Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tony Meloto’s appeals and our challenge to him in the next 100 days

Reprinted from FILIPINO VOICES
July 10, 2010


Tony Meloto’s article today at the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) (titled “The Challenge of a 100 days”) makes one think of how people should act in these 100 days of the Aquino administration. As early as the eighth day though, thousands of people are already starting to complain. Some are questioning the wisdom of the President in appointing people tainted with graft and corruption, while others say, the President is not really serious in creating a new government out of the old and discredited one.

Meloto’s advice for Filipinos is simple—do the little things, be honest and therefore, contribute to nation-building. But, is that really nation-building, in the first place?

We don’t need to tell Filipinos to be honest–most of us are. We don’t need to tell Filipinos to be like this and that because most are already hard-working, patient, and doing their small or little things in their own and simple ways already, Mr. Meloto. It is like we are blaming the rest of the Filipinos for the monumental ills of this country when everyone is really contributing his share towards maintaining the stability of this small republic.

Consider this—70% of the revenues collected by government comes from personal income tax. The 30% or so left are supposed to be the burden of company owners. But, what do these company owners do? They cheat. They don’t give those taxes they are supposed to give to the government.

Some, like Lucio Tan, were able to go scot-free from his 23-billion-peso tax obligation. And there are others. Maybe Mr. Meloto should direct his appeals and pleas to Tan and the rest of those other tax cheats, and not to the ordinary Filipino who religiously pay his taxes despite the very threat in his daily existence.

We pay our taxes, yes, even that stupid VAT. That VAT, by the way, was imposed on us because the previous government stole the monies of the Filipino People.

Those “honorables” and “his” and “her excellencies” and those “technocrats” and “Harvard” and Oxford graduates or graduates of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) were so intelligent and so greedy, they pocketed much of the collected money, therefore, creating that humongous budget deficit. Government needs to plug the hemorrhage and what they think was the best way to do it? Impose higher taxes or some tax measure like VAT to the ordinary Filipino, who did not cheat, nor stole a single cent from the national coffers.

What others stole, the hapless citizentry pays back with his hard-earned money.
Those big loans and budget deficits were not supposed to happen if our government, especially these “honorables” had the decency of not stealing from us and just keeping their promises of austerity and living within their means.

Mr. Meloto, ordinary Filipinos do not cheat their wives—it is those moneyed people who do. What these people do with their stash? They buy luxurious condominium units for their paramours. The money that is supposed to build hundreds of low-cost houses for us, the ordinary Filipino, are being used to purchased luxury items, such as houses and condominiums. And what Mr. Meloto thinks of nation-building? It is bridging gaps.

To build a strong nation, we must learn to engage everyone, bridge gaps that divide, and leverage limited resources by encouraging those who have to give more to those who have less. While we must engage every politician without judgment and without compromise, our cause of nation-building must transcend politics. Politics is for politicians, nation-building is for everyone—from the highest leader of the land to the weakest squatter in the poorest slum. It is for ordinary citizens like me to help provide connectivity to the un-reached, build trust among the wary and give hope to those in despair. In the first 100 days, let us be a people of faith.
It is very easy for Mr. Meloto to say that “in the first 100 days, let us be a people of faith” because he is not as poor and as desperate as many of us. He can still wait for changes. He can still say that nation-building should transcend politics, that it should be apart from politics.

Nation building has always been, and will continue to be political. Apart from culture, there is nothing more that will bind us, Filipinos together than politics. This shared belief in the greatness of this country is always politically-driven.

This is how his social class wants us, ordinary Filipinos, to do—wait patiently while they, the ruling class, fix their acts together. Mr. Meloto, we have waited for decades. The poor has waited for nine long years for change to happen. Actually, even prior to Mrs. Arroyo’s time, the poor has waited and has been patient. Hope started to flicker when Cory Aquino transcended the presidency. That hope lingered for six more years, and nothing substantial happened, no change that would benefit every single poor folk out there.

When you came out to our communities in the late ’90s Mr. Meloto, what you saw are patient and poor Filipinos who hoped for change and received loose change instead. Mr. Meloto, how can we unite the rich and the poor when their interests vary? Will they unite seriously by just giving the poor their houses through the generosity of the rich?

How will engagement happen when the very members of your class, refuse to even see us in our misery? We constantly engage government in our daily lives and we always appeal to the rich and the powerful to help us, since we suffer in poverty due to the inequality they so bestow and reap in this beautiful land.

The reason we are poor is not on our own making, oh no. We are poor because the money that we are supposed to have are not being given to us. Look at our pay slips. The ordinary Filipino worker is the lowest paid among Asian workers. We spend our hard-earned monies trying to pay for those exorbitant Meralco rates, the highest in the region. We buy food stuffs priced higher than what our Asian neighbours pay for. We even pay for higher priced water, which runs abundant deep in our lands but exploited and transformed into a commodity by “intelligent and greedy” technocrats like Babes Singson and Ping de Jesus, who now run our DPWH and DOTC.

Mr. Meloto, be our bridge by asking owners of companies to pay us decent wages, the correct ones.

Mr. Meloto, be our bridge by asking food manufacturers to lower their prices and for giant oil companies to give us what is our due. Lower gasoline and diesel prices and we can save some of our hard-earned monthly wages for the education of our kids.

