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Archive for March, 2012

The synthesizing mind of an integral thinker is an appreciative mind that gets into an aesthetical valuation of reality. It is the other side of the analytical mind which characterizes the atomistic thinker whose critical mind has the propensity to always be epistemological.

Basically, there is nothing wrong with being analytical or critical because the epistemological aspect of being is also a segment of reality but only as a stage with certain limitations as the scientific–in the physicalistic sense–has likewise its limitations. One thing we have to realize in the post-epistemological phase of our existence is the fact that cosmic reality, whereof our humanity is just a tiny part, is a complex mega-system whose components cannot in whatever way be dismantled materially and discursively without affecting and ignoring the whole system.

In this connection, the only thing that matters is a recognition and acceptance of the mystical and an abandonment of the futile efforts to get into the nitty-gritty of the mechanics of the system’s operation but focusing more with reverence and appreciation on the integral dynamics that give the vibrancy of life in the very cosmic system.

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The place evoked past tragedies . . . sicknesses and deaths, material and financial losses . . . tragedies that threw even the toughest souls prostrate on the ground, powerless and almost deserted by sanity, weeping in hopelessness before the dark abyss of Nothingness. It seemed as if all—human and non-human—forces had conspired to render the severest judgment of the Unseen Cosmic Power against the powerlessness of a tender reed never been conceived to stand and defy the onslaught of a destructive tempest. The dynamics of the place (call them spirits, call them energies . . . doesn’t matter a bit) had unleashed in full force their fury and amidst such distress and misery, who wouldn’t summon the angel of death and board his chariot bound to apeiron.

But could the energies of the place be as ruthless as they had asserted themselves with no substantial reason at all but only an impulsive ferocity of idiotic aggression? Or had there been an energy-imbalance in terms of positive-negative concurrence in the place because of human ignorance, irresponsibility and recklessness? Were all these tragedies within the ambit of human conscious experience truly aimed as a vehement assault of the energies towards the denizens of the place as an exacting of vengeance? Or were they tragedies only from the superficial viewpoint of the directly affected but on a deeper reflection, they were essentially the energies’ way to put things in order again and hence restore the damaged balance regardless of how tragically painful was the process to the dwellers’ state of affairs?

Unless humanity finally masters the ebb and flow of energies in the circumstances of the biosphere, there will always be moments of retribution and tragedy.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 30 March 2012

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People empowerment becomes essential only in the context of praxis, i.e., theorizing on the basis of experience/practice and making the theory applicable to experience to test its correctness and usefulness. First and foremost, the true prophets of people empowerment must therefore be keenly aware of the reality of widespread disempowerment that has gripped a society or a nation. In this situation, the call for people empowerment gains the character of genuineness if and only if these very prophets themselves are the ones who lead movements to break the fetters of oppression and exploitation that openly manifest gross people disempowerment in all levels of social involvement. All other considerations besides this point become pure and simple propaganda whose true character is disorienting, deceiving and deteriorating to further disempowerment.

A national leadership who on the one hand has been repeatedly calling for people empowerment but on the other has been trying to disempower the social fiber of a nation by promoting labor exportation and foreign exploitation of local resources is nothing but a mouthpiece of farcical commitments and false promises which are attributes of a blatant betrayal of an impoverished people. The call for people empowerment can never be genuine in a situation where survival is the game and the rules are for its perpetuation. When the leading option of the people is still survival beside the hard reality of a downtrodden dignity, people empowerment is but an unreachable destiny.

Genuine people empowerment is located in a socio-political space where survival has already been transcended and dignity is what matters most. People are truly empowered if the decisions and choices they make are expressions of their dignity and not their desperate wish to survive. Genuine people empowerment is truly manifest if the people do what they do because it is an expression of their highest principles and not because they are forced by the powers that be to do it and they are doing it because they do not want to perish. Genuine people empowerment is the strength of the people’s will to assert their humanness amidst a dehumanizing situation.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa

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The drama has worsened from corny to nauseating. The deity who has claimed the earth and everything in it is his[1] is absent—contrary to his claim of omnipresence—in the midst of folly and irresponsibility pulled off by the very humanity he appointed to be the stewards thereof [2]

How dare has this so-called omniscient Lord God of Judaeo-Christian mold bestowed such a colossal obligation to humanity whose limitations and tendencies he at the very beginning knew very well.

And now, what we find on Earth are myriad forms of human-made chaos and devastations that in some instances have now advanced close to annihilation.

