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If you ran this country…

Posted on April 19, 2008 by jimparedes

By Jim Paredes
Sunday, April 20, 2008

I was watching  a video of Al Gore at where he posed a really intriguing question. He asked his audience, “What would you set out to do if the whole world depended on you?’  The question got me fired up and I’m sure my Ateneo upbringing and being my parents’ son had a lot to do with it.  I often ask myself similar questions, especially when I read about the big issues like global warming, world hunger and war. Some people might say I have a messianic complex. But I say it’s a refusal to surrender to such difficult realities.

If last week I was light and flippant in suggesting solutions to national problems, today I will be more serious. But unlike Al Gore, I will peer through a smaller telescope and instead of the global arena, I will focus on a tinier and not necessarily more manageable geographic area — the Philippines. Thus, I will ask and answer the question “If you ran the Philippines and could change anything, what would you change?”

I know there are a million things that are begging to be fixed in our country but for this article I will focus on just a few. I am not a lawyer and so I will not worry about the legal implications of what I intend to do if given the chance. Nor will I flesh them out since I do not have the space to do it. This is simply the idealist in me talking, who, despite all the disappointments, still refuses to give up.

I am not running for office but will support anyone of like mind who will. This is incomplete but it is already  mean list as it is.

Here goes:

1. End all pork in Congress. I suspect that without the pork perks more than three-fourths of the people sitting in Congress now would not care to be there. In a setup without all that unaccounted money flowing, Congress will most likely attract a different set of people who may actually have the people’s welfare in mind and will hopefully do some serious legislating at far less cost.

2. Totally de-politicize the bureaucracy. In other words, absolutely no appointees, interference, intervention and undue influence should sway government workers in the way they execute their jobs. This way, policemen and military personnel will not be forced to pick up people illegally on orders of some higher-ups, or participate in stealing the elections. An honest guy in government will not be forced to play ball to save his job when he reports on corrupt practices.

3. Install an electoral system that is fair, credible and actually counts the votes. No ifs and buts about it. Election results should not take more than 24 hours to report to the electorate. A whole plethora of reforms should be put in place, including mechanisms for the less-moneyed but qualified candidates to actually be able to run and win. And yes, anyone running for national office MUST be at least a college graduate. There should also be strict rules in curbing election expenses by political parties, including proper accountability on where campaign funds come from.

4. I would impose a national ID system to simplify all transactions, as it is done in many democratic countries. In Australia, every ID is given an equivalent number of points. To rent a house, for example, one needs a 100-point ID. That means a driver’s license and a passport. Activities can be accounted for and everyone is identifiable.

5. Put in place a justice system that is swift, fair and relentlessly carried out until justice is served. People should fear the law. This should include no pardons without serving a minimum of four years, and if pardoned, a convict must make a public apology and show true remorse.

Added to this, I would like to borrow a concept from some European countries that implement proportionate fining. The idea is that all fines and financial penalties should be based on an individual’s capacity to pay in order to make them true deterrents. The poor and the rich violators should both suffer proportionately for breaking the law.

6. Ban all signage that identifies politicians and officials as the source of public works or infrastructure. Politicians should simply do their jobs. Too much money has been spent on self-promotion.

7. End all political dynasties. A public trust is not an inheritance to be passed on to family members. We have to get out of a feudal mindset and into a democratic one. There are many other talented Filipinos that should be given the chance to serve.

8. Accelerate the devolution of power from Manila to the rest of the country.  The planning and progress of local government units should not be dependent on Manila and the president for things to get moving.

9. Offer an aggressive and choice-based family planning program.  This should lower our population growth to half within five years. Abortion should still be illegal.

10. Modernize the economy, commerce, agriculture and lift curbs to economic growth. Cut down bureaucratic red tape to two or three signatures. Simplify and systematize all revenue collection efforts and faithfully execute these. Promote the culture of growth to create employment, competitiveness, productivity and the creation of wealth and value in all endeavors.

11. Revolutionize the educational system so all Filipino children finish high school. A private sector-led corresponding movement in education in the mold of Gawad Kalinga should be initiated to tie up with government efforts. This should include modular curricula that are highly functional and easily transmittable even in the barest of classroom settings. There must be more emphasis on quality and trades training leading to employment.

