"Let’s do it from the inside."
We need a revolution.
Not a military coup d’état or an attempt to remove our country’s leadership. Not a means to revise our nation’s constitution or to replace our political system.
We need a revolution from the inside, a radical shift in paradigm in the way we think, act and do as Filipinos.
If there is one thing that this pandemic has proven right, it is the extent to which partisan politics has corrupted and weakened our ability to work together as one nation.
This revolution need not be fought by arms but with citizenship and education. Not by mere rhetoric but by concrete action. The end must be progress for all, not prosperity for a few. The vision must be rooted in our faith in the future, not regret or rancor for the supposed past.
For us to succeed, every Filipino needs to fight in this revolution. We will have no need for fence sitters or naysayers. Political colors would be of no consequence and would have to give way to red, white and blue.
The revolution we need to fight for is within us, individually and collectively.
First, we need to believe and accordingly act that we are but one nation. That our differences in political belief, affiliation and opinion are but differing but parallel paths should lead to one common goal of building our nation. That our geographic divides should not separate us but serve as strong pillars on which we can integrate and build the foundations of a strong national economy.
These may sound like motherhood statements, but there is no better way to put it. The fact is, we have simply forgotten that we are all Filipinos.
Second, we need to affirm our shared national destiny - that win or lose, pass or fail, we are all in this together. No nation, without having a shared vision moving forward, has ever achieved greatness and progress. No people, without realizing their common dignity, has ever attained equity and equality.
Many of us would want to point to history for stories of our country’s gloried past. When we were Asia’s financial center before the Second World War. As the post-war reconstruction progressed in our country, our neighbors in Southeast Asia looked up to us for development models. Our colleges and universities were all full of learners of foreign nationalities, all wanting to learn how to be as developed and progressive as Filipinos. Future Southeast Asian bureaucrats and professionals were trained in our schools, our engineering and agricultural technologies were being taught in neighboring countries. What remains in the present are but faint reflections of our once-progressive past.
But then again, we failed over and over again, and truth be told – few of today’s population, especially those in the margins of society, would have ever thought that the Philippines was once one of the top economies in Asia.
Not when traffic jams leave our nation’s capital in a standstill for hours. Not when the gap in hospital bed capacity is double the global average or when tens of thousands of Filipinos have to leave their families behind to seek employment overseas. Never when our students have to share their classrooms with two other shifts of learners. In the face of all this, would it even be possible to believe that we Filipinos have the capacity for greatness?
This is the revolution that we need. For us to believe that we are all Filipinos – and to care for each other and this country, as we should. To contribute to our own and others’ well-being, as our resources allow. To deal fairly and justly with others - businesses towards their employees and clients, and employees to their employers. To put our acts together as if the role that we have to play every day in our own vocations and professions, is indispensable to our nation’s present and future.
Our Constitution and political system are but circumstantial to purposeful action. We had good presidents before, but their actions and decisions would mean nothing without our willingness to cooperate and take action. Even the corruption around us is but a product of our making – if not by our own participation, then by our tolerance and willingness to turn a blind eye.
This pandemic has shown us how corrupted and weakened the moral fiber of Filipino society has become. As patients fight for their lives in the hospitals, and as health workers risk their own, some people think of this problem as a political question. In the same way, the government has failed to balance their public order approach. While many found it possible to question the President’s decision to pick military men to manage our COVID-19 response, others find nothing wrong in playing politics with the presidential succession – of all time, during this pandemic. When some are taking leaps to manage limited resources, whether those of the government or within the household, the unscrupulous have found a way to steal from public coffers or even profiteer from this public health emergency.
Corruption in this country did not start with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s election to the presidency. Inefficiency in government has been there for so long, and to pin down the responsibility to one administration is but unfair. Presidents and administrations come and go – but there is but one political player that remains – the Filipino.
Case in point, this COVID-19 pandemic. Many if not all of us already know how to effectively fight this virus. Stay at home. Wash your hands. Disinfect regularly. Wear masks. Observe physical distancing. When you have reason to believe that you may have symptoms or close contact with an infected person, report to your barangay officials. Strictly follow quarantine rules.
True, much is to be desired with the government’s response, at least at the onset, but to be fair, it has strived to correct itself. Our overall testing capability, for example, has expanded over the last couple of months. Several of our local government officials have improved their mitigation measures. Our social amelioration subsidy are higher than several of our ASEAN neighbors. Isolation facilities have been set up to augment our limited hospital capacity, and contact tracing technologies have been employed in several government units.
But then again, these efforts can only go as far. There is a lot of political noise repeatedly asking: What is the government’s plan in response to this pandemic? But there is already one in operation – test, trace, and treat. There may be gaps in resources – but remember this is a global pandemic, thus all countries are all scrambling over the same limited source. With all the suspensions and delays in tax payments, government revenues have been hard to come by, hence, the need to resort to foreign borrowings just to keep our COVID-19 response going. In the same way, government has to listen more, to be more willing to correct itself and strive to communicate even better – so that we do not end up like a rudderless boat.
The irreplaceable and indispensable factor in the COVID-19 response is you. It is us and our individual action. What we do, and even say, can cause the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of any government effort – as in the case of our neighboring countries. There is no substitute to our willingness to cooperate, especially when it requires our comfort and convenience.
In the face of this crisis, there is no “back to normal” – we can only hope to weather all this together, and finally reach the end of the tunnel. So shall it be with our nation’s ills. Progress will come only if we work together. A better life can be realized only if we labor hard for it. If we break out of our own selfish interests and self-imposed limitations. When we learn to pay equal attention to our duties as much as we fight for our rights.
A brighter future will come only if we do not forget that we are all Filipinos, and remember that this nation’s success will depend only on us.
Let the revolution begin.