Does the Judaeo-Christian claim that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” still make sense or are those words simply an expression of the past wistfulness of a deity in his megalomaniac illusion?

Obviously, this deity has given up all his claims of omnipotence and what he has decided to do is simply to escape elsewhere and disappear from a world whose morality has gone awry: Heinous crimes, ethnic-cleansing wars, massive environmental degradation in various forms, alarming poverty, severe famine, disturbing economic exploitation and other blatant appearances of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity.

[1] Psalm 24:1

[2] Gen. 1:26b, 28

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[A paper presented in the 2009 Sociology Forum held on 10 September 2009 at the
University Training Center of the Mariano Marcos State University(MMSU) in
Batac, Ilocos Norte ]

A. A General Overview

Despite all the trappings of modern democratic mechanics—the superficial exteriorities institutionalized as official components of Philippine politics—the landscape of our realpolitik is still—as it has long been in generations— predominated by two vigorous sets of dynamics—socio-culturally feudal and economically colonial. About the socio-cultural dynamics, Prof. Jose Ma. Sison initially stresses in the text of his lecture at UP-Diliman on 25 April 1986 entitled
“Crisis of Philippine Culture” that

“ . . . [C]ulture is not simply the ideological reflection of current forces and contradictions in the economy and politics. It is also the accumulation of notions, customs, habits and the like which date
as far back as prehistory, and which persist in current circumstances for so long as there are carriers and they are part of the social psychology of the people.”

In this light, simply reflecting on the attitude of local elected leaders toward themselves reveals a common feudal character whose acquired meaning in ages has seemed to be as natural as it is mouthed with confident spontaneity: they are the “fathers” or the “mothers” of their respective constituencies—villages, municipalities, provinces, even the nation itself. Something essentially crucial is overshadowed and actually blotted out in this attitude: that in a genuinely democratic political milieu, an elected local (even national) government leader is fundamentally a public servant. The democratic political culture signifies the leadership of a public servant and not of a “father” or a “mother” of a local (or national) government unit. The latter being patriarchal/matriarchal is obviously feudal. Observing how political leadership is carried out in local government units further reveals how the barangay chair or the mayor or the governor acts and dispenses authority like a landlord (and worse still, like a taskmaster) who behaves toward his/her constituents as if they are his/her tenants (and worse still, as if they are his vassals or slaves). In the process, the latter are always beholden to the powers that be as this condition of political relation is intensified socio-culturally by the value of utang na loob which is inherently and automatically spawned in its vicious—and hence, corrupt—aspect in the context of this mode of power dispensation. And the trail of corruption in government is thus inaugurated.

Corruption, if viewed in this framework, is no longer an appalling phenomenon but a logical corollary of a political culture where double standard morality is well entrenched in the hands of the “feudal” masters who cannot be immoral. In this condition, they are the framers and definers, the interpreters and dispensers of morality that, of course, naturally benefits their social and economic circumstances expressed in their whims, caprices and wishes. Affected directly by this “political” morality is society’s economic facet. Economic advantages and opportunities are therefore automatically bestowed upon, enjoyed and, in most cases, monopolized by the “feudal” elites invincible in their coats-of-mail of power. This condition is controlled by a cabal of conspiratorial manipulators of a locale’s economic ambience. By and large, they are the ones who call the economic shots being in charge of the general run of businesses and practically all income-generating ventures, regardless of whether these enterprises are legitimate or otherwise.

In this basis, it is not always necessarily the case that the “elected” official should be a member of the elite bloc; it has been witnessed so many times that an outsider may be “elected” as long as s/he is logistically supported by the said syndicated alliance’s established machinery. Being elected in this framework further cultivates the viciousness of utang na loob as the “elected” official becomes constrained by the present circumstances to return to her/his patrons the favor that sustained his/her nomination, campaign, and ultimate “victory”. In many instances, a coalition of businessmen whose power rests in their obvious advantages of sheer economic nature likewise exerts massive influence in the political field as “king makers”. The whole situation is constitutive of a system wherein the dynamics of feudalism sustain the mechanics of a capitalistic economy and a politics that appropriates the nominal components of democracy. The entire scenario is cordially accommodating to colonial conditionality where a foreign politicoeconomic power can legitimately gain a foothold in the domestic arena through a mutually beneficial partnership with local businessmen and business alliances that—as has been established earlier—are likewise the political powers that be. In Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, the distinguished MIT linguist, philosopher and political analyst Noam Chomsky asserts:

“The fundamental assumption that lies behind the imperial grand strategy, often considered unnecessary to formulate because its truth is taken to be so obvious, is the guiding principle of Wilsonian idealism: We—at least the circles who provide the leadership and advise them—are good, even noble. Hence, our interventions are necessarily righteous in intent, if occasionally clumsy in execution. . . .”

