Skip to main content

A call to overseas Filipinos

by Harvey S. Keh
Contributor
Philippine Daily Inquirer
www.inq7.net

JUST a few weeks ago, I listened to a National Situationer report given by the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), the socio-political arm of the Jesuits here in the Philippines.

SLB is known to be one of the most credible institutions who can give an honest to goodness analysis of what is the real state of our country and in their report they emphasized the following:

a.) Yes, the country’s economy continues to grow and, in fact, we have one of the highest growth rates in Asia. However, despite the economic growth, more than 25 million Filipinos continue to languish in poverty.

b.) 62 percent of Filipinos actually die without even having the chance to be seen by a healthcare professional. To make things worse, medicine prices are 5 to 45 times higher here in our country compared to other countries in Asia like Thailand, Pakistan and India.


c.) 3.7 million families continue to be homeless in our country despite efforts being done by non-profit organizations, such as Gawad Kalinga.

d.) P1.2 trillion had been lost to corruption in the last 5 years.

e.) Out of 10 Filipino students who enter Grade 1, less than 2 will be able to finish College.

f.) The brain drain continues in our country as 121 Filipinos leave the country every hour. By the end of this year, we can expect that there will be approximately 8.5 million Filipinos abroad.

These sad realities made me discern the reason why we continue to remain a poor country, despite the fact that we have such a beautiful country blessed with the brightest people in the world. Is it because many of our best people choose to work and live abroad?

Was Conrado De Quiros correct when he mentioned in one of his columns that the middle and upper classes of our country couldn’t care less about what happens because we always have an escape hatch of migrating and living abroad when all else fails in the Philippines? I don’t think that these are entirely correct assumptions since I continue to believe that majority of Filipinos still want to see genuine change and reforms in our country.

Many Filipinos living and working abroad whom I have talked to and corresponded with via email still continue to hope and dream that they will one day be able to come back and live in a Philippines that can provide them and their families with the right opportunities to live a just and prosperous life.

In the end, I think everyone will agree with me that one of the major reasons why we are here is the fact that we continue to elect poor leaders who would rather protect vested interests of their own families and those that have supported them in the last elections.

It’s depressing to note that the reality of Philippine politics is that a good, competent and decent person cannot be elected to power if she or he doesn’t have millions of pesos to use in the campaign.

Of course, we have already seen some exceptions to this “rule,” in the persons of Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio, Isabela Governor Grace Padaca and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo. All three have clashed with moneyed and well-entrenched political dynasties and have come out victorious. But their victories remain only at the local level and it seems that we will need a more herculean effort to finally elect a President that will not become beholden to a few individuals, interests and families.

According to some friends who have had experience in being part of a national campaign, they say that you need at least P1 billion to have a chance at the Presidency.

Is it impossible then to elect a President that will not become beholden to a few wealthy families and will genuinely serve the interests of Juan dela Cruz?

I don’t think so but if we want that to happen, we should all make that happen starting with the growing Filipino middle class who are mostly living and working abroad.

Imagine if every single Filipino living and working overseas will pledge to donate at least $5 each to support an upright, ethical and God-fearing candidate who has a proven track record in public service, then that would amount to $42,500,000 or a whooping P1.9 billion!

This candidate could then have a fighting chance of being our next President and if she or he wins, she or he can govern properly without being beholden to a few people and their vested interests. As soon as we have enough pledges from Filipinos all over the world, we can then do something similar to a primary process to select the right person whom we can all support.

I propose this idea to every Filipino working or living overseas who still dreams of a new Philippines. I think it’s time that we all invest in choosing the right President for our country. We have less than two years to go before the 2010 National election. Thus the time to act is now. The power to choose our next President should not be in the hands of a few but rather it should be with each and every Filipino.

If you believe in this idea and proposal, please send me an email at harveykeh@gmail.com so we can work together in choosing the right leader for our country who will run a government that will genuinely work towards promoting the common good.

Harvey Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government, and is also the Executive Director of AHON Foundation, a non-profit organization that builds public elementary school libraries all over the Philippines. Harvey also teaches Theology at the Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Heart of Summer, a short story

On the first day of April, we moved to a row house in a subdivision carved out of the Antipolo hills. A row house is a nice word for houses that somehow managed to fit into 120-square-meter lots. They looked like matchboxes, really, built near the riverbank. The larger houses, of course, stood grandly at the center of the village, in front of the chapel. We’d be renting the house from the mayor’s mistress, one of three houses she owned there.

The living room of the house spilled over into the kitchen. The house only had two tiny rooms, but it was enough for us. The owner of the apartment we had been renting in Project 4 wrote to us (in pink stationery with the letterhead “Dr. Antonina Raquiza, Ph. D.”) to say that she’d raise the monthly rent to five thousand. If we couldn’t agree to her new terms, we’d have two months to leave. Mama glared at the letter, then said something obscene about our landlady’s father. A day later, she began poring over the ads, looking for cheaper rent in …

A teacher's tales

by Danton Remoto
Remote Control
www.abs-cbn.com/news

I’ve been teaching for 22 years – the longest job I’ve had. This will be my last year of teaching. I will take sabbatical leave beginning April 2009 – a paid leave for one year that senior professors take every seven years, to sleep the sleep of the and come back to school fully energized. But in my case, I will not just sleep and read and gain weight. I will spend my sabbatical leave organizing Ang Ladlad’s campaign, and my own political campaign, for the May 2010 elections.

But because I stayed here longest, that means I love this job. I admire those who’ve spent 30, 40 years teaching without repeating themselves. They’ve taught for 30, 40 different years, not just one year repeated 30, 40 times. Teachers like the now-departed Dr. Doreen G. Fernandez and the retired, but still teaching, Professor Emmanuel “Eric” Torres come to mind. Both have taught with us at the English Department of the Ateneo de Manila University.

Doreen and Eric …

Review of "Pulotgata" The Love Poems"

This is a review of my book that I just read in the Internet today. It was written by Ralph Semino Galan of UST and was published in the Inquirer. It comes in two parts.

Honeymooning with Words, Part I
by Ralph Semino Galan

Love is a favorite subject among Filipino poets, regardless of gender. For despite the influx of modern and postmodern ideologies, the pervasive influence of the Romantic spirit is still prevalent in Philippine literature, especially in poetry. It therefore comes as no surprise that even a gay-identified writer like Danton Remoto has composed extensively verses expressing the intricacies of love and lust, desire and devotion, passion and compassion.

In his third book of poetry aptly titled "Pulotgata: The Love Poems" (Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc, 2004, 88 pages), Remoto delves the depths of the human heart through lyrics in English and Filipino that sing of the anxiety and the excitement, the agony and the ecstasy which accompany the act of love.

The …