Where I stand
Let me, in this first column, state where I stand so you’ll know where telling it like it is comes from.
I believe a society and its people must be moral and honest. So the fault of Renato Corona wasn’t his misdeclaration of his assets, it was his acceptance of a “midnight appointment” despite the clear intent (not the legal maneuvering of a suspect Supreme Court) of the Constitution. More importantly, despite the moral wrongness of it, a true gentleman does not accept an appointment by an outgoing leader. It was this that made him unfit to be Chief Justice. As to the high court, you respect people, not institutions. It is people that make up that institution. The Supreme Court has lost respect.
As to his wealth being hidden from attention, this was another reason for dismissal. But here one must also ask: Where did it come from? It was incredible to me that looking into the possibility of ill-gotten wealth was denied because “it wasn’t in the articles of impeachment.” It wasn’t because the possibility was only discovered during the trial. Once the suspicion arises, of course you look into it. And investigating where Corona’s $2.4 million and P80 million came from isn’t vindictiveness, it’s justice. Let him alone out of compassion and others will steal at will. Begging mercy because of his senior position has it all wrong. It’s the other way around: The higher you are, the harder you must fall.
The investigation of GMA is a must if this society is to clean itself up. And cleanup is a must if it’s to rise from the bottom in Asia to the top where it belongs, and would be if it had the right leaders. The right leader is critical to where a country goes. Look at Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew versus North Korea under Kim Il Sung. President Aquino is rightly driven by his single-minded focus on corruption. The Philippines will get nowhere till that’s cleaned up. If the economy must suffer through lack of attention, it’s a price worth paying. Examples must be set at the top to send the message all the way down that honest performance in society is an essential.
Related to this is telling the truth. P-Noy did not come back with $2.5 billion of investments. The bulk of it was projects already committed regardless of a presidential visit. Tell the truth and people will believe you more. That’s also why I believe in being critical. You improve when you know what’s wrong, so you can fix it. My kids, when they were young, gave me a sign for my workshop (my hobby): MR. FIX-IT. And that’s what I enjoy—fixing things that are broken. That includes society.
Next is equality. All must be able to lead a decent human life with an equal opportunity to do well, not scrabble in the dirt for a few short, malnourished years. The country’s overly rapid population growth (at 1.9 percent annually and the fourth fastest in Asean) can’t be supported by the existent economic structure. The Church is a major cause of this poverty. Its rejection of contraception is inhuman, and its blocking of a family planning bill unconscionable. A bishop wants further interpellation of the bill in Congress. It’s been in Congress for 13 years. If you don’t know the details of one subject by now, you never will. A whole school curriculum is only 12 years. It’s time to vote.
Also to be treated equally are the Muslims. They must fit into society like everyone else, no special enclaves, no special laws, no special treatment. If you give it to them, then why not for other special interest groups, too?
For a society to live in harmony you should be considerate of others. Jeepneys stopping anywhere, a tricycle crawling down the center lane of a highway with a queue of cars behind it, is being inconsiderate of others.
Stepping aside to allow a lady to enter an elevator first, that’s being considerate, that’s being a gentleman in the old-fashioned way I grew up in. Society can’t afford to lose some of the old-fashioned ways; they had a proven worth. When you do something, think of others.
Greed is unconscionable. I have no time for people whose only goal in life is to make money when it’s at the expense of society. Filinvest will be a disaster city of the future because of greed. The developer built too narrow roads, put in no overpasses or tunnels (there’s no place for intersections in a modern city), no mass transit of any kind, and no parks. Their greed has denied the people of the lungs of a city, of the beauty and restfulness of trees and green space. Weak or corrupted governance has allowed it. And Filinvest is not the only place.
I believe the best way to grow an economy is to leave it alone; the market knows best. Imperfect as it is, it’s far more perfect than a politician thinking he knows what’s best for an economy to flourish. One example—the security of tenure law doesn’t protect a job as intended, it deprives people of jobs. I’ll explain this in a later column.
If the government focuses on creating a desirable environment for business, business will come, jobs will be created, wealth will flow to many. That means building infrastructure, greatly simplifying, reducing and speeding up the transactions and workings of government. The insistence on a level playing field where all get an equal chance will lead to everyone having that chance.
Finally, freedom of expression. Being able to say what’s on your mind without others taking it personally (unless it is intended as a personal insult). Being able to say what you will without fear of persecution. So I TELL IT LIKE IT IS. Or, at least, how I see it.
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