Generations of Filipino politicians have paid lip service to the idea that Filipinos deserve an egalitarian society and that the it is unjust that vast wealth be in the hands of so few. It has become a template campaign promise during election season for politicians to issue promises to “eliminate poverty” and dismantle the monopoly on the nation’s wealth held by a handful of entrenched oligarchs.
The question remains, however:
Where are the results?
As such, it is quite amusing that a meme portraying Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas reciting this tired old promise is being spread all over social media and happily eaten up by Filipino voters. The meme, posted on Mar Roxas’s Facebook page is accompanied by the following text…
Tinanong si Mar Roxas sa isang interview, “Bakit gusto n’yo pang maging presidente? You have everything, di ba?” At kanyang sinabi, “While I have everything, my countrymen do not. Hindi naman pwede na iilan lang ang maginhawa at ang higit na nakararami ay talagang hirap na hirap.”
Here it is again, this time in straight proper English:
Mar Roxas was asked in an interview, “Why do you want to be president? You have everything, right?” Roxas responded by saying, “While I have everything, my countrymen do not. We really can’t allow persistence of a situation where a small number of people live comfortably while the huge majority are really struggling.”
To the credit of Roxas’s public relations machine, the meme and the text is quite clever. It obviously has all the emotional hooks to tickle the fancy of a vacuous electorate. However it has none of the important ingredients of a real campaign promise:
(1) What exactly Roxas plans to do about the situation he cites; and,
(2) How exactly Roxas plans to execute what he says he will do to rectify said situation.
There is no promise in Roxas’s statements because there is neither a What nor aHow in his proposition. In short, Roxas promises nothing.
Indeed, it is hard enough to hold politicians to their stated promises. Roxas, is smarter, however. He does the Filipino Voter one better by altogether not promising anything. Why then should Filipinos continue to even consider Mar Roxas as an option? All he does is mouth mere platitudes. Beyond that he commits to nothing.
Roxas’s fans will be quick to counter that by saying that he will continue his boss’s Daang Matuwid (“straight path”) platform. The question we need to ask ourselves then is this:
Is “Daang Matuwid” a platform?
What exactly does “Daang Matuwid” promise? For that matter, if it is a straight path Roxas promises, where exactly does said path lead to ultimately? What does Roxas envision the Philippines of 2022 to be like after he finishes his six year term as its supreme leader?
Filipinos need to get better at scrutinising their presidential candidates intelligently. It starts with asking the right questions. The old habit of simply dancing when a politician beats on a drum needs to be stopped. This is not appropriate collective behaviour for a country that would like to consider itself a modern 21st Century society.
It therefore comes as no surprise that despite decades of Filipino politicians promising a more equitable distribution of wealth across the Filipino public, wealth has actually flowed in a path opposite to those promises. The report The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines’ Economic Growth published on the The Atlantic in mid-2013 quoted economist Cielito Habito who estimated the wealth held by the 40 richest families in the Philippines at $47.4 billion. According to Habito, $13 billion of this wealth was amassed in just one financial year (from 2010 to 2011) and accounted for a “staggering” 76.5 percent of the total growth of the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) in that year.
According to that report, the Philippines easily suffers the biggest wealth gap in Asia. The trend does not seem to be reversing. While the Philippine economy is supposedly performing well from a purely statistical perspective, there is no sign that any of this progress is trickling down to the broader Philippine public.
What then does Mar Roxas propose to do differently? After all, historical record will show that many politicians that came before him have promised and (we’d like to think) tried to reverse this persistent trend. After all, it is only when things are done differently that one can reasonably expect different outcomes.
[Photo courtesy Philippine Star.]