For our democracy to be viable, Filipinos must have equal access to vital information that affects their lives. A big information gap eventually becomes the foundation for the exploitation of many members of society. This is particularly true for the Philippines.
A demonstration of the information gap rendering a people vulnerable for exploitation happened during my sister Dorothy’s trip sometime during the early 1980s to Damilag, Bukidnon where we have a farm. She went there to represent us in establishing our ownership to the land we were farming.
Prior to Dorothy’s trip, our farm partners alerted us that some farmers there were misled into thinking that our property was available for occupation. That means that it’s not titled to anybody and that nobody is paying land tax for it. Such, of course, was not the case. Our rights to the land that our maternal grandparents handed down to us were genuine and legal.
The poor farmers thought — or were made to think — that our farm partners were squatters. A known Leftist agitator was leading the poor, landless farmers and we eventually discovered, in the course of the court hearing where Dorothy represented us that this socialist was into a very capitalistic thing. He was out to gain land and profit. Pretending to represent the best interests of the poor, landless farmers of Bukidnon, this Leftist wanted to be the profitable landowner that they love to denounce during their anti-everything rallies.
Upon her return to Metro Manila, Dorothy narrated to us how pitifully exploited those Bukidnon farmers were by the person they thought would help them acquire land. This syndrome does not even link itself to an education gap but to an information gap. Those poor, landless farmers were being asked for contributions to finance the “fight” to get them land.
Those poor, landless farmers were being pushed into the frontline of the battle between the landed and the landless by the clever Leftist manipulator. They take the risk if the landowner sues them for illegal occupancy. If they lose, the clever Leftist manipulator will be the first to make a disappearing act. If they win, he will get his “fair” share of the booty.
Come to think of it, is this not what Left Top Honcho, Joma Sison, is doing too? He agitates for rebellion here while living in comfort and risk-free in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Dorothy got to meet the poor, landless farmers after the court hearing, which ended in our favor. They apologized to our sister for the inconvenience they have caused all of us. They were very nice folks, Dorothy told us, except that they did not know better. Dorothy also discovered while she was in Bukidnon that poor folks there are being sold sweepstakes tickets that have already been drawn. That’s how vulnerable you are if you don’t have vital information that will affect your life.
If you decide to go up to Baguio but didn’t know that a typhoon will hit Kennon Road at about the time that you’ll be there — that is vital information that could kill you if you didn’t know. If you decide to purchase a big volume of common stock in a publicly listed company but didn’t know that the company that you bought into has suffered a major financial setback — that is vital information that could cause your bankruptcy.
Do you realize that it’s not just because they don’t have money, which is why poor Filipinos are underdeveloped? Take the case of nutrition. In China, during the worst of their lean years, the Chinese people didn’t suffer from malnutrition because of the protein-rich soybean that has been widely integrated in the Chinese diet. Over here, we have the equivalent vegetable protein in the mongo. But because our poor people are not aware of the mongo’s nutritional value — they persist in eating instant noodles that can at best only provide carbohydrates and stomach warmth. How much development do you think can be packed in a child’s brain that’s protein deficient?
This is how valuable information is — send an under nourished poor child to school and that child will eventually drop out because of failure to keep up with the other classmates. IQ has nothing to do with it. It’s all about a brain that lacks development due to lack of protein.
Thus, it’s heartwarming for your Chair Wrecker to revisit my old agency, the PIA (Philippine Information Agency) where I served as its second Director-General under EO (Executive Order) 100 of President Cory, from 1987-88. Your Chair Wrecker received an award from President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) for being deemed an Outstanding Former PIA Director-General. More than my award, it was the 25th anniversary since President Cory established the PIA and on that morning of February 1, P-Noy ceremonially launched the new PIA website and Text Blast — both designed to improve lives via more intimate communications between the people and the government.
In his speech that morning, P-Noy restated the objectives why the PIA was created — to provide efficient flow of information required by the people to assist them in making decisions to improve the quality of their life. That takes special significance after the PIA practiced old bad habits during the days of the Marcos dictatorship, when these media and communications capabilities were utilized to serve the Malacanang Palace resident instead of the people. Adding further significance to the event was the fact that P-Noy was the first ever President to set foot at the PIA. His having done so is our reassurance that he intends to bridge the information gap.
“For the first time in the history of the Philippines, the role of information and communication in nation building was recognized in the supreme law of the land,” P-Noy said in his speech. He added: “Information will be used for nation building under the auspices of democracy where the government informs the people of its policies, programs and projects and for the people to be given a voice in governance through constant consultation and effective feedback mechanisms.”
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