Thinking of our country while here in Israel
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 21, 2015 - 9:00am

HOLYLAND  — While enjoying this three-week pilgrimage, (two weeks in the Holy Land and one week in Italy, Spain, France and Germany), we are led to contemplate on our country, its past, present and future.   While we are here (temperature: 5 degrees Celcius) we are thinking about the Philippine economy, the politics, and the social issues that confront our people. We are looking back at our colorful and quite turbulent past that molded our culture and the paradigms and perspectives of Filipinos. We are reflecting also on the present socio-economic and political structures that prevail in the whole nation. Above all, we contemplate on the future that holds both many promises for vast opportunities, as well as the risks that lurk around and may pose so many dangers for the younger generation.

On the past, I am thinking of the 377 years (from 1521 to 1898) that our forefathers were colonized, exploited, and oppressed by Spanish friars and civil and military masters. I thought of Dr. Jose Rizal and the Katipunan Supremo, Andres Bonifacio, the Sublime paralytic, Apolinario Mabini, Heneral Antonio Luna, and the many others who made a lot of sacrifices for our country. I also recall the half a century of American colonization, on how the US military and civil authorities molded our national character and thought us freedom, democracy, and human rights taught us the value of education and instituted the democratic systems in our country. I also thought of the four years of Japanese occupation and the countless of atrocities and abuses by the Japanese Imperial Army.

On the present, I have a mixed feeling about our current political, economic, and social situation. Politically, our people are supposed to be free to choose our leaders through the democratic processes of suffrage and elections. However, the truth of the matter is that political powers in this country are being monopolized by the political dynasties and lords who control decision-making process and manipulate elections to favor the political elite. In Cebu, for instance, one has to be an Osmeña, a Garcia, a Durano, a Radaza, a Gullas or an Ouano, a Martinez or a Rama, a Davide to really become a viable candidate. If you have another family name, you need to start from scratch or forever be marginalized.

Economically, ninety-five percent of the nation's wealth is in the hands of less than five percent of the people. The lands, including the President's own family's Hacienda Luisita, despite numerous attempts for genuine agrarian reforms, are still being controlled by the hacienderos and the ilustrados and caciques, not unlike the days of Capitan Tiago and Padre Damaso. The banks, the transport systems, all the factories and other means of production, sales, and distribution of goods and services are monopolized by the economic elite. The capitalists, the businessmen, the traders and the taipans, tycoons, moguls and magnates who own the giant malls and the stores also control the politics because the candidates are dependent on these billionaires for campaign funds.

Even the schools and other educational and cultural institutions are being monopolized either by big-time businessmen, who want to wear the masks of educators, and project an image of being concerned with the future of our youth, or by the religious congregations which promote elitism by putting up exclusive schools only for the rich, for the famous, and for the powerful. Quality education is accessible only by those who can afford their very outrageous tuition fees and miscellaneous expenses. The so-called exclusive schools breed latin-named fraternities and sororities (e.g.Lambda Lambda, Kappa Kappa) whereby the elite protect each other beyond the academe and in the practice of their professions and pursuit of their careers and businesses later in life.

And so, here in Israel, as I reflect on our country and people, I am deeply worried about the future. The children of the poor and the marginalized do not have any chance in life and career, even if they are brilliant and gifted. I am also worried really about the drug problem that shall give rise to a generation of weak, psychological, and emotionally battered youth who will eventually take over as the leaders of our country. I am fearful that the next generation of leaders will be lacking in perseverance, hard work, and commitment. And so, here in Jerusalem, and in Bethlehem, my family and I are praying hard for our country. May the Almighty Father entrust the future of our country to leaders who have wisdom, strength and compassion. Much more than the past and the present, the future is what really matters most.

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