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Pinoys’ only hope at the moment

02:47 AM July 29, 2015

Somebody once said that “the rage of struggle proportionately heightens the ferocity of hope.” This may be what is happening with our people. The editorial titled “Optimistic people” (7/21/15) gave a picture of this quite clearly when it cited that while the larger percentage of Filipinos consider their lives worse than before, as shown in three consecutive surveys, the same percentage still anticipate a bright future.

Why is there so much optimism? Apart from the struggle that fuels optimism, there are examples that inspire: the audacity of P-Noy’s own ‘walang wang-wang’ policy; the empowering ‘tsinelas’ politics of Jesse Robredo; and the quiet success of Tony Meloto’s Gawad Kalinga. Those persecuted during the martial law years will forever be grateful to the legal fight put up by MABINI which was fronted by the likes of Rene Saguisag, Joker Arroyo and Jejomar Binay. We marveled at the courage of Behn Cervantes, Chino Roces and Teofisto Guingona who held their ground in the fight for freedom despite the fire hoses and truncheons. While we see the lack of opportunities as an obstacle that we all are struggling against—e.g., the lack of equal protection, education and justice—there is hope that things will eventually become better because there are a lot of good men.

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A line, however, took me by surprise. It suggested the idea that while hopeful, the people are not really doing anything to improve their situation. Am I reading this wrong, or was it really meant to blame non-inclusive growth on the failure of the population in general, and of the poor especially, to match the economic uplift that has been achieved? With a “manna from heaven” mindset? I am not convinced this is true.

Certainly, if there is such a thing as a manna-from-heaven mindset, the conditional cash transfer would be the culprit.

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What can be done that has not been done?

Without any drastic change in society, the working class will have to go on defending itself only with optimism, having to bear with unscrupulous employers who continue to stick with the illegal 5-5-5 practice. And this is quite visible with words like “endo” (end of contract) creeping into the street vocabulary, about which I am sure you have already heard. Add to this, the slave wages in a market environment with an oversupply of labor.

Meanwhile, the number of Filipino billionaires, by Forbes account, is expanding as the gap between income groups widen.

And while we hope against hope that somehow this picture will change, the path to prosperity is strewn with so many obstacles—like the too many tax impositions on the Filipino working class, like an income tax that goes as high as 33 percent, plus the 12-percent value-added tax, not to mention the capital gains and real property taxes. So how could entrepreneurship blossom in such a capital restrictive environment? And does the impositions apply equally?

A cursory glance at the top taxpayers’ list would show that not all the Forbes’ billionaires are there, despite reports of their having significantly increased their wealth. What does this mean? Forbes got it wrong? An explanation was given: Income differs from assets. I sincerely doubt that.

To top it all, the average Juan can only shrug at the slew of reports on unimaginable corruption: Par for the course—he is made to understand—for one going through government transactions, like handing out “facilitation fees.”

On education, the school curriculum was restructured before ensuring that every town has adequate learning facilities. A commercial dramatizes a father’s resolve and the hardships he wrestles with—showing him putting up a cable bridge and scaling it daily—to bring his brood to school. It is a true story, the ad says, and it is not hard to believe.

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On the slow grind or absence of justice, what can be said that is not already known?

As the struggle becomes harder, the more hope is renewed.

Hope filled the air in 2010 as the electorate succumbed to the romantic notion that a martyred father and a democracy icon of a mother would produce a national messiah who vowed “daang matuwid” in governance. While the GDP improved and the country credit rating went up, more than a quarter of the population was left to live below the crushing poverty line.

Had everything been done right in the last six years, there should not be any hesitation to declare a candidate. But President Aquino seems to be in dire need of a “shield” when he steps down. Hospital arrest may yet become a standard benefit for former presidents.

And so it is that the greater part of the population hopes for change in 2016, but what exactly?

If we’re bent on finding another messiah, we will find the bench a bit shallow. No one has shown the promise to walk on water or resurrect from the dead.

Equality would be first and foremost in our list of issues. “Walang wang-wang” was an exemplary move. It really gave the streets back to the people even with the attached patronizing “Boss ko kayo.” Unfortunately, the practice has quickly been replaced by the “hawi patrol” and “buhos” strategies that some politicos are now using.

Definitely, handing out cakes is not a measure of equality.

With cracks and leaks in our governance, a contentious bill that seeks to dismantle the country in the name of peace; with the Chinese at our gates; and the world economy reeling, led by Greece and with China in tow, hope and optimism is all we’ve got at the moment.

Benigno T. Calantuan, 59, is a grandfather, an accountant, chess aficionado, rock enthusiast who also likes visual art (Warhol, Slaughter, Pollack, Dali).

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Filipino people, Filipinos, jesse robredo, President Aquino, Sona, SONA 2015
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