Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Like President Aquino

I've seen enough. I'm rendering my evaluation.

I like President Aquino.

Bear with me and I'll explain in a wending way why.

We know Filipinos are greatly interested in their own welfare, or that of the family, and maybe that of the clan. The well-being of the city grabs some. A few think about their province. A strikingly huge number have no idea of what a nation is about.

The difference between the US and the Philippines is very simple. One stands for values that enhance the community called America and the other stands for short-cutting those same values for self-advantage.

The Philippine Constitution has the right words. Important words like "Public Trust". But in real life, they don't get applied because they run against the grain of self-advantage. Even Filipinos tell me "don't trust a Filipino".

The people march when insulted, when their self esteem has been dinged, but they don't rise up FOR principle. Only one person I know of is marching squarely for principle, and, thankfully, he is the President of the Philippines.

Excuse this small digression. I'll circle back.

Filipinos fail to grasp the connection between rude, inconsiderate behavior (trash out the bus window) and non-competitive industries. Competitive industries work to get the inefficiencies out, and nothing is more inefficient than running around cleaning up after thoughtless people. Nothing is more inefficient than an employee who arrives late or texts on the job, and snarls at customers because they are troubling his leisure. These are examples of little corruptions, all adding up to a huge mass of non-productive behavior.

Nothing is more inefficient than a government agency, like Customs, that does not grasp what its value-based charter ought to be. Collection of taxes is seen as value creation. It is not. It interferes with value creation when it is excessive, as it is. Paperwork is considered by Customs to be diligent. It is not diligent when it interferes with value creation. Promoting competitive trade practices is value-creating. No one in National government evidently understands the distinction, how to add value by energizing trade in the Philippines. If they did, they would not allow counter-productive Customs practices to continue.

Nothing is more inefficient than poor families growing plants for food. Agribusiness is efficient.

Nothing is more inefficient than the gross failure of Philippine courts to dispense justice, when powerful people who create relentless damage go about completely unrestrained because un-powerful people have no voice in the courts. No attorneys will work for them and risk crossing paths with power (attorneys evidently have all been corrupted in spirit or wallet, or are simply happy doing Notary Public work). There are precious few advocates for the righting of wrongs. The entire economy is snarled up in uncorrected damages, like a fishing line gone snarly haywire.

Back to the point.

To get rid of these inefficiencies, you have to build a core integrity. The US was fortunate to have some visionaries who drafted her Declaration of Independence and her Constitution. And the people subscribed to it. The people . . . most of whom were recent immigrants. They wanted one thing: opportunity, and the freedom to pursue it fairly. And that is what the framers of the Constitution gave them. A set of words, and beyond that, a set of values.

The Philippines until now has only had the words.

Do you know what I like about President Aquino? He is not a thug but he has a good sense of what corruption looks like. Oh, sure, it is easy knock him about for being a part of a "family" with a ditzy sister and a housewife who was president and a hacienda that did not get dispensed. But the loud critics of his "family" overlook that his father was murdered because he had righteous values and returned to the Philippines to pursue them. I give the President credit for being influenced by his mother AND his father.

I don't care who he dates or what kind of car he drives or even if his lieutenants botch a bus massacre. I don't care what time he gets to the office in the morning or what his sister is doing. I don't care if the people from Hong Kong think his grimace looks like a smile.

I care that he has a fundamental grasp of right versus wrong and the knowledge that he has to make a statement about it. I care that he understands the importance of living thoughtfully, not just preaching good words from the pulpit then sneaking about for self advantage, as did his two predecessors.

His anti-corruption initiatives are impressive so far, and I hope they continue. Only when the masses understand that cheating is not a proper thing to do will businesses become competitive and the streets become clean.

The anti-corruption push is just one step, but it is a big one. It is a step toward real Filipino pride based on principled behavior. Not some gushy pride meant mainly as an excuse to paper over the affairs of country-mates who are not really very productive or kind people.

That is why I like President Aquino. He has taken the entire nation, and its values, one big step forward. Is he perfect, in the apparent mold of his critics? Nope. That's okay, Abraham Lincoln had warts, too (chortle).

I hope the Ombudsman carves through government agencies with a huge machete, indignant that people in power would have the audacity to abuse the people's trust. Like a hot machete through butter, eh?

I hope Filipinos broad and wide see the President's example as a refreshing VALUE and start to stand up for productive enterprise, start weeding out the trash-throwers and cheats and abusers of decency and courtesy. Those ill deeds are a sneaky form of corruption, undermining the productivity and integrity of the Philippines. Apply the same pressure on them that the President is applying on those who have had the audacity to rip off the Philippines - read Filipinos - for big dollars.

I hope upstanding principles become something to be FOR, something to ACT OUT, not something to cheat around or give lip service to. I hope it comes to represent the real Philippines, a nation gone a'missing for way too long.


  1. Excellent points Joe.

    It is nice to know that there are some rational people out there who are not easily "bullied" by Anti-Pinoys.

