Can the Philippines rise again like Lazarus?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Today's Gospel, from the writings of St. John, tells us how the Lord caused his friend, Lazarus to rise from the dead. The question that political pundits are asking today is: Can this administration cause the revival of the Philippine economy back to its health, given the confluence of macro pressures emanating from the global problems brought about by escalating tensions in geopolitics, as well as worsening climate change on the one hand, and the multiple micro pressures coming from internal vulnerabilities in the country's socio-economic and political realities on the other hand?

By ironic coincidence in Philippine history, this country was "discovered" by Ferdinand Magellan on March 16, 1521, and Father Pedro Valderrama, Chaplain of Magellan's voyage, named the group of islands on that day the "Archipelago of St. Lazarus" because it was then a Saturday, the eve of the Passion Sunday. The Roman Catholic Liturgy indicated that it was the solemnity of the Feast of St. Lazarus when the Magellan expedition sighted the islands after cruising across the Pacific Ocean. Today, the Philippines is not dead as yet, but is currently being besieged by multiple socio economic cancers, referred to by Dr. Jose Rizal in his novels. Can any of our politicians today revive our country from the brink of virtual death? I seriously doubt it.

The Philippine economy is in really bad shape. With a huge national debt of ?13.7 trillion both from external and internal borrowings, with very low direct foreign investments among the ASEAN countries, and with the government's international reserves going down alarmingly, with debt to GDP ratio deteriorating fast, exacerbated by an impending famine and rising incidence of poverty, and further complicated by the nation's recurrent vulnerability to natural disasters --all these confluences of problems are pushing the nation to a virtual demise. The inflation rate is very high, constantly eroding the poorest of the poor's purchasing power, with minimum wages being pegged at levels below the globally-accepted standards of living wages, and with millions of Filipinos barely surviving below the universal poverty lines, we cannot still claim the Philippine economy isn’t dying. Like Lazarus, this nation needs a friend with the power to resurrect the dead.

The agricultural sector is being besieged by treacherous vultures killing the local farmers through unabated importation of prime commodities and smuggling rice, onions, and sugar palpably in conspiracy with some scoundrels in the bureaucracy, and also by manipulating the law of supply and demand, creating an atmosphere of artificial shortages while supplies are left rotting in giant warehouses and thus facilitating the manipulation of skyrocketing prices in the markets. There are endless Senate and House investigations ad nauseam, and some senators and congressmen look good on national TV. Public officials are being berated and scolded by legislators and the people are amused and led into thinking that the problems are solved. And yet, the smuggling, the hoarding, the price manipulation, as well as unstifled importation continue like there are no tomorrows.

Peace and order is deteriorating, governors and mayors are being killed right in their own homes or ambushed along highways. Corruption in high places are being investigated but never abated. There are shenanigans in the airports, smuggling in the seaports, and alleged corruption in the bureaus of Customs and Internal Revenue (as if these are new occurrences) and the maritime industry is being besieged globally by international ship owners and manning institutions questioning the technical competence of our seafarers. The domestic maritime sector is also put in serious clouds of doubts with condemned and unauthorized tankers being allowed to operate leading to a humongous oil spill that devastated the livelihood of marginal fisherfolks, not to mention the massive destruction of our marine resources.

Meanwhile, China sweet talks our DFA diplomats and we believe the Chinese as if they were Christ, taking their words hook, line, and sinker, while Beijing continues to order to their coast guard to terrorize our fisherfolks inside our own exclusive economic zones. And the US goes on worsening the tension in the Asia Pacific rim by its saber-rattling and ostentatious display of military powers. All these are going on as we await helplessly for both the impending food crisis and famine as well as the exacerbation of the next natural disasters and health crisis and pandemic. In the face of all these tragedies, we really need Jesus to come and breathe life again into our suffering country and people.


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