against porkThe increasing middle class of the Filipino society comprise those privileged with access to technology, connections to the affluent, gross income taxed by 30% or so, small to medium scale entrepreneurs, and have one more dollar-earning family member from abroad. They are active in the society being members of several clubs, associations and other organizations, as members and leaders.

In the history of class struggle, Marx and Engels argue that it is the proletariat – the working class who should strive to win the revolution against the existing economic system that rules the social and political spheres of nations. They pertain to those in the lower strata of the economic and social system, the underprivileged and marginalized. However, the role of the peti-bourgeoisie is also critical.

The middle class is assumed to be educated, well informed, economically able and influential in the community. Historically, the illustrado’s in the Philippines propelled the 1896 Philippine revolution. In modern times, EDSA revolutions were led by the prominent middle-class men and women. Such events are material evidences of the role of the middle class to lead their own and those in the lower strata of the society towards a political cause. All driven in the context of upholding democracy.

The poor and the underprivileged proletariat of the Philippines comprise the masses, a huge number in terms of population distribution. They include the farmers, the fisherfolks, the skilled labor, the contractuals and those taking mean jobs. They are huge in number and yet their political maturity doesn’t hold as a power to reckon with the ruling class. Their struggle is on a daily basis, food and the basic necessities of life.

Their knowledge of the larger economic and political system is also limited. Their access to information is scarcely by oral tradition. Their disposition about politics is distant to having participation in the democratic processes. They are trapped in the culture of patronage.  They elect those who they feel popular and winnable or those who have given them the crumbs of what politicians have scoundrelled from the taxpayers’ money.

The Filipino proletariat are the same people used and abused by politicians and so by the capitalists. They work on minimum daily wage while the capitalist earn the bulk from their labor. They seek politicians who could give them a penny when they are in need. They rely more on others than in their own capacity. They are passive players in the political drama because they are apathetic to politics.

The Filipino proletariat are hardly politicized to draft their course in the history of revolution. The heroes in the annals of Philippine history are mostly members of the middle class. They lead the proletariat in the successful revolts, against colonizers and against authoritative and dysfunctional governments. True, they have their participation when the Filipino took arms against Spain, or against dictators like Marcos, but those were reactionary to the leading of the middle class.

The middle class is an in-betweener group of the Filipino society. Their political role is pivotal to steer the proletariat into action, and they can shake the ruling class to reconsider decisions. If they could think for the greater good, they can lobby the cause of the poor people in this country. They can draft the course of development of this nation. They can reshape the form of democracy the Philippines has. Yet, their success will only depend on the support they could get from the masses.

The Marxist dictum on the people’s revolution, is that the proletariat should takeover the modes of production from the capitalist, from the ruling class. Unions operate with this dictum in mind. Such has never succeeded in the realms of Philippine history.  One could only suspect that the European formula is not culturally sensitive to the Filipino’s political dynamics. The solidarity that is expected from the proletariat do not come out naturally as a manifestation of political consciousness but an upheaval to vent emotion – a reaction to a direct threat to their existence.

Today, the Philippines celebrates National Heroes day, at the same time, a march against the pork barrel system is held. Numbers are huge to count, but accounting for which social class do the participants came from is another thing. What does the ordinary Juan De La Cruz say of the pork barrel? What can be thought now about the role of the peti-buorgeoisie in the Filipino democracy? What should the politicized mass do amid political turmoils?

 

 

 


pigsThe fat politician is a metaphorical portrait, of greed and corruption. Pork-barrel creates such politicians.

Infrastructures, livelihood, social-welfare, scholarships and other developmental projects for a district or for the country are not to be expected from congressmen/women and senators of any democratic country. The primary function of legislators is to strengthen the country’s legal system by reviewing, filing and passing pertinent laws that will ensure the nation’s growth and stability. With those premises there is no need to allocate priority development funds or country-wide development funds that disguise as pork barrel to any member of the Philippine Congress.

The executive government has in itself the institutions to provide the basic services, build the needed infrastructures, and extend assistance for community development. However, the needed budget is not adequate, because those who pass the national budget will have to scour for means to sustain their perks from the pork that they allot for themselves. Such breeds corruption.

The legislators also need their budget, but this should only be allocated for their office operation; i.e. research, caucus, investigation related to policy development. The role of the legislators is in the area of policy development for national stability, and this should not be confused with other forms of development projects.

The cost of meeting other purported needs of a legislator’s constituents should be taken off the congressman or a senator’s budget, since ensuring the nation’s developmental needs is bound only in their responsibility to create the necessary laws.  Thus, the pork barrel system is never needed by a statesman/woman. It only works to sustain corruption and maintain greed among the members of the legislative government.

At the moment, a senator gets P200 million every year, while a congressman gets P70 million every year under the Priority Development Assistance Fund. This is over and above their allotted maintenance and operating and other expenses (MOOE) budget. Each member of the Philippine Congress operate using the MOOE. Every oversight committees and commissions in the congress are also covered by the MOOE. For 2014, operation budget for the senate is P2.998 billion while for the house of representatives P6.248 billion (Diaz, 2013) is allocated.

