Haiti’s Misfortune like Ours: What Have We Learned?

Decades of power for those whose intentions circle around enriching themselves and robbing the people of what is due them: the reality of poor countries who just keep getting poorer. In the aftermath of the magnitude 7 on the Richter scale earthquake that hit Haiti, international governments and media are asking questions as to why the massive collapse of major and presumably more secure structures happened, along with the others which were public business centers and private residences. The truth, as legal experts in Haiti say, is that the funds for these buildings were taken, forcing the purchase and use of sub-standard materials. There are concrete proofs pinpointing to 30 years of using the national funds as personal purse by the Duvaliers, the family of Haiti’s dictator from the 1950s up to the rise of his son who succeeded him. 

The Philippines has seen how much damage a dictatorship can do especially in terms of protecting human rights and human life. The uncertainty of people’s present and future remains the biggest threat from a government of terror and singular control, all for the benefit of the rich and powerful few.

The advent of People Power which toppled the Marcos regime was indeed a national moment of triumph. It not only proved that Filipino can truly unite and fight for freedom but also emphasized their nationalistic fervor. Twenty four years after, most of us find ourselves still struggling through the social and economic downturn and the few, though with new faces, remain. 

Last year’s natural calamities of great flooding and landslides caused by super typhoons that hit the country showed that the poor are bigger in number and are less capable of helping themselves. Man made or otherwise, this poor sector bears the greatest social cost of disasters due to government dysfunction through the decades.

It is true that people and government have to get their acts together to make a successful nation. When government is so centralized, so is power. When people are truly empowered, they need to have a share of the material resources of the nation in order to take care of the social resources. Decentralization has been forwarded to be a more reliable arrangement for a healthy democracy to flourish. Let’s try to work on it.

February Political Campaign: Love Your People!

It is amazing how much “concern” political candidates try to show to the voting public during campaign time. Also, it looks superfluous and as packaged as any product being advertised in the mass media. As much as information is truly essential to voter’s education, these ads offer little for the public to base their decisions on.

Since it’s February or what we designate as love month, let’s see how we can interpolate this “show of affection” from our leaders-to-be in a fun way at the same time in a “think about it” way.

  • “Nasubukan mo na bang maligo sa dagat ng basura?”
Figuratively speaking, all of us have experienced how it is to find ourselves in need when we’re in a mess or when times are just filled with trash and shit. But, resilient and smart people as we are, we cannot deny that there were moments in that “basura” state when we were happy – we were able to reflect on  just the basics of life and how much we don’t really need. We needed the “basura”, in a way. But let’s say someone comes to rescue us and picks us up from the trash. And after, who knows? Not all who dump trash on you are bad, and not all who get you out of it are good.

  • “Ipagpatuloy natin ang laban.”
We have been struggling for the longest time. But this time we want a fight against the economic downturn with a big chance to make it. What we need are the tools to continue the fight. We want to see an integrated “armory” that will educate our young for an employable future right here in our land, to upscale the compensation of our workers along with their skills that will help our nation in great volumes and not all the nations of the world in trickles as overseas contract workers. We want all families to have their own homes and nutritious food on their tables. The true fight for the future is the one that will make every Filipino child healthy and happy. But for now, we won’t be able to do that with just a flame from a torch.

  • “Di natutulog ang Pasko.”
We all want Christmas or any day most like it: everyone in high spirit of giving, sharing, and celebrating. It’s great to feel you are loving and being loved in return. Quite frankly, there is nothing I know that describes the day as unwanted, not needed, or not important. However, loving takes much more work than any other act I know. It means knowing and understanding the person, acknowledging his/her needs and helping out to meet those needs. It gives you no other option but have in your heart and soul the best interest of the person you love. It is the ultimate sacrifice. And anyone can love- the president, the doctor in the office, the worker in the factory, the farmer in the field, and the peddler in the street.

Development Communication for Leaders

One crucial responsibility of government leaders is to make their constituents understand how they make decisions over issues critical to the existence of the community, whether it is over the management of wastes or the rehabilitation of cultural structures. It is an unfortunate observation that leaders, as representatives of the people, fail to undertake the first step in the decision-making process: know what the people think and what they need. This requires consensus-building among the various sectors within the community which provides the data upon which the leaders may base their decisions on. When this first step is ignored, the following assumptions are likely to arise:
  • The leaders underestimate the ability of their constituents to talk about and make known their ideas and recommendations on what to do with the issue at hand.  
  •  The leaders do not have the skills to organize the community, discuss important matters with their constituents, and form consensus.
  •  The leaders have hidden agenda
Inevitably, results from this communication failure include strong reaction from the people, and understandably so. They took the risk in electing the leaders, hoping that they (leaders) will come up to the standards of being true public servants. The worst thing the leaders can do is to challenge their constituents as a reaction to public sentiment.

Leadership entails a reasonable amount of knowledge, a lot of skills, and a lot more positive attitude than what the traditional politician or the naive newcomer will ever imagine. Catching up with a fast-changing social and economic environment here and abroad truly becomes a leader's greatest challenge. Survive or perish, but for a better place for all.