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We need Grace like we need a hole in the head

She may be a nice and decent person, all right. But, as an analogy, when a nice and decent passenger insists on taking over the job of captain of the ship you’re a passenger in, let alone her claims of qualifications to do so, wouldn’t you be angry with her?

The analogy may be stretched, but being chief executive officer of this unwieldy Republic – wracked by conflicts, the moneyed few mocking its systems, its poorest dying of starvation and disease – is certainly more difficult than captaining a passenger ship.

And if this listing ship sinks, its present passengers wouldn’t be the only ones condemned. This present generation wouldn’t be left alone suffering but future generations are bound as well to suffer the aftermath of such disaster.

It’s not an exaggeration at all to say that our country is in such a deep, deep quagmire, economically, politically and even culturally.

Remittances from overseas workers have been the engine of growth for the economy over the past two decades. The huge successes of such enterprises as the malls, the mobile phone firms, the automobile distributors, can really be all traced to the flood of money-to-be-spent sent by overseas workers.

Except for the business-process outsourcing industry started by President Arroyo more than a decade ago, there isn’t any new type of sunrise industry on the horizon that could replace the OFW dollars. Workers’ real wages (i.e., adjusted for inflation) have been falling for the last decade, and we don’t have a clue—with a runaway population growth swelling their ranks—how to help them, who make up 70 percent of the citizenry. Do we have a plan—the last one was land reform from decades ago —to redistribute income in our country, whose inequality is among the worst in the world?

The coconut industry, on which most of our farmers depend for a living, is dying, and nobody has come up with a plan how to save it with our limited resources, as it would require either a massive replanting program or giving up that kind of crop.

I could go on and on with the deep structural problems of our economy.

And then there are the immediate problems. How do we extricate ourselves, for instance, from the hole this stupid administration has pushed us into with regard to our relationship with China? Do we really want the role he imposed on us as the world’s champion against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea? How then do we handle the situation in which a full 25 percent of our trade is with China? Are we prepared to have one-fourth of our total trade be suspended as the price to pay by being China’s nemesis in this part of the globe?

The massive dole-out scheme called conditional cash-transfer program has totaled P250 billion in the past five years. Of course all studies would show that it’s been “successful.” If you gave out money, the recipients would certainly be happy, as the studies show, and they’d comply with the program’s requirements for them to keep their children in elementary school.

But what if, instead of giving them the P250 billion, these funds were used to set up factories, or to be concrete about it with an example, construct a subway along EDSA or install commuter trains from Metro Manila to adjacent provinces? Wouldn‘t those kinds of projects funded by the P250 billion generate more employment and encourage investment so that the poor wouldn’t need to rely on dole-outs because they’d be able to get proper jobs?

What are we going to do with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), after this stupid president offered them their own territory and armed forces, which Congress saw through and, therefore, refused to legislate? Are we preparing for war, which I think the MILF would launch even if only to force the government to the negotiating table?

How do we solve the horrendous traffic problem, which would get worse and worse unless new light rail systems are built now? How do we stop millions of poor Filipinos migrating to metropolitan Manila, making it one of the densest – and dirtiest – metropolises on earth?

How do we reform Congress, which has precipitously degenerated under this Administration – which can even be bought to remove a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

How do we reform the present political system – which, after Cory Aquino dismantled the two-power system – has become really party-less and thus, extremely vulnerable to celebrity politics?

I could go on and on, and I haven’t even touched how barren our modern culture has been, how notions of citizenship have all vanished so that many young people even boast that they are “citizens of the world” – a fiction, or at least one if you aren’t a billionaire who doesn’t need the protection of a state.

The point I’m trying to make: What kind of discussions have emerged since Mrs. Llamanzares announced her bid for power, what sort of topics have columnists, who are supposed to enlighten the citizenry, been compelled to write thousands and thousands of words about?

Her goddamn citizenship.

With all the problems of this country, we have had to debate whether she is a natural born citizen allowed to be president. We really need her in our national discourse like we need a hole in the head. If there were any questions on her citizenship, she should have been decent enough not to embroil this country into such really useless discussions.

We won’t even ever use in the future all the information fed to us on the issue of her goddamn citizenship – what’s natural born and what’s a naturalized citizen, the UN convention on foundlings, the supremacy or not of international agreements over national laws. The discourse would even later on have to be philosophical and psychological, like what drives Filipinos to think that somebody with little experience in government could lead the country to prosperity.

Llamanzares is right when she said she’d continue what her father FPJ has started, which was first, to make citizenship an issue in a presidential election, and second, to exploit the biggest weakness of democracy, which is the masses’ confusion over image – especially celebrity personae – their inability to distinguish that from reality, and the vulnerability to demagogues, especially if they’re mestizas.

Goddamn. I’ve had to write still another column on a candidate for president who really shouldn’t be one. Aaargh!

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