‘Not inclusive growth, only exclusive growth’
(The Philippine Star) - September 15, 2013 - 12:00am

A businessman watching the testimony of whistleblower Benhur Luy angrily commented to me, “This is not inclusive growth, this is exclusive growth for just a few!” Truly, this pork barrel scandal has taken a life of its own, with the depth and reach of the corruption so mind-boggling it makes one recoil especially with revelations that the P900 million Malampaya funds intended for the victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng went to bogus NGOs. We’ve heard about the corruption in the police, the military and other sectors but this could be the worst of the worst.

A report came out recently that we are one of the most “socialized” countries in the world with numerous civil society organizations. But now it seems we nave a lot of fake NGOs, with a few exceptions considered to be legitimate. The Philippines has been posting impressive economic growth with the figures going above 7 percent in the first half of this year, but now we can only agree that growth has not been inclusive.

According to an economic report, 76 percent of the GDP increase last year came from the collective increase in the income of the country’s 50 richest families and individuals. Forbes also said that the combined wealth of these families pegged at $65.8 billion is equivalent to over 25 percent of the country’s total GDP of $250.2 billion in 2012. Do we wonder then why there is so much anger most especially from the working class who have no choice but to pay their taxes?

A young man who works as a “pulot boy” picking up tennis balls in an exclusive club told us, “Sa kunti naming kinikita kinakaltasan pa kami, tapos naririnig namin na sa ganyan lang pala napupunta (We get taxed for the little we earn then we hear our taxes are just wasted on these scams)!”

Clearly, whether it is one peso or one million pesos — every single centavo of tax withheld from your salary is hard-earned money. This gives everyone the right to know where their money is going, how it’s being spent and on what. Whenever the floods come, many people are seen commuting for hours or walking several miles in dirty floodwater just to go to work and get back home again. Very often a daily commuter would ask, where is all the tax money that’s supposed to help mitigate all these problems being spent?

One can only console himself that there is still “a silver lining behind the current rainclouds” because now more than ever people are demanding for transparency in government, demanding that public officials be accountable for their actions with information more accessible. Just because somebody has a “name brand” and gets elected or appointed in government does not give him the right to do what he wants. There’s no such thing as entitlement. Officials are given an opportunity to serve — meaning it’s not a right but a privilege. If they abuse that privilege, they should suffer the consequences. The irony is that some truly believe it is a divine right.

Senator Grace Poe noted that it’s not easy being a whistleblower because you not only put your life at risk but that of your loved ones as well, like what happened to Marlene Esperat who was shot dead in her home right in front of her children. Once whistleblowers spill the beans, they will most likely never have normal lives again. Many are forced to sacrifice their jobs or businesses, and their families also end up suffering the consequences. Worse, they are sometimes left on their own.

As Poe aptly put it, hopefully the Senate hearings in aid of legislation can help improve the witness protection program. And perhaps this time the Senate will pass the proposed Whistleblower Protection, Security and Benefit Act that Sonny Angara re-filed a few days ago to encourage people to speak out and expose shenanigans in government. 

Information technology has definitely been a great tool in exposing a lot of irregularities and anomalies in government, with a growing number of people becoming Net savvy, able to spontaneously organize protests with the mere use of a smartphone. An old-timer foreign expat commented that he believes the country has moved forward from where we were three decades ago. The Philippines is a young democracy that is just on the verge of adulthood as a nation and hopefully, all these exposed scandals will redound to a better system that will make economic growth truly inclusive for the majority – not exclusive to a privileged few and definitely not scam bags.

The Zamboanga disaster

A lot of friends from Mindanao are convinced that Nur Misuari should never have been brought back to the Philippines when he was already in exile in Saudi Arabia — and now we’re paying for it.  The AFP may deny it but there really was a failure of intelligence because the signs had all been there that Misuari was cooking up something when he declared “independence” a month before MNLF renegades attacked coastal villages in Zamboanga City. A former intelligence officer said we could have prevented the fighting from escalating and civilians would not be dead.

And now Misuari is denying responsibility for the Zambanga siege. This guy is really a character of the highest order — the same one who squandered millions of ARMM funds that should have been used for projects that would have contributed to the progress and development in Mindanao. Misuari has lost credibility as a leader in Mindanao. It’s about time they put him away in jail for good. His recalcitrant behavior can only derail the peace process.

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Email: babeseyeview@yahoo.com

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