In this reality, the feudal dynamics accommodate the legitimization of colonial—i.e, neo-colonial, to be more exact—presence seen through transnational investments monitored and safeguarded by well-placed “elected” local officials in both the executive and legislative branches of government serving the imperialist interest of foreign powers. This particular phenomenon is an absolute realization of how feudalism is wedded to colonialism in a marriage of convenience politically and economically empowering and hence advantageous to both the local power elites and the neo-colonial dominators—an unholy conspiracy that expectedly smashes to smithereens the sovereign platform of a purportedly independent country.

B. Personality Politics Dominates the Feudal Power Culture Scheme

The evolutionary trail of political maturity in a social circumstance runs from the most primitive to the most sophisticated with personality politics as the most primal, party politics in-between and program politics the most mature. Philippine politics as we have it in its 21st-century condition is yet dismally of the personality type. What distinctively stands out in this type of politics is the promotion of personalities over and above political parties and national development programs. Personality politics is characteristically feudal for in a feudal society, the person, achievements, exploits, authority and wealth of a feudal lord are utterly highlighted beyond anything else. This reality obviously operates in the regular and ordinary course of current Philippine political set-up and we may cite a myriad of instances to sustain our present contention.

1. One of TESDA’s scholarship grants is known as “Pangulong Gloria Scholarships”

2. Along roads and highways, we find announcements like “This road widening project is made possible under the auspices of the administration of Gov. So and so or Mayor So and so.”

3. Acronyms that reflect the initials of an incumbent local official, e.g., Serbisyong Bayan (in Quezon City where the incumbent mayor’s initials are SB for Sonny Belmonte); Linisin at Ikarangal ang Maynila (in the city of Manila where the incumbent mayor is Lim).

A local government official will surely take advantage of every possible and given opportunity to promote his/her personal advantage in the political arena and in the process amplify his/her political clout aimed at establishing and perpetuating a political domain that outlives his/her own political career but extends further to his/her progeny thereby putting up in the process a political dynasty. It is thus definitely and absolutely a feudal state of affairs.

Pre-martial law Philippine politics saw the dominance of a two-party electoral scenario where the Liberals did battle with the Nacionalistas. But the whole situation was not the real thing but simply a semblance of true party politics for what was actually highlighted was not the parties themselves and their respective platforms but the famous, even controversial, personalities within them as candidates who have achieved popularity of showbiz proportion. This is precisely the reason why it was a “no-sweat” act for a prospective candidate to cross over party lines.

Nothing has actually changed in post-martial law politics. In fact, more complications have gotten in as the two-party system was overshadowed by a multiple-party system bereft of solid and genuinely practicable pro-people development platforms. This state of affairs has actually demolished the preconditions of what should have been called party politics but has instead made personality politics rampant and hence institutionalized as the name of the political game in the present dispensation—a primitive type of politics in the post-modern Western world.

C. Colonial Economic Hegemony Supportive of and Reliant on Feudal Power Culture

The power base of a “post-modern” feudal leadership is reinforced by its colonial alliance which in the case of the Philippines is chiefly with the foremost global superpower, the United States of America. The US does not only impose its economic hegemony over the Philippines but such, as always, is in intrinsic simultaneity with political supremacy. The US Department of Defense housed at Pentagon as well as the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) constantly keep an eye on the Philippine political scenario to make sure that the ones positioned in the national government will precisely toe the US foreign policy line. This situation of brazen meddling is only an aspect of a larger political intervention of imperialistic magnitude as the Balikatan Exercises continue on regularly through the blessings of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) forged between the governments of the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America. The eminent US-based scholar, culture critic and political analyst, E. San Juan Jr, in his After Postcolonialism: Remapping the Philippines-United States Confrontations, remarks:

“The passage of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) at the end of the twentieth century signifies not a ‘return of the repressed’ but a symptom of the loss of memory, a historical amnesia that disavows the unspeakable barbarism and carnage that masked itself in ‘brotherly spirit.’ For Filipinos, however, it is a ritual of trying to remember. . .”

