POSTSCRIPT / October 8, 2013 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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System and people change requires time

SOMETHING’S AMISS: Walk the city streets. Drive on EDSA or in the looban. Buy foodstuff in a public market. See where your meager wage goes. Monitor the news, mostly about corruption and violence, while awaiting your kids’ coming home late.… Something’s terribly wrong.

Mr. President, Sir, what’s happening to our country?

The nation seems to be breaking into pieces, and we are going nowhere. We feel having been left to fend for ourselves. Kanya-kanya na ba? It seems we cannot even trust many of our officials, our leaders.

It is obvious that the country is not being managed well enough. And, we must admit, all of us are to blame.

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CHANGE NEEDED: Before the situation spins out of control, somebody – logically the President, the father of the nation – should do something fast and drastic. But what to do?

No need for another costly research. We can immediately pick nuggets just by paying close attention to the public debate in media and in the academe. The total solution is not there in the discussion, but most of the essentials stand out.

From my vantage, I see a gathering consensus for both System Change and People Change. The ill-fitting political system lifted from the American model is not conducive to good governance in a Filipino setting. And then, we the people need re-education.

But while effecting System Change and People Change is long-term, our problem calls for immediate attention. The patient on the operating table cannot wait.

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CHARTER CHANGE: Unfortunately, pursuing System Change and People Change appears to be beyond the competence of an administration that is still improvising with only less than three years left of its term.

In fact, its critics say that the Aquino administration itself is part of the problem — that it carries and spreads the very germs of the corruptive disease it is trying to cure.

The move to amend the Constitution is trapped in the stalemate between the status quo groups, who benefit from the system, and the reformist, some of them radical, sectors.

Unless forced by events, the Aquino administration will not muster the political will to amend the 1987 Cory Constitution despite the clear need for system change.

The small window for Charter Change will start closing with the onset of the 2016 presidential elections. If the administration does not move now, amendment of the Constitution under this regime is out.

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RE-EDUCATION: People Change itself is not as time-dependent, but a well-orchestrated re-education program must begin right now if we are to reap its fruits within the lifetime of our children.

Although we refer to it as re-education, it is not an exclusive task of the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.

Its base is a wide-ranging moral rebirth wherein the Church, civic groups, the media and, most importantly, the Filipino family will have to work in concert with the government.

The multi-disciplinary content of the program as well as its priorities, planning and execution, will have to be a national preoccupation.

Its time frame is generational and open-ended, meaning it will span several administrations and, therefore, must be non-partisan, holistic adequately financed.

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ACT NOW!: Since the salutary effects of System Change and People Change are too far off in time to be felt during the Aquino administration, drastic immediate steps should be taken to arrest the deterioration of the current national situation.

The administration may take such measures as these ones at least to give a hint of a major policy redirection toward real change:

• Dismiss, suspend or retire high-profile administration officials who fail the perception test for public officers, especially those perceived to be members of the untouchable KKK crowd. Nobody in government is indispensable.

(As we were writing this, we got word that Asst. Secretary Virginia Torres, chief of the Land Transportation Office, has announced her resignation to take effect before the end of the month. “Para magkaroon ng katahimikan sa LTO, sa mga issues, I chose to retire,” Torres said. Her tenure has been marked by negative reports of alleged misdeeds in office.)

• Stop partisan and selective prosecution. Do not first demolish in media persons, especially perceived enemies of the administration, before formal charges (not mere information before the state prosecutors, the justice department or the Ombudsman) are filed with the Sandiganbayan. Just file the complaint and let the matter take its natural course.

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REJECT ALL PORK: We have said before and we reiterate it: The President must renounce all his pork if he wants to quell the unrest over the scandalous abuse of public funds in and out of the budget. He can:

• Delete the Priority Development Assistance Fund and realign it to specific projects or operations to be managed directly by the proper implementing agencies without involving lawmakers who can then concentrate on their main job of legislation.

• Freeze the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which Malacañang invented in 2011 as a barrel to hold forced savings of various agencies, then realign the funds (as with the PDAF) for specific projects or operations without the involvement of lawmakers.

• Treat similarly as PDAF and DAP all lump sums in the Executive offices, except intelligence funds, that are disbursed at the sole discretion of the President. Their use should not be coursed through or involve legislators or their nominated non-government organizations or contractors.

• Turn over to the national treasury the President’s social fund from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the special fund from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and include them with other government revenue in the regular budgeting process.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 8, 2013)

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