Entitled politicians

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

I just returned from Tokyo for meetings with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japan Trade Organization (JETRO), the government-related organization that promotes trade and investments between Japan and the world. Apart from discussions on foreign policy with MOFA (more on this in future columns), my mission was to apprise JETRO on the economic reforms realized by the Philippine government and to drum up investor interest in high-value manufacturing and tech services.

I was not successful at JETRO – neither was I successful in my interfaces with the business sector. While the reforms and state of economy were well-received, all the audience could talk about was the worsening rift between Presidents Duterte and Marcos and the former’s apparent intention to destabilize the government. Political instability is in the air again and investors are staying away until predictability is restored.

I must admit, I felt deflated. The Philippines can’t seem to catch a break, no matter how hard we try.

It became very clear to me that the reason why the Philippines is the region’s perennial underachiever is because of the traditional politicians among us. They are our ball-and-chain. They are a national liability.

Look, no one can deny that the Filipino is a talented race. In the private sector you will find companies, managed by Filipinos, that are globally competitive. Ayala Corporation, Jollibee and the Gokongwei Group are among them. With professional management, they are able to compete with the world’s best, even without government support.

Now look government institutions. They fail to deliver even the basics – be it in education, health care or food production (agriculture).

The politicians involved in the Davao rally last Jan. 28 exemplify how entitled politicians can ruin the country. What did they do? They defamed President Marcos’ reputation by accusing him of being a cocaine addict. They accused him of being lazy and unemphatic. They called for his resignation. They backhandedly incited a military uprising for a power grab. They threatened the cession of Mindanao. They alluded to a presidential assassination.

And what has this resulted in? For the business sector, it means the Philippines is politically unstable and not worth investing in. It leads to another wave of missed opportunities to generate badly needed investments, jobs and tax revenues. In external security, it divides our people in a time we face a military crisis with China. It undermines the gravitas of government and erodes the reputation of the country at a time we need to build allies. It distracts government at a time when people are suffering from the lack of safety nets.

The damage caused is serious and will transcend many facets of Filipino life for many years. It was a selfish move from an entitled dynasty that reeks of desperation.

And for what ends? The rally was not motivated by a genuine call for political or economic reform – it was a temper tantrum for the conditions they begrudge. They begrudge no longer being in power. They begrudge BBM and Speaker Romualdez for refusing to act as their puppet. They begrudge that VP Sara was not given the defense portfolio. They begrudge not getting their intelligence funds as if they are entitled to it. They begrudge the move towards Cha-cha and the prospect of a parliamentary government since this will diminish the Vice President’s chances of becoming president. They begrudge being made accountable for the bloodbath that resulted from the failed drug war.

The thinking process behind the Jan. 28 exemplifies everything that is wrong with many Filipino politicians.

They prioritize themselves, their families and their cabal before the nation. They are entitled, feeling their needs are more important than those of the greater population. They are short-sighted, unable to fathom the long-term repercussions of their actions. They amass riches on the dime of the nation and give back the barest minimum in meaningful service. They are myopic and insular, unable to look beyond local politics and see that we are competing in global arena.

So where does this put us now? We are again at the bottom of investor priorities. We are poised to squander our supposed demographic advantage. We have a divided society and a divided armed forces (only among a few retired generals) amid the specter of war. We have become a weaker nation with less favorable prospects. All these because of a tantrum.

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The traffic situation in Metro Manila is getting worse and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I say this because the infrastructure coming online – LRT 1 extension, MRT 7, MM Subway and North-South Commuter line – will not be sufficient to offset the 163,000 new vehicles (not counting motorcycles) that clog Metro Manila’s roads every year.

Traversing Metro Manila’s highways and byways will continue to be untenable and this is will hurt both the economy and our quality of life.

The suffering is real and our political leaders must have the decency to take part in it. We resent, in the strongest terms, entitled politicians who bamboozle their way around traffic with tax-paid highway patrols. It is unfair and again, it represents the worst of Filipino politicians. They cowardly hide behind heavy tinted windows.

Desperate times call for decisive measures and we look to the Marcos administration to provide us relief.

Given that it will take at least a decade for infrastructure to catch up with demand, I suggest that government impose mandatory two-day remote classes and three-day remote workweek for private schools and private back offices, respectively. It can now be done, what with internet speed now at an average of 23.1 Mbps.

We’ve reached the tipping point of discontent on traffic.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @aj_masigan

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