Judging from recent political events in Manila, another President is likely to be overthrown (another, being the operative word). Save for a competent alternative, all the elements for a power shift are underway (e.g. underpinning evidence, relentless opposition attacks, organized street demonstrations, heck, even ubiquitous mobile phone ring tones!). I will not belabor on these details as they are given prominence by local and even international media of late, anyway. What I am going to harp on is the quintessential question on when the country will ever move forward away from politics and towards real social and economic change?

Perhaps one disadvantage of living overseas is to become overwhelmed with the successes other countries constantly achieve on one hand, and become too critical of the country I consider home on the other. A recent short ride aboard the Shinkansen, for instance, made me ponder why a country, separated by islands by the thousands, like the Philippines can’t improve its railway system to enable efficiency in transporting people and produce? In the same vein, why can’t traffic conditions be improved in Metro Manila for people to use time productively than idly moving in long gridlocks.

It’s sad how bad the country has turned up. Although I take pride in the claim that the Philippines ranked next to Japan in the 1950s, I begrudgingly agree how it has become an economic basket case in Southeast Asia given the economic performances of neighboring Singapore and Malaysia (and now, even Vietnam!). Although the economic performance under the Arroyo administration is relatively on track to recovery (given the surprisingly above-average economic indicators), the possibility for it to translate into full development is threatened by the political turmoil the country is now embroiled in. I’m not saying Pinoys do nothing about the President’s electoral impropriety and, using her own words, ‘lapse in judgment’. By all means, strip her out of public office. But do it using legal means; seek it through legal avenues. Impeachment is most favorable; re-exercising ‘People Power’ is inauspicious.

I agree that the concept of a ‘People Power revolution’ is an overused, hackneyed process towards change. Especially now when the political climate is not as clearly polarized as in the Marcos dictatorship; it is not between good versus evil anymore. Rather, it is choosing among lesser evils (if not, worst by today’s standard of corrupt individuals). Who is to take over if Arroyo is booted out through unconstitutional means? De Castro? Estrada? Lacson? A professor in my university hypothetically proposed that illiberal governments or countries under political instability submit to re-colonization. A bit extreme, I know. But therein lies the dilemma: How do we enable change?

The best solution I can think of in this quite sick cycle of a situation is to strenghten legislative powers to revise the constitution in such a way that (1) Politicking is minimized to favor economic growth; (2) modernize and improve the election process! If elections are done in a fast and efficient manner, then results would be less prone to cheating and manipulation; (3) raise the standard of qualifications for those seeking the Presidency. In this day and age, a high school diploma is not enough for an individual (however best his intentions are) to steer a country and its people to a real and tangible development.

Until then, quo vadis, Philippines? ad nauseam, perhaps.

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