Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bagumbayan: Changing the Philippine political game

What does it take to change the way politics is played in the Philippines?

I have an idea that the first thing that ought to be done is to throw a wrench in the way it is currently played.
Make no mistake about it, the way Philippine politics is set up today, it can only be played effectively by the rich or those backed by the rich. Naturally, all the rules are set up to bar those without enough money from playing it, much less winning it. As it is, there are no clear rules in Philippine politics other than those enforced by those in power and those rule will favor them, otherwise all they have to do is to change the rules.
The first rule in Philippine politics, it can be said, is the Golden Rule. In Cannon Ball (a Burt Reynolds movie), the Sheikh who sponsored their race across America had a line where it was said "He who has to gold, makes the rules."
So, how can you win against the richer and thereby more powerful political candidate?
You win it through people.
People who cannot be bought or intimated by wealth, people who know what is right as well as what is good and are willing to fight for what is right and good, and people who are willing to work just a bit harder, just an hour longer, just a little faster than the next guy. People who are all willing to cast aside petty disagreements, regionalistic mindsets, and other small differences to contribute to making a big difference in the way the country is being run.
Of course, some people would say that it is doubtful that such people exist and these people have already proven that they can surmount great challenges without MONEY.
I'd tell you about Olongapo, Subic, and the Department of Tourism at this point but I've already written about it countless of times. But to be sure, there are many other people just like the people of Olongapo and the volunteers of Subic.
Did I tell you about the teachers in a public school in Jolo, Sulu? Well, in 2007, we found out that a number of them were doing their jobs teaching kids without a salary or benefits. Can you imagine what it would be like to teach kids without getting paid in an area where there is armed conflict?
Anyway, one wrench we can throw at the way Philippine politics is played these days is to change the way we vote. We've already done this with the imminent automation of the 2010 Elections and this means it will be virtually impossible for another 'Hello Garci' to happen -- well, unless one group actually succeeds in having the Comelec implement the Open Election System which still depends on the manual counting of votes.
The second wrench that we can throw is to organize a genuine party. All political parties at present, with the exception of the Philippine Communist Party, are one or two man parties. They are not composed of citizens but politicians and their political supporters. With a real party, people can be organized -- full time, professional staff can be hired; ads can be sponsored; offices can be maintained; and other things necessary to push for political reforms can be financed. Perhaps not by the party members themselves, but working as one, they can solicit or even generate funds for their own cause.
This writer, yours truly, is receiving an allowance from the supporters of Bagumbayan Volunteers for a New Philippines. True, I am paid to write. But the greater truth is that I get to write about things I truly believe in.
We have political campaigners in the field, as I write this. Some are receiving allowances, others are funding their own expenses and still others are putting their own money into the campaign. They are not campaigning for one person in particular but in support of ideas that will bring this country forward.
One great idea that I fully supportive of is the Health and Education Acceleration Program bill. The kernel of this idea is that we ought to bring up the level of public education standards to match those that can be found in more developed countries like Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. We're not only talking about better schools but a whole new game for public education.
The vision, if you will allow me to use the word, is to provide free education with quality that you will find in schools like Ateneo, La Salle or any other big name universities. Children will have enough classrooms, they will be taught in classes with an ideal size of 30 students to 1 teacher; they will be given really good instruction materials; they will have real science labs (so that we can have more scientists than lawyers!); they will have computer labs with internet and all the licensed software needed (not just posters of computers); they will have well paid, highly trained teachers; they will be given a year round feeding program; and last but not the least, a health services program for school children (meaning they get all their check ups and treatments for free).
The HEAP program is designed to work for five years but its time frame may be extended. In any case, at the end of that five years, the HEAP will give out 100,000 college scholarships and send 10,000 Filipino students to study in US Ivy League universities.
In any case, Bagumbayan is not about one Presidency, it's about ordinary people who care enough to try to make a difference.

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