Meloto’s appeals are just being used by the ruling class, the elites, to manage the raging anger within the breasts of every ordinary Filipino against the ruling order. While we pray, and wait, governments steal, cheat and lie before us.

Meloto’s appeal to those who believed and helped Noynoy Aquino ascend the highest rungs of power is this:

Let us not trivialize the opportunity to start right with our petty politics nor be influenced by ugly cynics who do not see anything good in this country or in this life. Let us be radical optimists and hope-weavers for a change, to give our new leader and our country a chance. It is imperative for those who worked hard for his victory to remain noble and true by not expecting any favors in return for their efforts. Great leaders are often pulled down by followers who demand their share of power. Great chances to do great good are spoiled when nobility is exchanged for the spoils of victory. On the other hand if asked by their leader to do a crucial task, they must also be humble enough to accept. From our new President, let us demand nothing but faith in himself that he can be faithful to his covenant to govern with integrity, courage, and justice.

Mr. Meloto, every poor Pinoy is a cynic, so the poor Pinoy is ugly? I thought you want to be the “bridge” between the poor and the rich? Why describe cynics ugly? Is Patricia Evangelista, for example, ugly? Are those people who demand and hammer out the demands of the people before this new administration, ugly because they don’t believe in your appeal for them to just sit back, relax and have faith that everything will correct itself eventually.

And who, among us, ordinary and poor Filipinos who trooped the polls last May 10, and voted for Noynoy wanted anything from him, except social justice? Meloto’s appeal is for those of his own class who gave their monies to fund Noynoy’s electoral machinery. The appeal fell on deaf ears, as members of Hyatt 10 and others are now occupying positions of power. They were not humble though, Mr. Meloto. They scrambled for and lobbied to be appointed.

It is easy to say, Mr. Meloto, that the least we can demand from our new president is faith.

No, Mr. Meloto, I do not agree.

We, the ordinary Pinoy, demand loyalty to the promises he eloquently delivered in his numerous speeches, particularly that one last June 30. We demand swift action to the ordinary problems we so face.

And Mr. Meloto, it is our right to demand to this new administration things which past dispensations have so long denied us. Mr. Meloto, you can sit in your chair and think of things of how to give houses to a select few of us, but, for us, we cannot do that. We cannot sit idly by and wait while manna falls from the mahogany dinner table in Malacanang. Oh, no.

The elites, the ones you regularly hob-nob, promised change. And we, the ordinary Pinoy, want nothing but demand these elites what they so promised. Lastly, we find Meloto appealing this to us, ordinary Filipinos.

”From every Filipino, let us also demand nothing less than faith in ourselves that we can transform an entire nation—slum after slum, barrio after barrio—by transforming ourselves first. Let us not simply depend on the awesome power of the President and blame everything on him if he fails to deliver. Rather, let us harness the awesome power of the people, united and committed to do good, to help the President deliver.”

Mr. Meloto, where were you in the last couple of decades? We, ordinary Filipinos, have been helping our government for decades. Instead of helping us and correct the ills of our nation, these administrations have been helping themselves. We, the ordinary Pinoy, have always been united in just one cause—SOCIAL JUSTICE.

This term has been inscribed in our charter and repeated so many times in various provisions of the 1987 Constitution. Yet, what do these ruling elites do? They simply don’t know what social justice means! For them, it is as empty as the promises they sow during elections.

We, the ordinary Pinoy, have been paying our taxes, buying those food stuffs and higher prices of gasoline and diesel and trying hard to save money so that we avoid getting our electricity services cut. We follow traffic rules. That wangwang appeal is not for us, but for members of the elite who have one.

We follow the law, and what do we get? Poorly-constructed roads and bridges. Are we supposed to help government do its job of making sure our roads and bridges are at least of local standards?

Not enough money to give free education to our kids. Are we supposed to help our government pay for the “free education” of our kids when we already did that thru payment of VAT and income taxes? How much more, Mr. Meloto?

Inept public service when we go to government agencies to get our passports, our land titles, our birth certificates and even the death certificates of our kin. When we ask for police assistance, no one goes and attends to our needs because of lack of police personnel. Are we supposed to just pray and wait for all these things to come when we, ordinary citizens, have been paying government religiously for all our lives, for them to just do their work and give us the things we so rightly deserve?
No, Mr. Meloto.

We have waited all these years. Who do we blame but ourselves eventually when the dust settles down and after six years, we find ourselves still under extreme conditions? When all are finished blaming Arroyo for all these miseries and we find Aquino responsible for exacerbating our condition, who do we blame but ourselves for being cynics?

I was once a revolutionary optimist, Mr. Meloto. I have been so faithful and patient. Are you saying that we, ordinary Pinoys, are supposed to wait for the ruling class to have an epiphany just for our sake? No, Mr. Meloto. Like other “public servants” before him, Noynoy Aquino will not get our praise when we see that he bungles his job like others before him. We will definitely blame him if the social conditions continue the way they are right now. Blame ourselves for the erring ways of the elite? No, Mr. Meloto, we will not fall to this friar-inspired pathological trap you want us to fall into.