Monday, August 13, 2012

The Slow Grind of Political Will in the Philippines (...okay, Manila in this instance)

I consider myself an impatient man. Sure, I can sit and roost on certain issues for a given amount of time, but at the back of my mind, I know I've set my thresholds and exhaustion points. This is probably true for most of us, whether the time frame is in seconds or in decades, whether you're young or old, whether you're a man or an animal.

 *Image from http://www.funnypicture.in/funnypicture/3912_patience.jpg

*Image from http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb15/doughboy8791/funny/patience.jpg

 *Image from http://www.dailyhaha.com/_pics/patience_dog.jpg

I consider myself a faithful taxpayer (not that I have any choice, with the law being specific that employed citizens must have their taxes automatically withheld by the employer), but living in a country wherein the prevailing regime is that of (ghastly amounts of) government subsidies and social service programs catering to the lower and marginal levels of society, I somehow feel sad, disappointed, and frustrated that the money I pay to the government just gets routed to the poorer sectors in the most politically-motivated kinds of ways. It's a rinse and repeat thing and it's an endless cycle! Populist politics, really. Government spending and attention should be focused on economically beneficial endeavors and infrastructure initiatives, too. I don't know if this is an off-shoot of the Philippines being a Catholic country, with the Church blaring out its sermons to any politician who would listen. While the separation of Church and State is claimed to prevail, it is basically impossible to insulate the government because it is, after all, composed of men with varying degrees of religious fealty. Oh, by the way, have I mentioned that minimum wage earners and the poor don't have to pay their taxes at all?

*Image from http://beta.taopo.org/sites/default/files/politicians_more_tarps_philippines_anti_epal.jpg


 *Image from http://www.taopo.org/sites/default/files/epal-balanga.1.bw_.jpg

In my quest for images btw, I stumbled upon this interesting webpage: http://www.taopo.org/isyu/02/27/2012/dynasty-epal

*Image from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6rUvVkFfeKc/UBRnjVuA_PI/AAAAAAAABWs/JrD2cizTRT4/s1600/church+and+state.jpg

So who are left and are burdened to shoulder the mechanism that feeds everyone else below the working taxpayers? It's the middle class of course! If you Google the keywords "middle class" and "democracy" (you get about 31 million hits btw), you will find out for yourself how important it is to have someone in between the elitists (who own most of the resources) and the masses (who demand a "fairer share" of what is available). The upper class of society clearly have a lot of wealth to play around with, they might have earned it, might have stolen it or might have inherited it. A discussion on their responsibilities had been expounded on in my previous blog post:

Taxes. Taxes?! Taxes! The Buffett Rule and the Intangibility of Unfairness


As for democracy and the middle class,
Here are excerpts from a journal piece written by Ronald M. Glassman that I stumbled upon on the net:

One of the basic theories of politics, put forth by Aristotle centuries ago, is the theory of the middle class and its causal link with democracy. According to Aristotle, a large, prosperous middle class may mediate between rich and poor, creating the structural foundation upon which democratic political processes may operate.
 

Beyond Aristotelian theory, the specifically commercial nature of the middle class is also made central, as the democratic institutions of law, power limitation, and electoral participation were carried by a commercial middle class.

Source: http://www.brill.com/middle-class-and-democracy-socio-historical-perspective

In a capitalist economic framework, there is no finish line or end game in my opinion, because the system was designed like a hamster wheel. The economy is fueled and churned by ambition so that all who are blessed enough to be born with talents/gifts, the hard working, the lucky, and the well-connected get a relatively greater portion of what's available. Left-wing economic proponents rant about how there's plenty of wealth and resources to share to everyone and that's true, but the wheel won't spin if you didn't have that carrot for the donkey to chase. On the other end of the spectrum, right-wing bastions should understand that all people deserve their dignity, living below the poverty line is unjust, everyone should at the very least get an economic share above the poverty line. There really is wisdom in the Buddhist philosophies of moderation and the middle way. Ambition and the desire for a better life (better standards of living) are what keep innovation and ingenuity going. We have immensely benefited from technology and institutional mechanisms in the economy that have made life easier for members of society.

