Monday, December 19, 2011

Answer to Ling Pao: Open Democracy or Seven Points in Re-Imagining the Philippines

"7 Points in Re-Imagining the Philippines"
I would like to answer Ling Pao's question with an essay. There are seven points to structural re-engineering.


First, a true recognition of what the concept of a "Filipino Nation" really means to all of us. Is this "Filipino Nation" only comprised of Malays or Austronesians? Or this Nation is a conglomerate of different races: Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Persians, Arabs, Malays, Thais and Western, all existing co-equally in Austronesian terms?

If we recognize that this Nation has, since its birth, been dominated by Chinese and Indian economic systems, adopted Islamic or Arabian political belief systems, and inculcated with Asian mainland cultural values, that is one step towards the right direction. There should be a re-examination of what this term the Filipino Nation truly is before we embark on the more serious structural re-engineering.

And granted that we already did, the second recognition should be that any other system, other than capitalism, will not genuinely prosper in this country. Why? Because from the very beginning of our History as a Nation, we have always seen and adopted free enterprise as our economic system.

Yes, there are structural imperfections brought about by this system, but these are mostly political by nature and hence, can be corrected politically.

The institutional imperfections of our system are organic features of the economic system that we adapted. However, we can modify this economic system to suit the political system we want. And that's the beauty of modern capitalism.

Modern capitalism thrives in all forms of political systems: be it republican, democratic, or undemocratic. We have seen how undemocratic systems were allowed to co-exist with other systems provided that the main thesis of capitalism: open markets are allowed to exist.

We all know that capitalism now exists side by side with socialism. Socialism is an economic theory but it is not an open and shut case. It can evolve and exists beautifully as a political theory rather than purely economic in the sense that man can mold it in whatever way possible based on his current needs.

Some may argue that both systems: capitalism and socialism are anathema to each other that they clash. I will not cite further examples here of how certain societies have successfully put together the fine features of Socialism with those of an existing capitalist system without getting into a serious mess.

China, for example, recognizes two economic models, both modifications of Socialist and capitalist thought: the Guangzhou model and Chongqing. Both models advocate free enterprise yet views political openness in contrasting styles.

Guangzhou model advocates for both economic and political liberalism while Chongqing is advocating the basic party line of conservatism preserved inspite of fast-tracked free enterprise.

In the case of the Philippines, we are still observing and studying what applies to a system like ours. We adopted American-style market economy while our laws are basically a mixture of Castilian and Anglo-Saxon precepts. Our laws are like a synthesis of Guangzhou and Chongqing in the sense that we tend to think liberally in certain things while being strict in others. This is good if we know or we have a sense of what is good and what is not good for us, in the first place.

Let us re-examine the past and recognize that these lands were once thriving free enterprise zones. There is no dominant economic hegemon, only political administrators who see to it that traders are allowed unhampered use of the lands and give the political powers the respect it deserves. In the first years of human habitation in these lands, no one claims to own them, except powerful families of old who rule not as economic dictators, but of administrators whose primary responsibilities are to keep the peace and observe the communal laws.

Third, we must recognize that the only viable political system for us is not Western models with its attendant problems, but Asian democratic.  I am not saying that we totally overhaul the political system because doing so at this point, is more destructive than beneficial.

What we need to do, as what we have done over the past few years, is enact legislation that is more attuned to our prevailing cultural norms and values and prune away old political concepts inculcated by us by our former Western colonial powers. It is time to strip away the thick layers of Western influence and try to see problems based on our own perspectives, rather than using Western lenses to solve Asian problems.
We are in the position to do this now because even if we don’t declare it before the world, our policies are becoming strictly nationalistic. That is why some governments argue with us, and even protest our ways because we mix political policies with economic ones. It is time to disengage politics with economics and just allow free enterprise and open markets to exist without overbearing them with politically sensitive policies.

Fourth, we must recognize that our social values differ from others, and these values should be institutionalized. We must start building a definite social value system that we will slowly inject into the State through the bureaucracy. The Bureaucracy should be the first laboratory for this.

Some may argue that we already have a Code of Conduct and Ethics for every singular profession in this country, so, what’s the use of another one? The problem with these codes is that they are unobservable, since the prescriptions there were made to address experiences of other nations or systems.  We must try to institutionalize what we in the corporate world term as “values stream”, definitive actions designed to achieve added value to a system, process or service. Example would be our concept of corruption or bribe. In the olden days, bribery is not morally wrong. It is given to speed up processes. In values stream analysis, we take away bribery as a concept entirely without giving morality as a basis for its extraction; rather as an ordinary course of business, we take away bribery and make it a fixture in the system but transforming it as an additional levy or tax. Those who want, say, speed up the delivery of their cargo, should pay extra to government. Those who don’t, well, they are levied the normal fees.

Fifth, we must recognize what our order of priorities is as a People. For us to determine what order this is, we must recognize that most of our problems are structural; therefore, solutions lie also on re-imagining structures. Graft and corruption, we say, is a structural problem. The solution is not piece-meal legislation or Executive action; but structural. How do we address this? First, change the penal provisions of laws punishing grafters. Second, change the penalties and punishments attendant to violations of the anti-graft code. Third, blind justice and effect the law against big-time corrupters and violators then admonish the small fries.

Sixth, we have laws and we must all follow them. Laws are useless concepts if society does not follow them. Laws are meant to keep the peace. However, if the law is being interpreted this way and that way and follows only the dictates and wiles, and whims of a definite class or clique in society, then, we must change those who interpret the law and even punish those who implement them without blinders. No one is unassailable or infallible in human 
institutions.

Lastly, we must recognize that we should continually evolve our institutions and our cultural value streams. We must recognize that as time goes on; our institutions must attain a higher level of goodness and achieve higher strata of development.  The ideal is, the more developed our institutions are, the lesser those structural imperfections become.