Carvajal: Fundamental reforms

Break Point

Latest SWS survey puts the number of poor Filipino families at 13 million. At just four persons to a family, that comes to a staggering 52 million people, roughly half the population. Could bringing this number significantly down be in the mind perhaps of Congress that suddenly and mysteriously is of one mind to pursue charter change (cha-cha)?

Hardly. As long as dynasties have a firm grip on the country’s political and economic control levers, their goal in charter change will always be to further their vested interests. They have ruled this country for more than half a century and never have they attempted to even partially uproot systems that breed the country’s mass poverty. Nothing about them now hints at anything different.

No moderate left, not even a centrist party exists in Congress. They are all factions of one and the same party of the political right. Without any opposition from political parties of different socio-economic orientations, Congress is in an unassailable position to push for economic (and other?) changes that would improve their already lion’s share of the benefits of the Philippine economy.

Democracy is rule by the majority; yet in our democracy it’s the minority that rules. The majority, the farmer-worker sector, have no representation in government. The only cha-cha, therefore, that would be meaningful to them is that which tackles three fundamental reforms that could give them a fair chance of effectively participating in the country’s governance.

At number one and mother of all reforms is a law implementing the constitutional ban on political dynasties. Without that law, the oligarchy perpetuates itself in power. Without it the marginalized sector cannot even begin to have a voice in government, much less a share in governance.

But even with that law, the poor still have no chance at having a voice if our big joke of an election system is not reformed. Money must be factored out of our elections, which must become a venue for choosing parties and their programs not individual promises wrapped in varying denominations of the peso. Well-meaning individuals with no money cannot win in our elections.

Finally, government must be constitutionally mandated to finance the formation and operation of certified political parties. This is the only way the marginalized sector can form a party that could win a seat in Congress and a chance to promote alternative anti-poverty programs.

To cha-cha or not to cha-cha is not the question. Who will do the cha-cha is. A Congress dominated by society’s elite cannot be expected to tackle the abovementioned fundamental reforms. Foreign investments might expand the local economy. But with its operating system essentially unchanged, the 52 million poor will have to make do with incremental trickles, but still trickles, even from an expanded economy.


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