In the guise of providing special training opportunities toward the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the US contingents in the said military exercises also get themselves involved in actual counter-insurgency operations along with the AFP and in the process act as protectors of both the economic and political interests of the US in the Philippines. E. San Juan Jr, reminds us that

“Not yet a decade since the U.S. military bases were forced to withdraw in 1991 by nationalist demand, the passage of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States in February 1998 marks the return of imperial power in a more total repudiation of Filipino sovereignty. . . . [T]he VFA grants the ex-colonizer extraterritorial rights and privileges exceeding the privileges that the United States once enjoyed in the day of the Laurel-Langley Agreement and parity rights.”

The latest news-making development about this which landed on the pages of the New York Times is the decision of US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates

“ . . . to keep an elite 600-troop counterinsurgency operation deployed in the Philippines despite pressure to reassign its members to fulfill urgent needs elsewhere, like in Afghanistan or Iraq, according to Pentagon officials.
. . .
“Special Operations Forces are the most highly skilled in the military at capture-and-kill missions against insurgent and terrorist leaders. Within their ranks, Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, have for decades been training allied troops on their home soil and conducting counterinsurgency missions.”
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/world/asia/21military.html?_r=1)

This is imperialism of the first order. In this sense, US colonial hegemony supports the local feudal power culture, on the one hand. Re this, Carol Pagaduan-Araullo comments in her BusinessWorld column, Streetwise, entitled “Standing on the Wrong Side of History” (August 28,2009):

“Even the infrastructure projects carried out by US troops and the medical-dental missions they conduct are clearly for counterinsurgency purposes contrary to the usual government and US embassy press releases that these merely underscore and reinforce the continuing “good relations” between the two countries.

“Unnamed officials spoke of pressure on the Pentagon to shift the [Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines] ( JSOTFP) to Afghanistan or Iraq. This is a clear indication that US forces are overstretched and unable to simultaneously wage and quickly win wars in two global regions as envisioned in the US neoconservatives’ ‘Project New American Century’ under Pres. George W. Bush . The decision to maintain the JSOTFP underscores both the strategic and tactical importance of maintaining US military presence in the Philippines and implies that the permanent US presence is both for local as well as global and regional reasons.

“Despite the rhetoric of ‘Change,’ the Obama administration is at base continuing the geopolitical thrust of consolidating US hegemony in the world with minor changes in approach and methods, e.g. talking with “rogue states” instead of threatening them with preemptive first strike option, without necessarily giving up that option. This includes continuing and strengthening US military presence overseas.

“Specific to the Philippines, this translates to increasing military aid and so-called training exercises and permanent US military presence as exemplified by the JSOTFP deployment and forward operating sites in Mindanao despite the 1991 Philippine Senate decision to terminate the RP-US Military Bases Agreement.”

On the other hand, the Philippine feudal order keeps the US capitalist requirements going by providing the latter with raw agricultural, marine, forest, and mineral resources, even human labor resources. Hence, the path of Philippine economy to go capitalist is out of the question. In this connection, E. San Juan, Jr. observes: “What is at stake is really control over the natural resources and labor power of the Filipino people via the destruction of their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

It is the power of US imperial control that has kept Philippine economy retrogressively subservient to US colonial interests in a feudal socio-cultural environment. In other words, it is actually US imperialism (“the highest stage of
capitalism”, according to Lenin) that has forced Philippine economy to be colonial and remain feudal in its socio-cultural conditionality. Noam Chomsky affirms that

“The goal of the imperial grand strategy is to prevent any challenge to the ‘power, position, and prestige of the United States.’ The quoted words are not those of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, or any of the other statist reactionaries who formulated the National Security Strategy of September 2002. Rather, they were spoken by the respected liberal elder statesman Dean Acheson in 1963.”

D. A Radical Dismantling of US Hegemonic Control: The Singular Saving Grace of Philippine Socio-Politico-Economic Milieu

In the face of this incontrovertible reality, the more enlightened sector of the population which consists of the proletariat, the petit bourgeois professionals, academics and businessmen, the progressive segment of the clergy, as well as the small entrepreneurs advocating national industrialization are the cutting edge to appropriately initiate and eventually realize a radical transformation of the sociocultural and economic dynamics that animate the present state of affairs of Philippine politics. In operational terms, this radical transformation is systemic and structural aimed at dismantling US hegemonic control over the Philippines as it becomes clearer that the most crucial issue at hand is the final and total achievement of the nation’s authentic sovereignty. How? When? These are the sixmillion- dollar questions we need to seriously consider next.

