Saturday, January 12, 2008

Character change not charter change

For the nth time, charter change is back in the limelight. This time, the Mindanao problem is being used as an excuse to push for charter change.

Back in December 2006, the House of Representatives changed its rules to push for charter change and the Church took the lead to oppose it. CBCP called for character change before charter change. The howl of protest against charter change made our honorable representatives to shelve their plan.

At a forum in UP, Gov. Panlilio was asked about federalism. His response was "Our problem is not the form of government, but values and disvalues.” In his speech at the Ateneo de Manila University, he said, "Good citizenship must take root until following the law, paying taxes honestly, respecting the environment and upholding one's dignity shall become second nature to every person." Who is heeding the call?

Archbishop Lagdameo made the news when he called for
moral revolution in his blog. Except for the news agencies being the head of CBCP, nobody really took his call seriously.

Again, we hear the noise of charter change. I myself sincerly believe that nothing will really change even if we change our constitution unless we change collectively first as a people. The problem is, who will initiate the character change?

The politicians, having no credibility, cannot be part of any campaign for character change, much more be its initiator. We cannot expect the trapos to change in their ways. They are too inebriated by wealth and power that they hang on to it by whatever means.

The Church is an ideal leader for character change but unfortunately it has failed miserably. If the people only practiced the teachings of their religion, then we won't be where we are now. But we are. The Church has become merely a crisis manager, but not a change instigator.

So now, we only have ourselves to push for that character change or moral revolution. Unfortunately, even when a large chunk of our population believe that we as a people have our own faults, nobody, no group takes the cause of good citizenship seriously. This is not because they dont believe in it. It is simply because they don't know how.

What we do is what we know how to do, and that is to form groups, movements, alliances, political parties, federations, unions, associations, etc. That is where we are good at. But none of these groups ever made a dent, an impact because not one truly captured the imagination of our people. Not even Gawad Kalinga. Gawad Kalinga captured the imagination of overseas Filipinos but not the locally based Filipinos.

This is a battle for the hearts and minds of our people. If we want them to heed our call for character change, we need first to inspire them, get their attention and capture their imagination. We can start by inspiring patriotism. Then we remind them of their civic duties namely (1) Knowing the rules and following them (2) Falling in line and waiting for their turn (3) Keeping on'es word and coming on time. Then the call for character change will go on a higher level and so on. Character change will not happen overnight. But it will never happen if we don't do something about it. The Church is unable to inspire our people. So we only have us to inspire ourselves.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

WANTED: A few good men (and women)

By Dr. Rusty Balderian

Most of us overseas Filipinos talk a lot about the problems in the Philippines with passion. We praise ourselves as modern day heroes. We think that we are better morally than those in the Philippines because they are corrupt, poor, and less educated. We think we have the best solutions to improve our country. We talk and write with highfalutin words to show others that we have the best verbal and written command of English. That’s all we are good at. But talk is cheap.

If we are really serious in our desire to help our nation, let’s go back to the Philippines and do the job right, the way we want it done. Let us stop complaining. Let us stop talking. Let's roll our sleeves and do it ourselves like the retired navy officer from Vallejo, California, Congressman Teodulo "Doloy" Coquilla of Eastern Samar, and businessmen from Los Angeles, California, Congressman Rosendo Labadlabad of the 2nd District of Zamboanga del Norte, Ronald Golez, Mayor of Dumangas, Ilo-Ilo, and myself Mayor of TabonTabon, Leyte, to name a few. Each one of us have been "successful" in our own way while living in the land of milk and honey. We decided to go back to the Philippines because like most of us, we believed that our nation needs help. We were newbies in the Philippine politics of the last May 2007 election. But we won. We surrendered our American Citizenship and Green Cards and left our comfortable homes and gas guzzling cars because we believe that we can make a difference in our respective communities. We plan to implement the best practices that we have seen and learned in our adopted countries.

Before going back to the Philippines, we had our visions how we can help improve our nation. However, we are having a hard time because we are very few, a little voice that can not be heard in the hollowed halls of Congress. We need more people to run for elective offices so we can make an effective change. Alone, we will just be eaten by the corrupt system. We will be infected by the same deadly virus that we call graft and corruption. We are ineffective to make the change because we don't have the number. Politics is a numbers game. Good intentions doesn't mean a thing if we don't have the right number in the Municipal Council, Provincial Development Council or in Congress and Senate. We need more Congressmen who can not be bought by the President for Five Hundred Thousand Pesos to prevent her impeachment. We need more few good men and women. Let us stop criticizing the leaders running the country. Let us be the leaders running our nation,. Let us replace the "trapos", actors, and musicians in Congress and the Senate for an effective governance of our nation. Stop dreaming for a better Philippines. Let us work for it.

"Kung hindi dito, saan? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan?, Kung hindi ako, sino? Ang gagawawa nito para sa Filipino."

Let this be a challenge to all the leaders of the global Filipinos to go back to the Philippines and run an elective position in 2010 so we can solve the problems that beseech our nation. Let us stop talking about the problems. We need a concerted effort to get rid of the problems. We need to form a party whose candidates will all be coming from the overseas Filipinos. Idealistic, vibrant, educated, technologically savvy, full of good ideas, noble, morally upright and most of all, free from the deadly virus of graft and corruption. I'm sure we can find among the eight million Filipinos in diaspora, one thousand five hundred good men and women to run as Mayors in their respective towns, two hundred forty good men and women to run for Congress in their respective districts, Twelve good men and women to run for Senate, and one good man/woman that we can rally behind to run for President.

It cannot be done on an individual effort as what some of us have done. Dr. Martin Bautista a successful medical practitioner from the East Coast had the same dream to help improve our country. He returned to the Philippines and ran for the Senate in the last election under the Kapatiran Party, a very noble organization, but lost. Individually, we are weak even if we have the best resume, good intentions and sizable personal resources to back us up when we run against the well entrenched traditional politicians.

A united overseas Filipinos is a very strong force to reckon with. Imagine the 8 million Filipinos in Diaspora who send 12 Billion dollars annually to the Philippines can dictate their dependents in the Philippines who to vote for in this coming 2010 election. At an average of 5 voters under his sphere of influence, that is a whopping 40 million votes. Candidates of the United OFW will no longer have to buy votes to be elected.

If the 8 million OFW donates Fifty Dollars to the United OFW Party, that is Four Hundred million dollars as party funds. This can be used as a counterpart to the amount of campaign funds that a candidate can raise through donation only. Elected government officials will no longer have to take the ten percent "SOP" in all infrastructure projects since they have no massive campaign expenses to recoup. Graft and corruption will be history. There will be no political debts to pay except to the Filipino people.