I have a dream
The title brings back memories of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I Have A Dream,” delivered during the African-American Civil Rights Movement’s march on Washington in 1963 demanding equal rights for blacks in the United States. What the words connote are the aspirations of King that were shared by his fellow blacks, and supported by the majority of whites as well. One could argue that King and his famous moving speech were instrumental in bringing forth the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that gave blacks and other disadvantaged Americans the rights that they have been deprived of for centuries.
Great changes often start with an idea or a dream that is shared by a large number of people. We Filipinos who truly love this country also share a common dream for our nation and people. We dream of a country where the rule of law is observed and the infrastructure is adequate to not only support but also propel our growing population and economy. We dream of a universal healthcare program where even the poorest of the poor have free access to medical care and are not left to die prematurely, of access to quality education at par with those of our richest neighbors, and of a secure and safe society where we live in peace and harmony rather than in fear and anxiety, with wanton criminality that involves even those who are supposed to protect us.
Clearly, these are the inherent functions of government. That we fail or fall short in these can only mean that our government has failed us. Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to the situation that most of us have accepted it as a given or are constantly adjusting to it. But should we resign ourselves to our situation and accept these dire circumstances that we are in? Certainly not! We owe it not only to ourselves and our suffering fellowmen but also to the next generation of Filipinos. We want the changes that would make us truly proud to be Filipinos, with a state of affairs that backs our pride.
But how do we make our dream a reality? We can, of course, start by pinpointing how we ended up where we are. Is it due to our culture? Is it due to corruption? Or does one feed the other? Would following the daang matuwid (straight path) lead us to the promised land of walang mahirap (no one in poverty)? The P-Noy administration has been hewing to this battle cry and has had limited success, with no less than a chief justice being impeached, an ombudsman resigning, and three senators being detained for the nonbailable charge of plunder. But are these sufficient to deter others from continuing their corrupt ways? Or do we need to do more to send the clear message that corruption does not pay?
I, for one, would venture to say that indeed much more has to be done. Our judiciary and court system need to be cleaned up and become more efficient in upholding accountability, justice, equality and the rule of law. The delays in the resolution of cases—sometimes taking decades—are unacceptable and will never be an effective deterrent for those who stray from the daang matuwid.
While corruption robs our people of dignity and a decent life, there are some who now claim that economic development is not hampered by corruption. And ironically, they cite as proof the economic growth that the Philippines has achieved despite our very high rating in corruption. Perhaps it is true that economic development is still possible even in a corrupt government, but it is also true that our economic development would have been much better if corruption in our midst had been routed. How many foreign direct investors have backed out because of corruption, specifically extortion, in the local governments? Worse, when one such incident was reported to the media, the concerned local government officials claimed that it was the foreign investors who were offering them bribes!
That economic development is hurt by corruption is a fact. While it is true that some foreign investors still come despite the corruption in the country, it is also true that many chose to pull out because of it. This is because many foreign multinational corporations have a policy of not investing in countries that rate high in the corruption index. How many jobs would these investments have created for the thousands of our graduates who enter the job market each year? Wouldn’t our economic growth have fared much better, and perhaps become more inclusive, benefiting as well the poorer sectors of society?
I believe the daang matuwid has contributed to the years of high growth in our gross domestic product. Thus, it is a road worth traveling. With barely one and a half years left for this administration, the challenge now is ensuring that the country will continue to tread this path.
Who among the presidential aspirants is more likely to continue the program pursued by P-Noy? Who can help us deliver on our dream of a truly responsive government that would provide the environment conducive to foreign direct investments as well as local investments to move our country toward prosperity for all?
David L. Balangue ([email protected]) chairs the Coalition Against Corruption.