By Ernesto G. Banawis
Most of our people do not realize how wrecked the situation of our country is today. It’s in really bad shape.
The pandemic battered and devastated vital arteries of our national economy. It caused tremendous losses and the closure of many business establishments.
Millions lost their jobs. Their families are now languishing in abject poverty. Many could no longer afford three meals a day. Some are already experiencing hunger. Thousands are getting desperate and angry, a recipe for chaos and anarchy.
The government is bankrupt; the treasury, empty. The country is heavily indebted.
The entire bureaucracy is riddled with graft and corruption, ineptitude, and inefficiency. Applicants for business permits, licenses, clearances, and certifications are now required to submit not only the required documents but also supporting pesos.
The sacred right of the people, the right to vote, has been prostituted. Votes are now sold and bought like common goods. Those who have more money invariably win elective positions. Vote buying has made the electoral exercises a complete mockery, a big joke.
Most of our leaders have made politics their profession and source of livelihood. Politics had become a lucrative occupation. In their greed for power and wealth, they strive to convert public office into private preserves. They made their positions part of the family heirloom which can be bequeathed among themselves and inherited by future generations. This is how dynasties arose. In many political enclaves all over the country, it is no longer surprising or scandalous to see one family occupying all the top local elective positions. Since public office has become family heirlooms, some of those who inherited the positions are nincompoops and morons.
Greed for power and wealth have made many of our political leaders corrupt and rapacious. They have become the scourge, scum and dregs of Philippine society, the barnacles which prevent the growth and development of the national economy.
Because of its destitute situation, the Philippines has become a pariah in the international community. China does not even respect our sovereignty. President Duterte’s dalliance with Chairman Xi Jinping alienated Uncle Sam who now looks at us with consternation.
What makes our situation disturbing and more precarious is the deepening distrust and lack of the people in their government. Most of them appear resigned to their fate. They no longer care how rampant and pervasive corruption is, since everybody is doing it. Some are even tempted to engage in it.
What really ails our country today is moral bankruptcy.
What, then, should we do? Will we just fold our arms and wait for doomsday or the Day of Judgment?
We have been through hell and high water. We bore with stoic courage the three and a half centuries of slavery under Spain; over 50 years of Uncle Sam’s economic and political exploitation and four years of brutal Japanese occupation. We can weather this super typhoon.
We can and should overcome our problems and hardships. We will not only survive. We will make our country a proud and valiant nation once more.
The Philippines has abundant natural resources. The precious minerals, oil and gas embedded beneath the seas are unlimited and unquantifiable. Our 7,000 islands at the center of the 11 Southeast Asian nations will become the world’s favorite tourism and investment destination. Our country has tremendous potential to be the greatest nation on planet Earth.
Before foreigners invaded this archipelago, the barangays in all the islands were peaceful and functional village democracies.
Our forebears were quiet, peaceful and happy people. They were cooperative rather than competitive, cordial and hospitable rather than suspicious, kind and tolerant rather than belligerent and hostile.
They were so kind and accommodating that they welcomed foreign visitors and made them immediately comfortable. They even gave them lands for a song.
The Philippines has the distinction of having been the common watershed of both the oriental and occidental cultures, of two of the world’s greatest religions, Mohammedanism and Christianity and today’s two contending political ideologies, communism and democracy.
Yet the Filipinos have not been completely uprooted from their cultural moorings. They retained and enriched their cherished cultural heritage.
Christians and Muslims have learned to live together in peace. Efforts have never been spared in resolving conflicts between them.
We have shown our excellent talents and character as a nation. No country can claim to have nationals in almost all countries in the world where they are welcome and needed for their skills and professional competence, character and education.
We have outstanding Filipinos in sports and entertainment.
Efren Bata Reyes is considered the best billiard player in the world. Senator Manny Pacquiao is in the Sports Hall of Fame for having won eight titles in boxing.
Lea Salonga, Marcelito Pomoy, Charice Pempenco, and several singers have won prestigious awards and recognition all over the world.
We take pride in having some of the most beautiful women on earth. We have won four times the Miss Universe crown: Gloria Diaz, Margarita Moran, Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray are all distinctive for their beauty. The young and stunning actress, Lisa Soberano, has been cited in prestigious publications as the most beautiful woman of the world. The first Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela, became a Filipino citizen when she fell into the arms of a young lothario and married Virgilio Hilario.
Yes, we have the capacity to make our country one of the greatest countries in the world.
But we have to reinvent our government system. The fundamental principles enshrined in the constitution have become mere shibboleths.
The complete overhaul of the entire government machinery is in order. The country is sick, very sick. A major surgery is urgently needed.
There is still time for the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene themselves into a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution and install a federal system of government. The people can ratify the new charter simultaneously with the national elections in May 2022.
The presidential system has not just broken down. It is now beyond repair.
The federal system is the best way we can get out of the terrifying situation we are now in.
President Duterte should now flex his muscles and call on Congress to set up a federal government. This has been his clarion call at the beginning of his term. He seems to have quieted down a bit but had not publicly given up his advocacy to change the Constitution. With his still-high performance and acceptance rating, he can push through the urgent need to shift our social arrangement from a presidential to a parliamentary system.
If he does, he would save the country from disaster and spare the Filipino nation from infamy and shame. For this, Rodrigo Roa Duterte could become our country’s greatest president.
Mr. Ernesto Banawis is a student of history and government.