Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What's up, Filipinos?

"God help the Filipino people." [--Mike, a New York-based American friend married to a Filipina]

GOD has been helping the Filipino people—especially in the last few decades following the demise of the dictatorship (in late 80s). The Philippines is not a poor Third World nation anymore. Life has improved a lot. The government has even donated money to the IMF few years ago. Weird I know, for a “poor” nation to be handing out money to an organization that is controlled by essentially First World countries. Anyhow, that accentuates the fact that my country of birth isn't impoverished anymore. A Newly Industrialized Country INC), the Philippine economy has been successfully transitioning from one based upon agriculture to an economy with more emphasis upon services and manufacturing.

         There are so many benefits and blessings to enjoy. What we read online and on Facebook are usually the “negative” aspects of a country, mostly spoken by their own people. Irony, isn't it? Sadly we love to project ills and wrongdongs than good ones. It's like a journalism blurb years ago. “Bad news is good news.” Yet being a journalist myself, I maintain that the “bad news” that we pursued and wrote were triple-checked as facts. At least, it wasn't easy to earn a bylined news story at that time. But in these days of one-click media, news has taken a totally different definition. It could be a joke. I could be true. Who knows?
         Meantime, let me clear about this. I didn't vote for Rodrigo Duterte. Personally I don't “like” him. He is actually a relative of the side of my dad's mom (kin by way of marriage). We had many politician relatives back home—but that doesn't entirely impose on our choices for a leader. My immediate family voted for 3 or 4 different candidates, yet no one voted for Duterte. That's what I know. Maybe I am wrong. I don't like him but not probably due to reasons that most of his detractors are saying. Or I just don't know him that much. I don't follow Philippine politics as deep and involved as when I was very active as a journalist/editor back home and in the US. Last time that I pored over a presidential election in the Philippines was in 2007-09 when I took over as Southern California bureau chief of a nationally-distributed Filipino-American newspaper in Los Angeles. Hence, this ie the time to know this new colorful president, of course—because he is now in power.
         I feel though that he isn't as bad as what his critics are saying. This guy served 7 terms, totalling more than 22 years, as a Mayor of a city that is constantly threatened by internal strife between government troops, Muslim secessionists and Communist guerrillas. The identification with Adolf Hitler or even with Donald Trump is simply way off left field. More than 40 million Filipinos voted him, he won by a landslide. If this guy is that bad, why was he voted as a head of a nation? Filipinos struggled through unbelievable misery in the past. Would they just consign their life again to an “advocate of mass murder,” as one daily describes him? I'd rather give him a chance to prove his worth than diss him before the Fact.
          Bottomline, people—here in the US and in my home country--are upset due to polar extremes between the rich and poor. Economies seem good in the Philippines but still, the poor remain poor and the rich are richer. Some lives have improved but still Filipinos want a President that is unblemished and less controlled by the corporate world and foreign interests. Change is a long process that requires astronomical patience. Economic growth or rise in GDP so called doesn't necessarily mean the average people are doing fine—unless we are operating in the sociopolitical context of a socialist society (but that'd be another discussion). I have basis of comparison between poverty when I was young or when my kids were little vis a vis the current times and lives—so I will say, “Take it easy” and see how things unfold. I don't think Duterte is that stupid to be commanding a Gestapo or SS to mow down people for merely voicing their disagreement with him. C'mon now. Let us not frighten ourselves.

         Life back home is no different with poor Americans these days—they are tired of promises. In fact, I can say it's worse here in the US than back home. There are so many millionaires in the US yet college grads struggle to find a job to pay their $40k student loans. Young people with degrees get by waiting tables for tips! The poor couldn't pay rent or pay mortgage on time. People are fed up. When people are fed up and couldn't really speak what's in their heart, they long for a person who will deliver their voice out there. That's where Duterte and Trump emerged from. It was a campaign kick based on popular sentiment.
         After Marcos, Filipinos are known to kick Presidents and leaders' ass out of power and put them to jail. Meanwhile, those 40 million citizens who voted the dude and those who did not vote for him have to be one to kick the new Chief Executive out if he misbehaves. Hitler is a Fact, Duterte and Trump are probabilities which are yet to happen (as leaders of state/s). So I don't see the sense in comparing them. We just have to give new leaders a chance. And then move on with life. It's only election. It's not war. And God doesn't need to get involved. It's all a human issue. I say that on a light tone.    

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