*Image from http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/jha/lowres/jhan1332l.jpg

It also angers me to think how politicians (so called "leaders") are held by the balls by voters who want it their way, when in fact on a wider scale (big picture initiative), it would be more beneficial for everyone else if a less-popular decision was enforced. So why should I expect a better Philippines when the request (not even demanding!) for changes for the betterment of society gets ignored? We can talk about first world countries and their higher standards of living, but what exactly is it? Is it definite? Of course it's not, it's a moving target, but I can't help but shudder to think that the Philippines is fated to stay as a third world country without our leaders even trying to set a trend, or at the very least...a direction.

*Image from http://www.zug.com/daily/journal/graphics/062309_hospital_wuss.jpg

*Image from http://loldailyfun.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Third-World-Country-Meme.jpg
Anyway...this whole ranting schtick was mainly caused by how crappy the traffic situation is on a certain road that I pass through. You might probably say, "Oh, don't worry, dude, you must've just been catching the traffic situation at bad hours." Well, my answer is NO. It's been more than a DECADE now! In fact, it has always been like that, even when I was still a student and now that I'm working I think it's quite fair to air out my grievances.

I have always believed in civic duty and social vigilance and I can sincerely say that I do my part in helping those capable and enabled (i.e., politicos and government bureaus) to pay attention to what can be fixed through their intervention. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it benefits me as well...as a TAXPAYER! Sometimes, when I think about it, I actually find it disgusting to email or communicate to government units certain concerns I have that require their political will. It's basically not my job to inspect things, I pay my taxes so I can pay them to do their jobs, but it turns out like I'm begging them to do something; as if it's a favor being asked from them (well, buncha ingrates really, if you put it that way!).

 *Image from http://i.chzbgr.com/completestore/2010/10/11/ee153417-2a6d-45a5-95a2-6f3f4ee99385.jpg

I've posted my "before" video and the "after" video of what I see on a daily basis. It's such a small issue really. We're just talking about a friggin street here, but how can Philippine citizens expect grander changes to the socio-economic paradigm, if the government can't even fix the situation existing on one measly strip of concrete?!

So, I'm not lambasting any particular politician here, I'm just showing to you the facts, whether my letter (email) got lost in the system, was ignored, or was passed-over, I won't be able to tell:

Before: June 29, 2012 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUQYBIbMzIU&feature=player_embedded

(June 25, 2012 letter)

Dear Sir/Madame,

A great day to you! I wish to commend and thank Mayor Lim and his administration for bringing about improvements and measures aimed at developing and assisting the City of Manila and its citizens achieve true progress. As a concerned citizen and taxpayer, I wish to point-out the dire and frustratingly terrible traffic situation in the intersection of Taft-Vito Cruz (near DLSU). While I have nothing but praise for the traffic enforcers and police officers there, I believe it is beyond their powers and capabilities to enforce true political will on the situation. The factors that contribute to the traffic flow as many motorists like me have observed are as follows:

1) The jeepney drivers use the Vito Cruz-Leon Guinto intersection as their personal terminal. Usually loading, unloading, and waiting for passengers there for 10 minutes or more instead of moving along.
2) The numerous sidewalk vendors, who are enticed by the foot traffic of students and workers they can sell to, clog the sidewalks.
3) The pedicab drivers, who although are legitimate workers, go against the flow of traffic (counter-flow) and squeeze through the pedestrians and motor vehicles. They should at least be asked to follow some proper guidelines, like moving at the same direction of traffic (since Vito Cruz past Taft is one way going towards Zobel Roxas).
4) Pedestrians have no sidewalk to walk on and students are always at peril of being hit by cars and pedicabs.
5) Vito Cruz is jammed with parked cars, who are most likely waiting for students from St. Scholastica's College or the College of Saint Benilde.

While, these are seemingly overwhelming odds, I have no doubt that your political will and good will towards the people in this area shall be followed through with fair resolutions aimed at promoting satisfaction for all parties concerned. I look forward to your solutions that I have no doubt will help in transforming this area where so many young students are witnesses to the needs of our society. Thank you very much and God bless!

After: August 13, 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CsBhdK-YQfk

All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2012. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

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