“Per type of expenditure, the MOOE is specified in the GAA to be used for travelling, communication, repairs, and maintenance, transportation and delivery, supplies and materials, rents, utility, training and scholarship, extraordinary and printing and binding, advertising, representation, subscription and membership dues and contributions” (Mendez, 2013). Should the legislators be using their operation budget wisely, they can manage without the pork-barrel.

With PDAF still included in the 2014 budget, P27billion of taxpayer’s money is passed on to the use or misuse of legislators, just like when the country loss P10billion in the exposed pork-barrel scam but the President is still unfazed with the issues on pork barrel (Esguerra & Cabacungan, 2013). Very few legislators  (Bacani, 2013) would like to scrap the pork-barrel, but the Filipino taxpayers would like to see and feel where their taxes go.

In this case, the Filipino people should know who among the legislators stand for what is right and just for the nation. We have yet to see a fat-free legislative agenda: a policy that is lean and never mean.  That can only happen when the Philippine Congress scraps pork-barrel out of its system.

References

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/07/27/1018121/congress-budget-cut-p400-m

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/01/23/900258/enrile-threatens-expose-senators-expenses

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/07/31/1035471/miriam-files-resolution-abolishing-pork-barrel

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/452099/pork-barrel-to-get-p27b-in-national-budget


You are empowered by the Philippine Constitution, under democratic principles, to run to any position you might like in the Government. Otherwise, you are empowered to put into positions of power anyone you might like among the candidates this coming election. Your vote is your power to change people in the government and to bring change to this country.

In this election, every candidate would like to win your favor. But the election is not like facebook post, that you could click because you feel good with it. Every election time, you will hear vote wisely. Wisely is not a candidate, if he is he would have won the change we all wanted.

You want this country to progress, to be back as an economic leader in Asia, to eradicate poverty, to have peace and justice, to be glorious and looked upon by other nations. Yet you keep on entrusting governance to those whose hearts are callous and whose minds are impiously corrupt.

You keep on voting a traditional politician because of his/her experience in politics, or because you are lured by his/her sweet promises. You are made to believe that the numerous bills they passed in congress were all helpful to improve the quality of life the Filipinos have. Most of them would like to remain in the position not because they genuinely want to serve – they wanted to remain in power to pursue their self-interest.

Vote for a traditional politician as you may, if he could say no to pork barrel, instead push for audited expenses of his office. Vote for a member of an existing politician if you would like to expand the power and control of a few families over your affairs. Vote for a businessman, because he knows how to get easy money from the coffers of the government. Vote for a religious leader if you want to be indoctrinated by beliefs you don’t even share and live. Vote for ultra righteous candidates if you disregard socially viable policies that the country needs.

Vote not and you waste the power the Constitution guarantees for you.

Whom should you vote this coming election? The lesser evil? The sure winner? That is your choice. Experience, disposition, education, platform, vision and virtue remain to be the best criteria for making your choice. Know very well the candidate and do not be swayed by others’ judgment. Gauge the candidates’ ability and commitment to genuinely serve and effect good governance. Then, you are making the right choice.

 

 


Tragedy, unpaid tuition fee, education as a right, SUC administration, economics, politics, behavioral science, suicide, rage, empathy: these are among the many other elements that complicate the issue of the sudden death of UP Manila freshie, Kristel Tejada, who took away her life by drinking a silver cleaning liquid in their residence a few days ago.

With the unfolding of the events, linear thinking could point to the issue of the school’s policy as repressive to force the 16 year old student to take her own life. Reports inform that she committed suicide two days right after she filed her leave of absence for the next semester. Her application was approved the next day, March 14. She died by poisoning herself before dawn of March 15.

Indeed the event is tragic, any sudden death is; more so, when death is by committing suicide. Life’s woes are battled with one’s strength. The lost of that strength to overcome mishaps in one’s life leads to depression and severe anxiety, when such emotional overtures are not managed, the worst happens. The option to commit suicide to escape life’s imminent dangers is a tragedy itself. Suicide as a phenomenon does not exclude young people.

Kristel’s is a case of teenage suicide, the context is not limited to that of not being able to pay her tuition fees, although it could be a stress factor.  Suicide is a voluntary act of taking one’s own life. With that there is no one to be blamed, yet there are precedents to the situation that Behavioral Science understands as stimuli to an action. The school’s policy could just be among the many other stressors that pressed Kristel into committing sucide.

Her act of getting in the system should have come with her comprehension that the system could be harsh, while at the same time she should have allowed herself to see the many options of surviving college. Young as she is, her family and those who are concerned of her situation should have felt her need and so they should have supported her all along. Intelligence is not a matter of results of paper and pencil test. Emotional intelligence goes with that.

Studying in UP is already stressful and the mindset of every one entering the university should be open to that concept. Like entering a school or choosing a course, suicide is a decision that begins with an ideation. There are many manifestations of this ideation, and it does not come just as surprising. If her family and friends have been sensitive enough and mindful of her concerns then this could have been prevented.

