Vital context, insights and perspectives
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-04-14
Last Sunday’s ANC Dateline Philippines interview with SWS (Social Weather Stations) boss, Mahar Mangahas, provided vital insights and perspectives to two recent SWS surveys on hunger and heroes. Interviewed by Stanley Palisada and Lia Andanar-Yu, Mahar shared relevant information with which to better appreciate the results of the two surveys. 

The SWS recent hunger survey which showed a rise to 20.5 percent was contested by President Noynoy Aquino III (P-Noy). P-Noy felt that the government’s poverty alleviation program for the poorest of the poor – the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program – was not properly reflected in the SWS survey.

In the case of the survey on perceived heroes, titled Most Identified Heroes, many Filipinos expressed dismay over the 5.1 percent rating that Dictator Ferdinand Marcos had registered. The late dictator placed higher than respected and non-controversial former presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Manuel Quezon.

Mahar clarified during the ANC interview that the rise in hunger incidence was rooted to balance Luzon which exceeded the reduction of hunger incidence reported in the Visayas and Mindanao. He also noted that the 20.5 percent hunger incidence is not the highest that SWS had tracked. The previous administration had registered a hunger incidence that exceeded 24 percent, per Mahar.

Mahar opined that the volatility of hunger incidence and poverty could be rooted to the volatility of the prices of basic consumer goods. The survey period coincided with the series of price increases that were caused by the raging Middle East political crises and the fear of a major disruption in oil supplies. The Middle East crises as well as the earthquake and tsunami that hit Northeastern Japan resulted in the loss of many Filipino overseas jobs.

Delving on the survey on perceived heroes, Mahar clarified that most of the Marcos numbers came from Luzon. Marcos rated 10 percent in the National Capital Region, 6 percent in balance Luzon, 1.3 percent in the Visayas and 3.3 percent in Mindanao. Ninoy and Cory Aquino occupied third place and fourth place with corresponding ratings of 20 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

This 5.1 percent rating of Marcos isn’t surprising at all. The Ilocano population of Regions I and II plus those in Mindanao, where many Ilocanos have migrated, can easily account for that rating. Marcos dispensed goodies for over 20 years and was particularly generous to his fellow Ilocanos. During the 1986 Snap Election, Marcos was estimated to have gotten 40 percent of the real vote.

Mahar said that the controversies surrounding the proposed Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani ( Burial Place of Heroes) may have increased public awareness of the late dictator. That sudden rise in public awareness could have allowed Marcos to rate higher than non-controversial late presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Manuel Quezon.

Nevertheless, this development highlights the Filipino’s very shallow understanding of our country’s history. In China, Chinese memory of the 19th century Opium Wars is compelling them to be unforgiving to drug couriers. Over here, we cannot even remember the evil deeds of the dictator who ruined this once second best performing economy in Asia during the early 1960s and eroded our moral standards. 

For Marcos to have rated 5.1 percent as a perceived hero also underscores our damaged culture. No right thinking nation will even consider such a dictator a hero. That is the equivalent of 5.1 percent of Germans perceiving Adolf Hitler as a national hero. Those psychotic neo-Nazis in Germany do not even number .01 percent. The over 99 percent of the German population still consider Hitler and the Nazi era a shameful chapter of their history.

More shocking than the 5.1 percent survey rating is the recent announcement of the military that Marcos is now included in their Hall of Heroes. If Marcos is our military’s idea of a hero, we can expect very little patriotism from them. This raises questions about their education and dedication. Do they not know that the Marcos World War II exploits were fabricated to create a myth? How can you expect them to protect democracy when they see an evil dictator as a hero?

The Marcos burial controversy is actually the least of our problems. What should concern us more is how we as a nation can survive the challenges of our internal and external environments when a significant number of our people think like this.  

This is a condemnation of the parents who failed to teach their children a sense of right and wrong. This is a condemnation of the educational institutions that failed to teach Filipinos their real history and to identify the real heroes from the villains and Quislings. This is a condemnation of a leadership that failed to improve the Filipino national mind through decades of bad governance. This is a condemnation of the religious leaders of this country for their failure to espouse the truth that sets people free and for failing to champion the least of our brethren.

This is a condemnation of the media addiction to sensationalism and melodrama which deprive Filipinos of the vital context, insights and perspectives with which to fully appreciate current issues and developments. This substandard level of journalism accounts for the Information Gap and the state of confusion of the Filipino public mind.

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  Previous Columns:

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

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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