However, the better next step before we get to the “how” and “when” concerns is to look for concrete models of erstwhile colonies in the international community— countries that have defied, resisted, rebelled, fought and finally triumphed over their former colonial masters and are now sovereign in the most realistic sense of the word. It is of prime significance to realize that revolutionary actions leading to the final emancipation of a nation do not necessarily start off with the daring guts of the people but with a pure inspiration from which genuine courage is astonishingly developed even in the basest case of utter cowardice.

The most critical challenge at this point in time is for us to earnestly start looking for these models. This writer is of the opinion that they are just around.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, PhD

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“Aling diktadurya ang hihigit kaya
Sa pagsalaula at pambubusabos
Gaya ng imperyo ng Estados Unidos
Aling diktadurya? Wala na nga wala.”

(Paumanhin sa dakilang Gat Andres Bonifacio, bayani ng lahi at may-akda ng “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa”)

****************

Minsa’y sinabi ng dakilang Asyano, Mao Zedung, walang estado na walang diktadurya at maging ang pamahalaan sa isang tunay na demokratikong sambayanan na pinangungunahan ng abanteng sektor ng mga manggagawa ay isang diktadurya . . . diktadurya ng mga manggagawa (dictatorship of the proletariat). Isang kalagayang ang nagmamay-ari at namamahala ng mga paraan at kasangkapang pamproduksyong ekonomiko ay mismong ang mga mangagawa.

Sa isang matagumpay na kalagayan, ang ganitong kondisyon ay nagbubunga ng isang malakas na sambayanan sa larangan ng ekonomiya, pulitika, lipunan at kultura. Bunga nito ang isang sambayanang hindi gutom sa pagkain, mga mamamayang may sariling tahanan (at walang “informal settlers”), mataas na uri ng edukasyong laan sa lahat at walang bayad sa lahat ng antas, mataas na kalidad ng serbisyong medikal at pangkalusugan na walang bayad sa buong sambayanan.

Gaano man katindi ang demonisasyong isinasampal ng Estados Unidos sa bansang Cuba, ang mga kalagayang nabanggit ay maliwanag na isang realidad hindi sa Estados Unidos, hindi sa Pilipinas, kundi sa mismong bansang Cuba.

Kung mayroon mang isang matagumpay na bansang tunay na malaya, nagsasarili, demokratiko at may mataas na antas ng soberenya na dapat tingnan nating mga Pilipino, ang Cuba ay natatanging modelo.

“Aling pag-unlad pa ang hihigit kaya
Sa pagkakongkreto at pagkadakila
Gaya ng pag-unlad sa magiting na Cuba
Aling pagunlad pa? Tunay ngang wala na”

(Paumanhin muli sa dakilang Gat Andres Bonifacio, bayani ng lahi at may-akda ng “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa.”)

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Introduction

In the modern socio-political dispensation, national governments have assumed a direct hand in the economic development of countries as an act of providing order to endeavors and undertakings that purportedly aim to serve the well-being and improve the lives of people. It doesn’t however mean that governments have always been successful in achieving this explicitly pronounced intended purpose. Tadaro and Smith remark:

National governments have played an important role in the successful development experiences of the countries in East Asia. In other parts of the world, including some countries in Africa, Latin America and the Carribean, and the transition countries, government appears to have been more of a hindrance to development than a help, stifling the market rather than facilitating its role in growth and development.[1]

In developed countries where the broad majority experiences a life of relative contentment in a situation of economic prosperity, we find a narrow chasm that separates the rich and the poor. (In fact, “the poor” in a developing—or underdeveloped—society evokes an understanding different from what the same concept mean in a developed society.) We can imagine an ideal scenario of economic productivity generally driven by an enthusiastic group of entrepreneurs and an army of satisfied proletarians that spontaneously perform collaboratively, cooperatively and coordinately with less government policy intervention. As we have said, this is a situation conditioned by economic prosperity and hence social contentment. But on the opposite side, we can also imagine the breaking down of “the good life” in a comfortably prosperous setting as history reminds us of certain large-scale economic crises in emerging powers like the US of the early 20th century when the stock market crash of October 1929 led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the early 1990s, the US experienced another economic setback in the form of a recession. Another case in point was the economic crisis that hit South Asia also in the early 1990s heavily damaging the emerging economies of Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, and, in some ways, Malaysia. This is where we find government policy intervention reconsidered. The eminent economic guru of Nobel Prize in Economics fame, John Kenneth Galbraith, comments:

However intervention by the state may be condemned in the age of contentment, it has been relatively comprehensive when the interests of the contented are involved and relatively limited when the problems are those of the poor. In consequence, one may reasonably conclude that a recession or depression is much less likely to trigger redemptive government action than in the past. Intervention to provide employment and alleviate enhanced poverty and suffering is far less likely than hitherto. The contented electoral majority is or has been made relatively secure; it can watch the adversity elsewhere with sympathy but with no strong call for corrective measures.[2]

