ZTE and Philippine Democracy

By Christopher Ryan Maboloc
Ateneo de Davao University

From a descriptive point of view, the call for social democracy is right. There is corruption in government, bad leaders and the same genes are in power. From a prescriptive point of view, I think the solution lies somewhere else. Not in politics. Not even in changing the system of government. Democracy is only instrumental to people's freedom; it is not freedom in itself. Democracy, at best, in the way it is practiced in the Philippines, in our dear country, secures only, through mass protests, the negative rights of people, i.e. freedom from an oppressive government, freedom from corruption, freedom from violence, etc. But, at the end of the day, when JDV wakes up in the morning, when GMA reads "There's the Rub" in the Inquirer, still, they'll be sitting in their verandas, their coffee served in imported porcelain, and mind you, they won't even touch their salamis. Now, the same is true to some wanna-be-heroes, i.e., businessmen, priests, professionals, the so-called civil society. But the real issue is, if you know where and what, is the fact that the common tao will wake up thinkin' "unsa ug asa ko mangita ug pamahaw para sa akong lima ka anak?".

Now, tell me, can he look for it in the streets? Can he expect manna when the senate shall have finished investigating the ZTE or condemned the big players? Let's just say that hypothetically the First Gentleman and the former Comelec Chair are sent to prison, say for 1000 years (I know the penalty for plunder is death, but that will never happen, this is not the French Revolution; no king will ever be hanged, period.) Now, the point is, will it (the hypothetical punishment) give the common tao the answer to his question, "unsa ug asa ko mangita ug pamahaw para sa akong lima ka anak?" It is not even a million dollar question. It is not even a one dollar question. It is only a 38-peso question. He can buy a kilo of rice for P18.00, one can of Atami and two Quick Chows, and that's it. But, there is no P38.00 in the streets, not even after one reads Recah Trinidad or Quinito Henson. Fact is, Filipinos nowadays waste four hours every day watching telenovelas, and include the one hour for Wowowee, that is five hours in all, which is, almost one third of their day, and implicitly, a third of their lives. Who gets rich? You know whom, but Angel Locsin is like an anesthetic to social ills, at least for the poor, that's 30% of Filipinos. Small number? No, it's 24 million hungry souls. But going back to the anesthetic. The thing is, there's no operation (after watching Darna) to provide the final cure.

Now, there is no solution. At least, not yet. But we can begin looking at the positive freedoms of people. It can be said, for instance, that a poor person's negative rights may never have been violated. No violence. No coercion. In his plain simple life. But, as long as he or she does nothing to help himself, to actualize his or her capabilities in order to improve his or her well-being, his negative rights are equal to nil. They amount to nothing. Actually, "planting camote" has a point, though we despise the suggestion. Consider, for instance, our wasted backyards. Freedom is not only freedom from coercion, non-interference, etc. Freedom also means the expansion of human life in terms of what a person is "able to do and choose" to make that life worth living. For instance, reading is a positive freedom. In the Philippines, it is a negative one. Our students don't read when they are not coerced. Thus, even inside our classrooms, we are reinforcing coercion in society. It happens very much in the country’s hottest profession, and you know the hell why this country is in ruins.

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