12. Lead a cultural revolution that will encourage the serious and enthusiastic appreciation of both our traditional and contemporary culture and all types of art forms. Every Filipino should be knowledgeable, proud and have an emotional connection to his past and how it connects to his present. A vibrant culture makes a people secure in their identity and allows them to dream of a future that will take them to a greater plane than where they are now.

This will also mean harnessing media for real nation-building. At present, the media are too entertainment-oriented and exploitative and do not transmit the values that even their owners and operators would wish to transmit to their own children.  Too much airtime is wasted on gossip and trivia. We must look at the BBC in Britain and SBS TV in Australia as models of television that can deliver riveting documentaries and great entertainment that do not demean the public or foster a mendicant sensibility in their audiences.

13. Aggressively protect and nurture the environment. Our biodiversity is the envy of the world and we should be protecting this national treasure. We should also bite the bullet now with regard to pollution because the longer we wait, the more expensive it gets. I also believe that we can re-allocate a lot of our land resources for greater food security.

As I gaze at the presidentiables who are hogging the  media these days, I am more than ever concerned about what is in store for us. None of them seems to be bold enough to deliver the grim message of real change and reforms that will demand sacrifice from everyone before things get better. I believe our next leaders should not be just the usual successful operators from within the system but the discontented outsiders who harbor enough disdain for the system itself to want to change it. And I am confident that our society will produce the leader we will need.

Lastly, I wish for leaders who are in a hurry and who look at the opportunity of public service as their one great shot at saving this country, even at the risk of their own lives and treasure, leaders who will act as if the salvation of the Philippines depended on them — entirely.

* * *

“Tapping the Creative Universe,” the cutting-edge experience that will unblock you and jolt you back to living again, is on its 40th run. This is a potent, live and dangerous workshop that will lead to self-discovery you never thought possible.

The next TCU Workshop will be held on May 12 to16, and May 19, 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The total session cost is P5,000.

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21 to “If you ran this country…”

  1. Hanne says:

    ‘I believe our next leaders should not be just the usual successful operators from within the system but the discontented outsiders who harbor enough disdain for the system itself to want to change it.’

    Sometimes I worry though if anyone is selfless enough to go through all the hassle just to correct the wrong they see in a system that reeks of an almost certain doom.

    I hope my worries and fears are uncalled for.

  2. ilongga70 says:

    After reading it, I suddenly wish you were running for President in the next election. It echoed my sentiments exactly. And I happen to work in government. :(

  3. boomslang says:

    “Revolutionize the educational system so all Filipino children finish high school. A private sector-led corresponding movement in education in the mold of Gawad Kalinga should be initiated to tie up with government efforts. This should include modular curricula that are highly functional and easily transmittable even in the barest of classroom settings. There must be more emphasis on quality and trades training leading to employment.”

    As a former educator, I have always believed that one of the best ways to turn our country around is for an Educational Revolution to take place.

    There are just so many things that we need to improve in our educational system, let alone the culture that propagates within in. I love to teach, really. And I am still hoping that I can go back to my country and find myself teaching and sharing what I know to my countrymen.

  4. Jim says:

    I think this is crunch time for the Philippines. The next 10 years will determine whether we become a completely failed state or not.

  5. jan says:

    so… when are you running for the presidency? i would definitely write your name, all caps, without blinking my eye! haha. you might wanna answer this chat we’re having in my blog. it’s in a way related to your post. would gladly appreciate your thoughts on it sir.=)

  6. M says:

    Hi Jim,

    Kaya ako umalis ng Pinas with my wife and 2 small kids (and left a goog stable job, a nice home, car, a life of comfort) eh kasi palagay ko di mangyayari mga iyan,

    Pasensya na pero just being brutally frank.

  7. Eman says:

    I agree with the “decentering” of power. Obviously, development is concentrated (if not limited) to the center. But as a saying goes, “thins fall apart, the center can not hold.”

  8. eman says:

    I am worried about the extent of hidden destruction being done now by the current leadership. I am worried also that there is no true revolutionary leader among those waiting to be the next leader.

    We might be exposed as a failed state when the time comes.