In this connection, it is at this point deemed important to critically examine the controversies that surround the relationships between government policy intervention and private market activities in the economic development process. In other words, we find the burden of our present concern in the area of realizing the contextual conditions that properly make relevant private market disposition on the one hand and government policy dispensation on the other. Todaro and Smith observe:

The problem is one of achieving the proper balance between private markets and public policy. In early years, a perception of the state as a benevolent supporter of development held sway, at least implicitly; but the record of corruption, poor governance, and state captive by vested interests, in so many developing countries over the past few decades, has made this view untenable as a “positive” or empirically accurate description of government. More recently, a negative view of government has predominated, but it too has been based more on theory than fact and has failed to explain the important and constructive role that the state has played in many successful development experiences, particularly in East Asia. Finally, a middle ground is emerging, recognizing both strengths and weaknesses of public and private roles, and providing a more empirically grounded analysis of what goes wrong with governance in development and the conditions under which these flaws can be rectified.[ 3]

A. Economic Planning

Todaro and Smith define economic planning “as a deliberate governmental attempt to coordinate economic decision making over the long run and to influence, direct, and in some cases even control the level and growth of a nation’s principal economic variables (income, consumption, employment, investment, saving, exports, imports, etc.) to achieve a predetermined set of development objectives.”[ 4] In economic planning, it is thus assumed that government plays an indispensable role to stabilize, normalize, and hence strengthen a country’s economy by regulating domestic economic activities as well as standardizing economic programs by way of certain policies intended to protect the general interests of the general public engaged in both areas of production and consumption. Todaro and Smith further note:

Proponents of economic planning for developing countries argued that the uncontrolled market economy can, and often does, subject these nations to economic dualism, fluctuating prices, unstable markets, and low levels of unemployment. In particular, they claimed that the market economy is not geared to the principal operational task of poor countries: mobilizing limited resources in a way that will bring about the structural change necessary to stimulate a sustained and balanced growth of the entire economy. Planning came to be accepted, therefore, as an essential and pivotal means of guiding and accelerating economic growth in almost all developing countries.[5]

A myriad studies done in various parts of the world on developing economies prove head over heels what proponents of economic planning claimed according to Todaro and Smith. In the case of Philippine economy, it is a somewhat more complicated matter considering that the Philippine society is basically semi-feudal and semi colonial whose economy is of mixed character, i.e., a mixed economy characteristic of a developing country. Mixed economies “are characterized by the existence of an institutional setting in which some of the productive resources are privately owned and operated and some are controlled by the public sector.”[6] Philippine “mixed economy” operates uniquely in a socio-political setting that renders obsolete the demarcation line separating the private and the public sectors.

Patronage politics has “legitimized” the entire socio-political landscape which is heavily controlled by the comprador big bourgeoisie and the big bureaucrat capitalists—the intertwined major economic force that has intensified economic dualism in the country. In this case, Philippine politics gets under the aegis of capitalist patrons, on the one hand, and Philippine economy, on the other hand, gets protected by the bureaucratic demigods. In the lecture “Crisis of the Semi-Feudal Economy” delivered by Prof. Jose Ma. Sison at the University of the Philippines in Diliman on 18 April 1986, Sison clarifies that “[t]he comprador big bourgeoisie is the dominant class in the relations of production. It determines the semi-feudal character of the economy. As the chief trading and financial agent of US monopoly capitalism, it lords over the commodity system and decides the system of production and distribution.”[7] The big bureaucrat capitalists, Sison further says, are “big compradors and big landlords who have stood our as such by using their public offices, privileges issued by the state, state banks, and state enterprises to amass private capital and land. In Philippine history, the most outstanding example of bureaucrat capitalism would be that of the fallen Marcos regime.”[8] In simple terms, it is not quite inaccurate to say that the Philippine socio-politico-economic formation is controlled by a conspiratorial powerhouse. Those in control of the economy are directly or indirectly the same people who call the political shots at least in the executive and legislative branches of government.

B. Calling for Deregulation?

Given this reality, the ideals of being simply emancipated from severely burdensome government regulations and control is definitely precluded. Such an ideal call is actually realized only in a democracy where those who truly control governance are the sovereign people whose political empowerment cannot be assailed by an elite block. What we have in the Philippines is a pseudo-democracy, a semblance or a simulacrum of popular rule wherein the mechanics of a democratic state are operational but the dynamics are certainly expressive of a habitus of subservience to the ruling elite. State bureaucrats cannot in whatever way open an iota of possibility to relinquish its tight grip on the economy and allow the flowering of high-level competition in domestic and commerce much less in industrial productivity.

