are Grace Poe’s priorities mentioned in an Inquirer article, plus two I added. The Inquirer headline is very unfair: Poe admits she has her own ‘KKK’. In the age of social media, many people only read the headline. Or they are in a hurry, and the bad impression stays. This is why – even though I did not want to write about the elections anymore – have decided to tackle the content of Poe’s ideas. I have already mentioned my preferences in a previous article. They are still the same. But still the good points of all candidates must be considered. It is about improving the country.
What I like are the three points, because they are Kabuhayan (Livelihood), Kaligtasan (Safety) and Karunungan (Knowledge). In my article about The Road Ahead, I looked at the Maslow hierarchy of needs. All three points address the basics people need in order to have minimum opportunities. From Poe’s suggestions, let us see what possibilities there are to enhance them.
From the Inquirer article: On livelihood, Poe said inclusive growth could not be achieved without jobs that would empower people, and jobs could not be created without the proper economic climate. “You can’t have investors if you don’t recalibrate your tax bracket, if you don’t reconsider foreign ownership,” she said.
I think that the major driver of jobs are SMEs – Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. The percentage of jobs in SMEs is very high in prosperous countries like Japan, Korea and Switzerland. Southern Germany has a lot of SMEs – from high-quality specialized machine tool factories, lens manufacturers, suppliers of automotive parts etc. that give jobs to people in the countryside, and the butchers, bakers, car repair jobs etc. that provide goods and services to the local people. Traditionally the focus was too much on big multinationals in the Philippines. The thing is, big multinationals are fine, but they can also leave. There are so many own industries the Philippines could have. One could start with native capabilities. Lambanog is starting to be a in drink in Germany, because it is being marketed like Bacardi rum. Filipino handicrafts, if done well, are beautiful and could find markets in Europe where people like original and cultured artifacts. Years ago Indonesian classic furniture, very similar to what Filipino native carpenters produce, was the craze in Germany. Trying to be too “modern” all the time is not always the right way to go.
Good thing there are now Negosyo Centers in the Philippines, thanks to the Go Negosyo Act. And a Philippine Competition Commision to prevent the oligarchs from crushing the less powerful. Because this is not what Adam Smith had in mind when he wrote about the Wealth of Nations. It is I think more like the prosperous world of Southern Germany or Switzerland, where people have opportunities if they do their work well – as engineers, as technicians, as butchers, as bakers, as mechanics. All businesses there are taxed locally also – so LGUs compete to get businesses.
Grace Poe said she would hire private survey firms to determine which barangays have drug and crime problems and she would provide incentives to barangay officials who could handle these problems. She would keep in touch with these officials about those problems, she said. I wonder if delegating things to the barangay is enough. Incentives could lead to covering things up. The reputation of barangay officials is not exactly the best, even if I do not want to do those who are earnest injustice. But the idea with survey firms is good. Undercover work might be even better.
There is Oplan Lambat-Sibat which tries to address the drug problem by going for what would be called “High Value Targets” in another context. The big fishes. Just addressing drugs at the local level is not enough if one does not do what is necessary to cut of the supply. PNP initiatives for community policing that are already starting would help at the local level. It might even make sense to give witness protection and relocation to local drug dealers if they help catch the big fish – or even make the most savvy of them resident experts, like the FBI does with hackers, or did with the famous swindler Frank Abagnale.
Poe also said Kaligtasan.. refers not only to security but also to health. Regional and provincial hospitals, especially in the 20 poorest provinces, must get the proper equipment and the necessary number of doctors to attend to the medical needs of people in their areas, she said. Good. I don’t know what the DOH has been doing, so I cannot compare to her programs.
Justice is not mentioned in Poe’s programs. The only candidate who has mentioned simplification of laws so far is Rodrigo Duterte, as I mentioned in my article about his program. Filipino laws are a tangle of Spanish laws, American laws, and laws from different Republics. The principle of legal certainty is probably often violated. Clear laws make it less easy for attorneys to discuss endlessly about which law is to be applied, and for court proceedings to concentrate on whether guilt can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It would speed up justice, increasing confidence in it.
