Sunday, June 12, 2011

Burying Marcos

I was a Martial Law child. In 1986, the Filipinos ousted a dictator through People Power.

The world was focused on history in the making. Through a peaceful protest, I distinctly remember the events that led to the dramatic expulsion and eventual exile of a dictator. When the Filipinos had broken into Malacanan Palace, Marcos and his family were gone. With the help of the Americans, his family went into exile in Hawaii. And the rest is history.

Twenty five years and five presidents later, the Philippines has still to get back on track compared to the other Asian countries in terms of economic growth. Ironically, however, every time we seem to falter, we keep pointing back to the same problem - Marcos. While I relatively agree that Ferdinand Edralin Marcos may have been the primary reason why the economy of this country collapsed, I disagree that he is solely to blame. Unfortunately, this is the pathetic reason provided by some lackeys who do not know how to run the country (and are obsessed only with joining government to steal from its coffers).

In one of the lunch conversations on the topic of where, when and how we should bury Marcos, I expressed my ten cents worth of opinion - we just need to bury him with dignity. We need to close the chapter on this history of ours and as Filipinos, stop living in the past, recalling on the crimes and atrocities his 21 years of rule had impacted on individual Filipinos. The problem with some Filipinos and the politicians (not to mention some feeble minded media men) is that they keep resurrecting the ghost of Marcos past as a "scare tactic" or feeble excuse on why current government programs fail.

Indonesia, like the Philippines, was ruled by a dictator under an authoritarian regime. President Suharto was it's second president holding office for 32 years up to his resignation in 1998 due to pressure from the people and the army. His children, friends and relatives were able to set up business conglomerates under a nepotistic rule.

The Vietnam War, a cold war era military conflict occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975. This costly 20 year war had torn down the very fiber of economy and livelihood in these countries. The devastation in a cold war era was practically insurmountable. It's Asian neighbors and the world had opined that it would take these countries 40-60 years to even begin rebuilding itself.

During World War II, the Japanese and British had fought fiercely for a small island country called Singapore. The history of Singapore is a rich and proud one. On Sentosa Island, you can literally take a tour to find out how proud Singaporeans are of their heritage and roots. It was not until 1963 that Singapore had gained independence from Britain and in 1965, it became a republic. Lee Kwan Yew was its first prime minister in 1959 up to 1990.

Today, many of these countries have left the Philippines almost at the end of the tail in terms of GDP (gross domestic product) and PPP (purchasing power parity) per capita. According to the IMF 2010 data, Singapore ranks 3rd, Indonesia 122, the Philippines 125, and Vietnam 130 in terms of GDP. GDP growth was at 26.3% (rank 34) for Vietnam, 18.45% (rank 81) for Indonesia, and 17.02% (rank 92) for the Philippines. PPP is more useful when comparing generalized differences in living standards as a whole because it takes into account the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of the country (rather than exchange rates which can distort the figures). GDP (PPP) IMF 2010 data showed Indonesia at number 15 (Million$1,029,884), Philippines at number 33 (Million$350,279), and Vietnam at number 40 (Million$275,639). In terms of data of countries by income equality the ratio of the richest 10% to the poorest 10% and richest 20% to the poorest 20% in terms of inequality metrics for income data for the United Nations shows: Indonesia (7.8, 5.2), Philippines (15.5, 9.3), Singapore (17.7, 9.7), and Vietnam (6.9, 4.9). Clearly a disparity among the rich versus the poor, which means that the increasing economic growth reported are only benefiting a few. Finally, based on IMF data of 2010 on real growth rate taking into consideration inflation Singapore ranks 3rd at 14.47%, Philippines ranks 26th at 7.6%, Vietnam is close to us at 39th at 6.784% and Indonesia ranking at 49 at 6.109%.

Clearly, over the past 2-3 decades the driving force of the economy in the Philippines are the BPOs and the OFWs. With the ongoing war in the Middle East, the decline in demand for nursing graduates in the US and Europe - the Philippines stands to lose some ground when it comes to sending funds back home.

Which brings the story back home. 25 years after we have overthrown a despot from political office, the various presidents that have replaced him have seem to be either in disarray or not in luck at transforming the country into one of the more competitive Asian nations, again. Cory was mired in coup after coup with a disgruntled military that was the spill over of the corruption of the Marcos regime. When FVR took over as president in 1992, the former military general seemed to have punched the right buttons when the Asian Crisis had hit home. While the Philippines may not have been gravely affected by this, it was not because of overexposure, but rather underexposure. There was nothing to eat us up during the crisis because the country was basically poor from the get go. In 1998, we elected another president. But votes by popularity in a country where 70% of its population live below the poverty line ended with us having an ex-movie star in Erap as president. After only 3 years in office, People Power II had taken over and installed GMA in 2001 as its president. In the post-Marcos era, only Gloria had occupied the longest position as president. She would go on to steal the next election in 2004 when her inherited term lapsed and go on to becoming president again for 6 years, a total of 9 years under her rule. But alas, the Filipinos tired of People Power revolts. And GMA knew that. Instead of marching back to the streets, the best way to get out of the corrupt system was to migrate. Last year, a reluctant candidate in the form of PNoy ran for president. On the platform of "Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap" [without corruption, there will be no poverty] battle cry, the son of Ninoy became our 15th President of the republic. But the reluctant president seemed to show his true colors after one year in office. With basically a political background a tad better than his mother Cory, he depends on friends and acquaintances for advice on what next to do.

25 years after Marcos, the Filipinos had the chance to rebuild its lost glory. Back home, the jeepneys, buses and tricycles still load and unload passengers anywhere it wants on the streets. Back home, the traffic enforcer on the busy streets is busy catching number coded cars rather than paying attention to the traffic on the road. Back home, the men are still using every wall and post along the streets as their public urinal, pissing on the walls as their bladders beckon. Back home, the poor quality of infrastructure still shows after every rainshower when the roads are full of potholes and the government still collects road taxes from every vehicle owner. Back home, the greedy people in the political arena are still jockeying for even the most menial position in politics only to propagate their wealth. Back home, it's quite obvious that even in jail, the rich are able to live a better life than the poor. Back home, as if amnesia or Alzheimer has struck the Filipinos, they still elected Bongbong as senator, his mother Imelda as congressman, his sister Imee as governor.

Bury Marcos.

We are where we are today not only because of Marcos. We have no political will. As a people, we have no love of country. Until we change our paradigm and outlook on self sacrifice, we can never be a great nation ever.

We need to bury Marcos and all the lessons of corruption from this despot. It's time we move on. Many of us may not see the tangible changes in our lifetime, but for the sake of our next generation, our children and our children's children, we need to bury Marcos and whatever he stood for. Only then can we move on as a nation, truly dedicated to serving the Filipino people.

No comments: