Jojo Binay

Vice-President Binay

The recent events regarding Vice-President Binay, especially the freezing of his bank accounts, those of his family and associates, have brought forward once again the fight against corruption and the institutions involved. Yet the questions remains: how much does the culture of corruption, even more so the culture of me first, country later still permeat the Philippines. This could be in my humble opinion an attitude that is a holdover from colonial times – especially during indirect rule via Mexico, the state was a foreign body, there to extract natural resources out of the Philippines, use them as a trading post for the galleon trade and get forced labor out of the natives. In such a context, being a Juan Tamad was heroic and rebellious, and I guess being a “Manuel Mandurugas” or “Pedrong Magnanakaw” (my own terms) also had some kind of Robin Hood touch to it. But is that still appropriate nowadays?

Franklin drilon

Senate President Drilon

To what extent do Filipinos STILL see the Philippine State as a foreign body, either to be used for one’s own advantage when one is in power, which is something many Spanish colonial authorities and their local Filipino partners in the principalia liked to do, or to be cheated as much as possible because it is perceived as not caring for the common people anyway? Because as long as Filipinos do not see the state as their own and all Filipinos as fellow citizens, and I mean all honest Filipinos from elite to masses, then all efforts against corruption, cheating the state and taking advantage of it will ultimately be useless, whatever institutions you put up to do the job.

The ruling  Liberal Party has the advantage that it appears to be mainly clean. Could be that its members or their families, being part of the ruling class, benefit a lot from the rising Philippine economy. But this is not a problem because jobs are created – and most especially – value is created. In fact I wonder how it would have been if Binay, instead of giving poor people in Makati allegedly overpriced birthday cakes, had used his money – however he may have gotten it – to make real productive businesses to give them real jobs, even if it were just in environmental protection and recycling. But it seems many in the Philippines know only rent-seeking, not real business ventures.

Bam Aquino

Senator Bam Aquino

To some people, most established political parties look or seem like they do not really want political participation of the masses, which is a reservoir, no a deep well of suspicion and resentment, that populists like Binay – not to mention Erap –  have tapped into in the past. The perception some have is that none of them are truly for inclusive growth and opportunities. So why not elect “other thieves” if at least they give one some of their loot, instead of “nothing” or just more work? But populists only fool the people, they do not truly include them in democratic culture and in long-term wealth creation.

There is a new breed of politicians like Senator Bam Aquino, who is elite of course. But I do see this generation as very hopeful and modern.

Aquino IV is not only a strong supporter of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) meaning true opportunities for the middle class to be enterpreneurs, true creators of wealth and possible exponents of local economic progress, and not just spenders of what their overseas foreign worker (OFW) relatives earn abroad or what they earn in outsourcing or offshoring firms. He is also involved in citizen participation initiatives like kayanatin.

Because only when more Filipinos start seeing the state as their state which is there for all of them and not only for a ruling class – a process that has in my perception already began and is gaining momentum (see my Civil Society article) will people see the country as an extension of their own homes.

One’s own home, one does not dirty, one does not steal from, one takes care of it properly, one respects it – and chases out all wannabe thieves.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 19 May 2015