  2. So far I haven't seen any improvement in any government agency a regularly deal with.

    Maybe they should consider opening something like the Department of Common Sense (DOCS)

    By the way, does everybody have to go to lunch at the same time during business hours?

  3. Even Filipinos tell me "don't trust a Filipino".

    Funny you said that. I heard that here in New York a few times by Filipinas working in my building. One of them even told me that I could be a victim of KULAM if I'm not careful. I'd like to think of myself as KULAM repellent in case I'm targeted, lol. I agree with you that they definitely have a trust issue. It was good to read your article, I feel a little more optimistic for a change.

  4. Anon1, indeed, it is more fun to have one's own thoughts than succomb to minds requiring like thinking to feel whole.

    Anon2, Yes, DOCS is needed. To be frank, I don't think administration is President Aquino's strength; it may in fact be a weakness. After attaching to the value of good behavior, I'd suggest the the Philippine government attach itself to citizens as a "market" to be served, rather than peons to be ordered around.

    Attila, How is New York these days? Intense as usual? I spent a good deal of time there a few years ago, both hanging out on 95th Street, just off Broadway, and also at an upstate pad near Woodstock. I like the depth of the City; very different than Los Angeles, and a universe away from the outer islands of the Philippines.

  5. 95th Street, Broadway on Upper West Side? I don't remember ever going there. The closest I ever been was the The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue . Is there a place to hang out that you can recommend? I live on Upper East side and the city is very busy now . The 2nd Avenue Subway is under construction and it is at my building now making the street upside down. Mayor Bloomberg is serious about having this project done. He is pushing through a parking-meter rates hike to get some of the funds he needs. Hopefully the construction will not be longer than planed for running out of money.
    You mean Woodstock in Catskill or White Lake where the Woodstock Festival took place near Bethel.
    New York is not that far from the Islands of the Philippines if you go to Woodside’s Little Manila in Queens. Many great restaurants and shops are there and the only Jelly Bee on the East Coast.

  6. After reading your article, I still don't understand why you like President Aquino.

    Your article does not make any sense at all.

  7. Attila, yes, upper west, but I didn't spend enough time to find places to recommend. Woodstock, the festival. Hah, Jolli Bee in NY. Great.

  8. Anon, it is not the first time I have baffled a reader. I guess you read my littany of "complaints" and wonder why I would support the President who "oversees" the staff that should correct them. Mainly because I don't think one man can change a culture even in one term. It took the US 100 years to get racisim out of its institutions. I like President Aquino because he is working hard on one key value, corruption, the opposite of which - honorable dealing - is a critical value - like a column supporting a building - that will allow others to build on what he is doing.

    I hope that helps. If not, elaborate a little and I'll try again.

  9. Anon,

    And Noynoy is winner. Gordon is a loser (he lost didnt he?).

  10. Anon, yes, however I suspect that Mr. Gordon would have been good for the Philippines, too. In a way, both are influenced by a broader force, an awakening people. I personally am not as confident that Mr. Villar or Mr. Estrada would have been as open to listening, or hearing.

  11. Noynoy may have won but it is because of a lot of reasons. Some of them are:

    -majority of the voters don't use their head
    -cheating, bullying, thuggery and vote buying
    -media bias

    Besides, when Gordon lost the election, the whole country lost a good leader.

  12. Anon,

    Let me counter your points:

    1. Majority of voters voted. They decided. If you don't like the results then tough luck brother, that's how democracy works.

    2. Such a sweeping statement! Please provide EVIDENCE that Noynoy actually cheated, thugged, and bought votes to win the presidency. Rhetoric is meaningless. If you have no evidence, you are just full of crap.

    3. Media is always biased. But so what? Media was biased against Erap, Bush, Cory1 (remember when Marcos controlled most of the media?). Fact is, you are scapegoating. Why don't you man up and admit Gordon ran a miserable campaign. A leader organizes and inspires people and Gordon failed miserably at that.

    4. A country lost a great leader? Says who? That is just your opinion. Gordon will be forgotten 20 years from now (this will be a fact). Face it. He is a loser. A nobody, nada, zero in history.

  13. "1. Majority of voters voted. They decided. If you don't like the results then tough luck brother, that's how democracy works."

    More like, that's why democracy doesn't work. Or the way we apply democracy. Is it really a good idea to let the majority rule if the majority is bad at making decisions or just plain ignorant? Let's not forget that Erap almost won a presidential election for the second time.

    I think most people will never get over it and will never accept Noynoy as their president because there were better options. They're still thinking what if... what if it was Teodoro or Gordon. Well time to get over it and move on. There's nothing we can do. It's not about platforms and competencies, it was all about popularity.

    I myself just gave up and didn't care so much anymore about Arroyo's 2nd term because the only other option was Erap part 2 (aka FPJ).

    It's hard to accept what you have when you know what you are missing. But then you have no choice but to accept it.

  14. kangkungan, I think one of the most difficult things in the world to do is support someone you don't respect because it is the better choice than undermining him. In any election, about 40% of the population, more or less, has to do that or accept that his nation will be one very crabby, unfun place.