by Alex Lacson
Commentary, Philippine Daily Inquirer
March 31, 2015
In his book “From Third World to First”, Lee Kuan Yew described the Philippines as a country with two societies – first, the few elite who live in luxury, and second, the many poor who live a hard life. He said our country needs a gel that would unite and make us whole.
Our country is more divided than that. Several factors divide our people.
Religion is one of them. The tension between Christians and Muslims resurfaced after the Mamasapano incident. In the 1970s, at the height of armed conflicts in Mindanao, some members of the Christian vigilante groups ate the human flesh of their Muslim foes. Some Muslims responded by cutting the heads of some of their Christian victims.
Political loyalty is another factor. There are four (4) major political groups in our country – the Marcoses, the Aquinos, the Estradas, and the Arroyo’s or GMA group. The Marcoses are always against the Aquinos, the Estradas against the Arroyos. If the elected president in 2016 will come from any of these groups, expect one or the other groups to pull down that leader, dragging our nation in the process.
But among the most divisive and destructive of all the factors is greed, that insatiable lust for money and power. It is greed that causes much gap and division in our country.
There is greed when business owners make their employees contractual with minimum wages, even if their companies earn billions in profits every year. There is greed when big farm owners enjoy all the luxuries in life, while their farm workers could barely buy decent food, or support their children’s education. There is greed when a mayor passes on his office to his wife or child, or when the mayor makes his wife or child as his vice-mayor.
Their greed is nourished by their earthly sense of pride. They want to be elite, to be superior. They want to belong to the 1% of the 1%, the wealthiest among the wealthy. But there is nothing noble about being superior to others. There is nothing noble about being elite. At most, it is a worldly badge, not even an honor, one that is not recognized in heaven.
In 2014, the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Watch reported that the 10% richest Filipinos own 76% of our country’s wealth and resources. The 1% owns around 40% of that.
In 2014, an Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center’s research showed that 70% of the members of Philippine Congress and 80% of our governors and mayors belong to political dynasties. There are only 178 political dynasties in the country, but they have captured Congress and the LGUs.
How do we heal the gap and division between Christians and Muslims, between the rich and the poor?
We need leaders who truly love our people.
Love – love for one another – is the only force that can conquer all these divisive and destructive factors. It can soften the hardest of human hearts. It can melt the barriers in our hearts. It can stop wars. Only love can make brethren out of enemies. Only love can make the rich view his workers as his family.
Love moved Lee Kuan Yew to devote his whole life in building a better life and a better future for his people. In 1965, Singapore was also a deeply divided country, with the conflicting and competing interests of the Chinese, Malays, and Indians. Lee Kuan Yew built a culture of unity and oneness among all Singaporeans, a culture of meritocracy based on “the best person for the job”, and a culture of excellence based on “the good must become better, and the better best”. Under him, Singapore became prosperous, even if it has no agriculture, no mineral deposits, no oil deposits, no beautiful beaches.
Many Filipinos deeply love our country. But we are not organized. We are not part of any political movement. We are not part of any political party. In fact, many of us despise politics and refuse to be associated with any political group or party.
But the solutions to the biggest problems in every society are in the realm of politics. Slavery was abolished in America by an elected president. Women were allowed to vote for the first time in Britian in 1918, through a law. The biggest part of the solution is in politics, by electing good leaders to public office; leaders who will pass good laws that promote the common good; and leaders who will implement the law fully, without favor or fear. It is only by law that we can control the excesses of the mighty.
Our being not organized is our weakness. We always lose to a few, though we are many.
We need to be organized.
We need to elect leaders who truly love our people; leaders who would work tirelessly in searching for solutions; leaders who can make us believe that we are all children of the same God, though we call Him different names; leaders who can make us believe that though we are many, we are one; that though we are different, we are the same; for we are one family as a people. We belong to one another.
I pray that the leader we elect in 2016 will not come from the groups of the Marcoses, Aquinos, Estradas and Arroyos. They will merely keep pulling down each other. They will continue to divide our people. I pray too that the next leader will have no blood in his hands, but someone who would fully apply the law, not disregard it.
Only true love for one another can make us whole as a nation.
Only true love for one another can make us great as a people.
The stronger we love one another, the stronger we become as a nation!
Alex Lacson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is author of the book “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country” and the poem “I am Filipino”.