WASHINGTON SyCip, legendary founder of SGV Group and the Asian Institute of Management, has called on Filipinos to achieve economic prosperity to make their democracy work.

Speaking before the academic community of Holy Angel University where he was conferred an honorary doctorate in management, SyCip said that citizens would never have to sell their votes if they had high enough income levels.

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He said India and the Philippines, which are both democracies, lag behind China and Vietnam, both authoritarian states, in reducing poverty. “Taiwan and South Korea,” he said, “found that (putting) economic freedom ahead of political freedom was more appropriate for developing nations.”

SyCip wondered why Filipino, who thrive in democratic US and Europe as well as in authoritarian Middle East, are unable to reduce poverty in their own country.

The 89-year-old recipient of the 1992 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding said “our nation has to be grateful to the Catholic Church for its very major role in the education of our people,” but expressed surprise that it is still able to exert political pressure and interference.

He also lamented the steady decline of the country’s educational standards, because “we are unwilling to adopt long-term solutions to problems that cannot be solved by a ribbon-cutting event.”

Although a product of the Philippine public school system when “a public school graduate could compete with any graduate of La Salle or Ateneo,” SyCip said he did not send his children to a public school anymore because “government neglect and lack of funds had lowered educational standards in the public schools.”

The new president, he said, will face problems like “large deficit, funds needed to complete infrastructure projects, high level of corruption, stagnant or increasing poverty, increase in illiteracy and high dropout rate, poor peace and order, and low agricultural productivity made worse by El Niño.”

He urged Holy Angel University, which he called “the leading university north of Manila,” to take the lead in helping the new president solve regional educational problems, and to complement its Catholic teaching with lessons from Buddhism, Confucius and Islam.

He called Manny V. Pangilinan, recipient of the first HAU honorary doctorate last year, “the most successful manager and entrepreneur the Philippines has produced. He did not inherit wealth—he produced it for the country and his shareholders and provided thousands of jobs for managers and employees, and he did all this in a professional manner that is often lacking in the Philippine business world. And he is from Pampanga!”

He joked, “Are you not lowering your standards by giving this second award to a bookkeeper who is not even from Pampanga?” (Press Release)