Checks and balances
Almost 15 years ago, a young lawyer named Alexander Ledesma Lacson, UP College of Law Class ’96, came up with a powerful booklet consisting of only 99 pages. It was powerful in the sense that everything it asked of Filipinos desirous of making our country better was so simple and doable as compared to similar manifestos and reform programs that have been proposed, usually in a language that went beyond most of us. They consisted of practical actions that the ordinary citizen could easily incorporate and implement in their daily lives.
Alex called his book “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.” For those who have seen and read the book before, let me refresh your memory. It will be good for the soul. For first-time readers, let it serve as a guide for the future, reminding us of our basic civic duties.
Allow me to compress a few lines on each of the “little things” mentioned.
1. Follow traffic rules. Follow the law — why is that the most important? The answer is simple. Traffic rules are the simplest of our laws. If we learn to follow them, it will be the lowest form of national discipline which we can develop. Since it is totally without monetary cost, it should be easy for us to comply with and therefore, should provide a good start.
2. Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt. If a seller does not issue an official receipt when you buy a product, the seller may or may not remit the tax to the government. Without an official receipt, there is no record of the sale transaction and the tax that you already paid may not be remitted to the BIR.
3. Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino. Alex suggests for us to take a “50-50” buying attitude. This means that we must develop the attitude of using 50 percent of our budget for local products and the other 50 percent for imported choices.
4. When you talk to others, especially foreigners, speak positively about us and our country. This is best addressed to the rich and the middle class in our country who are often in contact with the outside world. They talk to, dine, or deal with foreigners here or abroad. What they say and do create impressions about us among foreigners.
5. Respect your traffic officer, policeman and soldier. There is nothing like the power of respect. It makes a person feel proud and honorable. At the same time, courtesy to others is good manners. It is seeing the value and dignity in the other man.
6. Do not litter. Dispose of your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve. As Louis Armstrong says in his song: “I see trees of green, red roses, too, I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
7. Support your church.
8. During elections, do your solemn duty. More about this below.
9. Pay your employees well. No exercise is better for the
human heart than to reach down and lift someone else up. This truly defines a successful life. For success is the sum, not of our earthly possessions, but how many times we have shown love and kindness to others.
10. Pay your taxes. In 2003, a total of P83 billion was collected from individual income taxes. But 91 percent of this amount came from salaried workers from the government and private sector, people who had no choice since their income taxes were withheld mandatorily. Only P7 billion of the P83 billion came from businessmen and professionals like doctors, lawyers and architects, among others.
11. Adopt a scholar or adopt a poor child. You can make a difference in our country’s future by making a difference in the world of children.
12. Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law, and to love our country. Today’s children will someday rule and lead this world. But whether they will be bad rulers or good leaders will depend largely on how we raise them today. Our future is in the hearts and minds of our children.
Today, go out and vote. You won’t get all that you want but at least, you have done your duty. Comelec records indicate that in precincts in affluent communities, the voter turnout is usually dismal, while in precincts in squatter communities, the voter turnout is astronomically high. If we want to see sustainable progress in our country, we must all get involved.
In a mature democracy, the system of checks and balances is at work to minimize the centralization of too much power in any one branch. In Philippine-style democracy, it is an independent-minded Senate that serves as the check on executive power. There are good individuals in the administration slate. But we need people who can say no when the national interest is involved and at risk.
Alex Lacson continues his advocacies for a better Philippines.
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