal a day.
Many Filipinos are down to seeking hunger relief from instant noodles which only provide carbohydrates to the body. Lacking the vitamins and protein for the development of a healthy mind and body, we have to wonder just what kind of minds and bodies Filipinos of the succeeding generations will have.

Most Filipinos tend to blame failed and corrupt leadership for the sorry state of our economy. They tend to make a correlation of their state of deprivation with the state of corruption. The Wealth Gap which is quite obvious reinforces this conclusion.

However, both the clueless poor and most of the unknowing upper class fail to see the three other Gaps that create the Wealth Gap. These are the Information, Education and Opportunity Gaps. Then they also fail to realize that much of the effort to lead the poor to exit from their generational cycle of poverty focuses on values reform. More than the gold in the pocket, it is the values of the individual that brings him to a better life.

In the 1960s, we were the envy of the Chinese — both from Taiwan and the mainland. They were sneaking into our country to seek a better life. Now it is the reverse as many Filipinos are seeking employment in China and its province of Taiwan. The reversal of fortunes can be traced to Filipino “Fiesta” mentality and Chinese Confucian values.

The Filipino will spend household savings and even borrow money to be able to celebrate an occasion whether it is Christmas, a birthday or their town fiesta. The Chinese will stick to a very basic lifestyle to be able to save and attain that dream of having a business — if not in his lifetime then in the lifetime of his children or their children.

And because it is a values problem, it then requires community development. Trying to reform an individual in the midst of a community which is stuck with counterproductive values — will likely result in failure. This is the reason why the Gawad Kalinga (GK) and the Focolare’s Bukas Palad community development models are still the best means to attain economic emancipation.

You will have to build a new community that is empowered with reformed, productive values or else the people of the community with counterproductive values will tend to bring everybody down. When a community shares the same goals then they will tend to support each other towards the desired better life.

Those highfalutin economic policies some presidential candidates are brandishing do not mean anything if the ground reality is not reformed. Economic emancipation is a relationship that is established with the person in need which is geared towards values reform and the bridging of the Information, Education and Opportunity Gaps. The product of that relationship is what empowerment is all about.

Among the 2010 presidential candidates, only two are focused on these tasks. They are Senators Richard “Dick” Gordon and Noynoy Aquino.

Dick Gordon has recognized the need for values reform as the prerequisite to economic emancipation. Dick has verbalized this time and again.

Noynoy Aquino may not have verbalized it as much but his platform of people empowerment is directed at addressing these root causes that keep the poor trapped in their generational cycle of poverty. Noynoy, like his mother, is also an active supporter of GK, the best demonstration of community development in the country today.

Indeed, people empowerment is the antidote to our biggest political and economic problems. Our democracy fails because the majority is powerless to enforce their will on the few who control the levers of political and economic power.

Noynoy Aquino’s irresistible attraction is that he is not only the most trustworthy presidential candidate. He also happens to have the right solution to our decades old Wealth Gap.

Chair Wrecker email and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

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