The system could be perceived harsh and unjust. So politically, radical views would tell of Kristel’s death as a result of such repression of the right to education. Education is considered as a right as stipulated in the constitution. This premise drives many to blame the educational system for Kristel’s death. This political view should also consider the economic side of providing free education. While it is a right guaranteed in the statutory law, it is not guaranteed to be free for everyone.

There is a need for finances to sustain quality education. What is free is not often quality. The state colleges and universities are established by Law to provide education to the youth, with some assistance from the government, national or local. But, with the increasing need and cost of operation, the need for tuition fees in SUCs arises. With UP, it is a chartered university and that the President of this country has no direct mandate of its policy, neither the Commission on Higher Education.

Kristel’s case has become a political platform. Those politicians who are supposed to represent a progressive view rant of the systemic corruption and the government’s neglect of SUCs and failure to provide free education. Are they not involved in the national budget debates? How much do they shell out from their pork barrel to fund Philippine schools? If education is indeed their priority, then they should keep out of the case as their hands are clean.

Kristel died by suicide, and the context of her death is circumscribed in the system of Philippine education, which consequently rages a number of people to call for a system’s change. Empathy is indeed needed at this moment for those bereaved, yet still the darkness of a suicide falls back on human weakness and the frailty of the system which should humanely sustain a community.

The way Kristel’s death is lamented seems to vilify the system and turns her to be the protagonist in the tragedy of her life story. This sends a wrong message which seems to justify the lost of one’s value for life, strength and virtue to overcome life’s woes. A scholar’s way of thinking is deeper than the roots of a problem, wider than their thresholds of pain, and more significant than the self’s interests of immediate relief. Suicide though prompted by the wrong system is still self-serving, yet in the light of the events, Kristel’s death should remind how the wrong system could kill a scholar.

P.S.

My deepest sympathy to the UP community and Kristel’s family.


There seems to be a strong desire for Filipinos to earmark their identity, at a global scale. Of course, national pride is engrained in every culture and societies celebrate its members’ victory in every competition arena.

Manny Pacquiao is the most celebrated 21st century Filipino athlete. In his last bout where he lost, Filipinos got disappointed and many turned sour to disfavor him later on. Others vent that he should have retired earlier on, so as to avoid this losing streak. While others deny the fact, by believing that it was an unfair match. In the field of sports, the Philippines is poor performing, yet the Filipino pride still glories in hope, with wishful thinking that its athlete could grab an Olympic Gold Medal.

Above sports competition, Filipinos are always hopeful to bring home an international beauty title. The country has less than a handful of top winners, compared to the runner up titles it has had. Internet brought some better to hope for the Filipinos, as it is one of the world’s most active internet users, that the Philippines lead in some online voting. Showcasing the beauty of the Filipina and even the males and gays, extend to the baranggay level, because that’s how Filipinos in their family and communities aspire for titles.

Like with any other nation or nationality, the Philippines has competitive chance to be at par with other global players. This notion stems from the fact of how Filipinos are actively contributing to the world economy. Yet, employment statistics would show that most of the Overseas Filipino Workers land skilled jobs and are working at their best at mismatched occupations as to their educational qualifications.

Such situation can be viewed still being competitive, justified by the conceptual virtue of flexibility and industriousness. There too are Filipinos who excel in their fields. Across the world, there are Filipino researchers, educators, engineers, scientists, analysts and IT experts, although we have no Noble Laureate yet.

Recently, the Philippines had another Saint, Pedro Calungsod, to pride the Cebuanos. Now, here is the situation where the name of Luis Antonio rings a bell as a candidate for papacy. From the time Pope Benedict XVI expressed his intent to retire from his post not called for by death, the Internet has been filled with the Filipinos hope for a pontiff coming from the country.

The expressions of this desire to have a Filipino pope, is extended to the regional level while tagging Tagle as Asia’s hope. Various memes, posts, comments, pictures and news proliferate in Facebook and in other online resources. Mementos of some people with Cardinal Tagle were also posted in some individual’s walls. Vigils were set in churches. Prayers are called for Tagle, to become the next Pope.

If news were right and credible to reflect genuine investigative reporting on Tagle’s credentials, his qualifications are supportive of his competence to lead the world’s Catholic Churches. This is the thinking of the ordinary man. The secular and spiritual minds will have another take. The Catholic Church has its own code of electing the pope.

Any adult Catholic male can be elected to papacy, as what happened to Urban XVI in 1937, but historically, the popes the church had were mostly from the College of Cardinals. The elected pope should obtain 2/3 of the voting members, and all are entitled to be elected. The Front Runners are those papabile or pope-able and they are identified by feeling the Cardinals. Thus, such pope-ability is dependent on Cardinal’s attitude towards another.

The process is not like the politics outside the Church, were candidates are nominated, debates are held and long campaign periods take the trail. The Cardinals vote in a conclave, for and amongst themselves, until a conclusive vote is cast.

Amidst the wait for a new pontiff, there are fervent calls that reflect the Filipinos idiosyncracy online in hope for the 1st Filipino pontiff, one can read these all over the Internet. While the Cardinals are in a conclave, they are not to communicate with anyone from outside. So, it must only be God, checking his FB wall, like any other online users who could read such posts! If God would be reading similar posts from every nation and culture, which prayer would he choose?