Rizal himself said in The Philippines, A Century Hence: The thing that makes the English most respected in their possessions is their strict and speedy justice, so that the inhabitants repose entire confidence in the judges. The DOJ Criminal Code Draft of 2014 intends to replace the old Penal Code, which although revised in based on the one from 1884 that Rizal already criticized.
Poe also mentioned that the government’s scholarship program therefore must be fully funded, and a standard lunch program for children in public elementary school. The lunch program is nice, because there have been stories about how the otherwise excellent Pantawid Pamilya or 4Ps program has been misused by parents. Lunch is an incentive for the kids to really go to school.
I disagree with having to send all students to college, and tend to agree with the K-12 program which makes good professionals of people without having to give them a college degree. There is the TVET track which teaches vocational skills and integrates with TESDA. The K-12+ program which is German-sponsored is about Dual Training, the successful German model for creating highly skilled workers which are the backbone of its industrial economy and its many industrial SMEs. The academic track has the Accounting, Business and Management (ABM) strand, which can replace the overrated “commerce” bachelors from the usual diploma mills and create truly capable office workers instead. There is the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS) strand, which is for those who may later want to take college subjects in that area, and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Strand (STEM) which is for future engineers and scientists.
And the teaching in local language in the beginning has its reasons – because modern science has found out that the capability to connect theory and practice, to use language effectively to model reality and form concepts based on reality, is built in the first years, and learning immediately in a foreign language impairs this skills. After these skills are learned, they can be transferred to another language – in this case Filipino and English. This addresses a problem in much Filipino thinking – either very complex but divorced from reality, or very concrete but without any system.
Putting things together
Which brings us back to Grace Poe. She has some very modern thinking. Much Filipino thinking is convoluted. Much is either too pragmatic (Duterte) or too theoretical (Santiago) while Poe’s thinking does have two aspects I consider important: top-down and bottom-up. Top-down: she has identified the three major needs of people in a country. Bottom-up: she has identified that certain issues need to be addressed on the ground in a practical way so that theory is not only that, but also works in practice.
What is missing is the middle. I would break down the three points further as follows:
- Kabuhayan (Livelihood) – business and jobs, social welfare (4Ps for example), entepreneurship (Go Negosyo)
- Kaligtasan (Safety) – policing, justice, and I think DILG might want to have a place were citizens can complain about LGUs
- Karunungan (Education) – school lunches, K-12, adult education (maybe even something like the Volkshochschule?)
- Kakayahan (Capabilities) – infrastructure (internet, transport, facilities), industry, agriculture
- Kaunlaran (Progress) – science (DOST programs are already excellent), thinking (think tanks for foreign policy, defense etc.), universities (strengthen provincial colleges for example)
I have added two further points because it is not enough just to think of the basics. They must be secured, otherwise the foundation of progress is unstable. But the Philippines has great potential, and it must be harnessed. The subpoints are suggestions, and policies can be developed for each of them. There are 15 subpoints all in all in this suggestion, and 5 main points.
This structure could be used as a way for a President to report on progress using the Internet, with details for the curious. Even with maps of the Philippines to show how these points and subpoints are progressing in every LGU, in every barangay even. Shine a very bright light on everything. Because people still don’t trust the government. Which I understand from history.
Poe and Duterte – also Señeres – are addressing some weaknesses of the government. A good future government should listen. But be competent to be able to deal with it. This is why I am placing my hopes on a Roxas-Robredo tandem – Roxas for competence, Robredo for the people and common sense. If they really work together well, they can do much. But that I have already written.
I am not a friend of FOI. But I do believe – just like Grace Poe – that the Executive should commit to giving transparent and well-summarized information. Like the Internet progress report and the progress map of the country i suggested. Because FOI would lead to people nitpicking and looking for errors without seeing the big picture. Like a lot of what is happening now on social media.
There could however be a simple version of FOI within LGUs. Give every LGU citizen a logon account to access summarized data about budget, projects and their status. There are already projects like DOST iGovPhil which this could be made a part of – and help build the local software industry beyond just BPO to develop true products to sell internationally. Have a citizen service office in every LGU – run by DILG – that is there to explain things and to register questions and complaints. Take the steam out of the anger that many Filipinos now still feel about their government.
Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 31. January 2016