But whatever the case maybe, government regulation will always play a necessary role even in the private markets of a liberally democratic country. Deregulation is therefore either an imagined alternative of a difficult road to travel on. Galbraith remarks:

But while government in general has been viewed as a burden, there have been, as will be seen, significant and costly exceptions from this broad condemnation. Excluded from criticism, needless to say, have been Social Security, medical care at higher income levels, from income supports and financial guarantees to depositors in ill-fated banks and savings and loan enterprises. These are strong supports to the comfort and security of the contented majority. No one would dream of attacking them, even marginally, in say electoral contest.[9]

Taking our lessons from the American experience, deregulation in several ways derailed major economic sectors so that in the fragile economy of a developing country like the Philippines, no concrete large-scale benefit can be had once we go the way of deregulation full-speed ahead. Galbraith informs us on how deregulation failed in US:

Perhaps the worst financial devastation has been the nation’s airlines. Here an ill-considered deregulation—faith once again in the market in a public-service industry where utility regulation is normal—has been combined with corporate raiding and leveraged buyouts on an impressive scale. The results have been heavy debt, the bankruptcy of several of the larger airlines, the folding up of Eastern Airlines and of Pan Am, a chaotic muddle of fares and available routes, an inability to replace aging equipment and, in the end, quite possibly an exploitative monopoly by the survivors.[10]

Further, Galbraith says:

Then with the age and culture of contentment, there came the new overriding commitment to laissez faire and the market and the resulting movement toward general deregulation. The commercial banks, once released from regulation, greatly increased the interest rates there available to depositors, which meant that if the similarly deregulated S&Ls were to compete, they would need to pa higher rates to their depositors. Sadly, however, these payments would have to be met by the low rates then in place on a large and passive inventory of earlier mortgage loans.[11]

In this connection, economic planning and hence government regulation is reaffirmed at this point buttressed by the realization of the fact that the imperfect market, like government, fails. Todaro and Smith point out the “three general forms in which market failure can be observed: The market cannot function properly or no market exists; the market exists but implies an inefficient allocation of resources; and the market produces undesirable results as measured by social objectives other than the allocation of resources. Market failures can occur in situations in which social costs or benefits differ from the private costs or benefits of firms or consumers; public goods, externalities, and market power are the best known examples.”[12]

C. What About Privatization?

We now focus our attention on fully-regulated, wholly-owned and exclusively-controlled government corporations whose service instrumentalities are aimed to facilitate the public in terms of power sourcing and distribution, water and sewage management, transportation conveyances, and communication deliveries. In the Philippine context certain areas of public facilitation have already been transferred to private ownership, operation and control.

Generally, the only expressed rationale for the privatization of state-owned public service facilities is to fully enhance and upgrade the efficiency and effectiveness factors in the delivery of said services to the public. The obvious picture the whole situation leaves us with is a grossly ineffective, inefficient, mismanaged and absolutely corrupt government system that in the final analysis is going nowhere but to the dogs. At the end of the day, no one is the loser except the Filipino people themselves who have been led to a dark road of confusion and uncertainty because at this very point of their so-called national life, they have no one to turn to. On the one hand, government is so inefficient and hence unreliable. In other words, we cannot expect genuine public service from government whose main interest is focused largely on the self-gratification of its people. And that is precisely the reason why government has failed miserably to manage its responsibilities to the public. In well-managed and highly efficient governments of developed countries—and this I personally experienced in some Scandinavian countries I visited—there is an explicit performance of responsible public service in major state-owned instrumentalities of facilitation like in transportation, communication, water and sewage management, and power provision.

On the other hand, once public service facilities have been handed over to the private sector, the people are now faced with monopoly capitalism in operation and a developing country like the Philippines will inevitably be swallowed by the mouth of intensifying poverty considering the fact that the privatization of public service facilities may only be effected in negotiation with well-entrenched comprador big bourgeoisie in the land. The main concern, therefore, of the owners of these privatized public service corporations is the classic capitalist objective of profit-generation through exorbitant service charges to which the people cannot complain at all.