  9. saibaba says:

    i am sorry but i think those are wishful…

    everytime i remember flashes of images ranting against corruption during the time of marcos and estrad. But now sitting obliviously as if this is a heaven sent regime, i become frustrated.

    no ifs and buts. we , as people, should have firsts unanimity of thought on certain universal issues.

    as long as we judge stealing condemnable based only one’s circumstances, we are doomed.

    same with lying and cheating.

  10. BrianB says:

    But where is agrarian reform?

    Some items are quite abstract, like the “vibrant culture.”

    You wrote, “A vibrant culture makes a people secure in their identity and allows them to dream of a future that will take them to a greater plane than where they are now.” I suppose art and culture does make you feel better sometimes. Should we ban depressing works of art?

    And the private sector joining hands with the public in education. This will mostly be the Catholic church and Catholic-church related “private” organizations, right?

    “Promote the culture of growth to create employment, competitiveness, productivity and the creation of wealth and value in all endeavors.”

    The problem is big businesses originate from rent-seeking practices. How about we illegalize “conglomerations?” Divide Benpres and other such “holding” companies into smaller, leaner and more innovative companies?

    Very interesting ideas, Jim. Thanks for pointing them out.

  11. Eman says:

    yep, i agree with eman. The revolution will not be televised, same goes for its leaders.

  12. Anonymous says:

    That will be the day Jim. I wish this “wishlist” to fruition not just wishful thinking. Support your list wholeheartedly.


  13. jimparedes says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments.

    Brian–Like i said, this is a partial list. Agrarian reform that will deliver food security is important.

    With regards to ‘vibrant culture’ I mean getting out of the fixations we have such us sex exploitation themes, homosexuality, telenovelas, young love, and crass game shows. There must be more things media can tackle than these. Iran for all its censorship and Islamic background can tell stories that presents itself to the world and win awards. Also, there is nothing wrong with depressing themes. The truth will set us free. But there are infinitely more stories to tell than the depressing, idiotic ones. We have to get out of our rut and examine our bigger more redeeming themes.

    Education, as I see it is secular. Sure, the church and everybody else are welcome to do their share.

  14. Willa says:

    I wish this is the right place to raised a family,for my child to grew up,but it’s NOT!
    I love this country,it’s the politics (and politicians) that I can’t stand!.

  15. Panaderos says:

    How about a return to a 2-party system, Mr. Paredes. Don’t you think we’ve had enough of a raucous multi-party system that has reduced our Congress to a practically ineffective and unresponsive branch of government? All your suggestions are fine but if they can’t be passed into law then I don’t think they will end up as anything more than a wish list.

    Please don’t take this to mean that I disagree with your proposals. I do agree and strongly support most of them. We just need to make sure that there’s a mechanism in place that will help ensure their implementation. Otherwise, we will still be debating or wishing for these things generations from now. Thanks.

  16. Russel De Vera says:

    Your suggestions for a better Philippines are all good and nice to the ears. They can be surely be better for the stomach when materialized.

    However, each of the offered solutions, although seems like doable, is but impossible to be implemented considering the kind of Filipinos we have now. Yes, Filipinos, all Filipinos including me and you.

  17. Mark Arienda-Jose says:

    “In a report titled “The First Global Revolution” (1991) published by the Club of Rome, a globalist think tank, we find the following statement: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…. All these dangers are caused by human intervention… The real enemy, then, is humanity itself.”

  18. straycat260 says:

    Andami palang kailangang baguhin. Andaming dapat ayusin pero sa akin dalawang bagay lang.
    1. Bitayin sa bawat plasa ang mangungurakot at nangurakot na gaya ng mga past president at iba pang public official na hanggang ngayon e tulog ang kaso sa ombudsman at iba pang korte.

    2. Baguhin ang mind set ng Pinoy. Maging patriotic naman tayo na hindi good for rally lang. Naalala ko nung sumama ako para matanggal si Erap kala ko umpisa na ng pagbabago. Nung mapatalsik na balik din tayo sa dati.

  19. Dear Jim,

    Sorry sir, a bit off topic… but can I interest you in supporting Lead Philippines?

    I am contacting as many people as I can to solicit support for this initiative. I am not sure if you have seen the Lead India initiative from which I plan to make a Philippine version. I am nothing so I surely cannot do it alone. But if all the people I contact support me, I am more than sure this can be done…

    Please see Lead India information from my blog. Thanks,

  20. sorry, i posted a wrong url for my blog the first time…

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