D. Leveling the Field through Decentralization

The late eminent German-turned-British economist and social critic of the 70s, Ernst F. Schumacher, entitled his bestseller Small is Beautiful. It could be construed to have created an impetus for big-deal thinkers to reconsider their vantage point and place more importance on the depth and high-definition projection of small, specific concerns of human life. So that even on the issue of social, political, and economic problematizations, both academic and professional theorists have learnt to value and appreciate the beauty of small things. In a more serious tone, the whole pattern of movement at this juncture is form the enormity of central concerns o the specificity of definite locales by way of a decentralized approach. Decentralization de-complicates—simplifies, in simple terms, of course—processes with absolutely no details sacrificed. It is a zeroing into definite issues and concerns that are genuinely meaningful to real people directly affected in actual contexts. Looking back to economic planning, decentralization simplifies it and makes it more relevant to the recipients. In connection with deregulation and privatization, they seem to become insignificant concerns in the face of decentralization.

Gunnar Myrdal of Asian Drama and Nobel Prize in Economics fame explains decentralization as “a synonym [of democratic planning] especially in reference to political self-government within units smaller than the state. The basic idea is that of organized corporation between people in the same region or locality, or in the same industry or occupation.”[13] Myrdal beforehand establishes the notion that decentralization is actually democratic planning which according o him “is a term that is popular in South Asia. It embraces many ideas, but the most prominent are the following: First, ‘democratic planning’ is held to mean that planning and the policies coordinated in the plans should enlist not only the support of the masses but also their active participation in preparing and implementing planning. Secondly, it is generally held to mean that this popular participation and cooperation should emerge voluntarily so that state policies can be carried out without regimentation or coercion.”[14]

Todaro and Smith’s concurrence revitalizes the notion of decentralization even in the 21st century:

Decentralization has long been a long-term trend in developed countries. . . . Decentralization has been steadily gaining momentum in most European countries. . . .

Recently, trends toward decentralization and greater urban self-government have been growing in the developing world as democracy has spread in Latin America, East Europe, and elsewhere, and the political process has allowed for providing greater autonomy, notably more fiscal autonomy, for regional and local levels of government. . . .[15]

The entire decentralized situation in governance strongly encourages citizens’ participation in crucial decision-making undertakings which will spontaneously and ultimately dissolve in time national government’s serious trouble with deregulation and privatization because a decentralized state of affairs realizes the demands of either deregulation or privatization. The celebrated futurist John Naisbitt attests to this as decentralization was actually experienced by Americans in the early 1980s:

The failure of centralized, top-down solutions has been accompanied by a huge upsurge in grassroots political activity everywhere in the United States. Some 20 million Americans are now organized around issues of local concern. About 25 percent of the population of any neighborhood in the country say they are members of a neighborhood group. Neighborhood groups are becoming powerful and demanding greater participation in decision making.[16]

Conclusion

Considering the geographical formation of the Philippines being an archipelago, decentralization of governance in a decentralized political, administrative, fiscal, and market sectors is a challenging matter worthy of serious study. On a positive note, Philippine economic development could truly be a matter of exciting consideration if reckoned in a decentralized landscape which will ultimately make obsolete the hegemonic power of “Manila imperialism” and in the process spawn the seeds of real economic growth in a multiplicity of centers across the archipelago from Batanes to Sulu.

However, there is no easy road to complete decentralization. What we are faced with at this point in time is an awful array of difficulties in the realm of culture that surely hinders us to fully get to the smooth terrain of successful decentralization.

© Ruel F. Pepa, PhD, Zetetics Research Center for Asia

NOTES:

[1] Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith, Economic Development (8th Edition), (Singapore: Pearson Education South Asia Pte Ltd, 2003), p. 679.
[2] John Kenneth Galbraith, The Culture of Contentment, (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992), p. 162.
[3] Todaro and Smith, pp. 679-680.
[4] Ibid., p. 681.
[5] Loc. Cit.
[6] Ibid., pp. 681-682.
[7] Ruel F. Pepa and Dennis Paul P. Guevarra, A Compendium of Readings in Philippine History: A Critico-Transformative Approach, (Quezon City: Trinity College of Quezon City, 2006), p 139.
[8] Ibid., p. 140.
[9] Galbraith, p. 23.
[10] Ibid., pp. 57-58.
[11] Ibid., p. 62.
[12] Todaro and Smith, p. 683.
[13] Gunnar Myrdal, Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations (Abridged Edition), (New York: Vintage Books, 1971), p. 169.
[14] Ibid., p. 168.
[15] Todaro and Smith, p. 714.
[16] John Naisbitt, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1982, 1984), p. 121.

 

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