Mar 6, 2008

[Philippines] We Need to Learn to Trust Again

Flickr: Bikoy - Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally
Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally
by Bikoy.

Filipinos no longer trust government.

That statement may seem both unfairly sweeping and terribly true at the same time. On my end, I'm not referring to just our present government under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but to the institution as a whole. Some might say that we never really got over the Marcos regime and the first People Power revolution didn't necessarily change things - it only marked the beginning of our ability to now freely express our distrust.

When the Marcoses left the country, our problems didn't go with them. In fact, new ones became added to the mix and as the years have passed, more and more we seem to be fueling these darker fires, using the cry of eternal vigilance to justify paranoia and increasing levels of fear and skepticism.

When I say that we don't trust out government as an institution, what I'm referring to is that we no longer believe in due process and allow the wheels of government to work anymore. Because of the extraordinary abuses we experienced at the hands of the Marcos regime, we are always thinking that we won't be able to resort to legal means of protecting our rights and thus the first instinct becomes to return to the streets and make our causes know there. Why can't people learn to trust again? Like in any relationship, I'll admit that trust has to be ultimately earned, but in the love-hate relationship of the Filipino with their government, we also need to learn to gamble some of that trust first and let the government prove itself.

We are now some of the harshest critics in existence. All it takes is the slightest mistake and we get into our professional rallying mode and create the placards, construct the effigies, have T-shirts made and create inventive chants and slogans to be shouted throughout the day.

We always claim that our government officials are corrupt or have hidden agendas and thus the official rulings on impeachment complaints are always touted as false or biased. We don't believe in the Office of the Ombudsman since we claim their just government flunkies who cannot make impartial decisions. More and more we claim increasing areas of government are corrupt, tainted or untrustworthy and where will that ultimately leave us?

At times I feel that from the view of the international community, we are a nation on the brink of anarchy. We seem to be trying to develop a habit of ousting our leaders whenever we feel displeased or not all political or social groups are satisfied by the decisions of those in power. That just reeks of political instability, which naturally rattles investor confidence and triggers travel alerts and official diplomatic warnings all saying the same thing - we're an uncertain and volatile country.

I'm not defending any of our past presidents / governments here, nor am I trying to make a statement about whether this allegation or that is true. What I am saying is that we need to start restoring the power derived from trusting our government as an institution. We might not always be satisfied by their decisions or their results but if we constantly seek extra-constitutional means to resolve our issues, then we'll never have a government that we can rely on. If we always choose not to trust, then the government will never be free to exercise its powers to make all of our lives better nor will it ever be given the chance to rise to the challenge we present.

We need to break the cycle before it's too late.


  1. ...and such is the reason, strangely, that i admire marcos. he left a culture of distrust in our society that even generations later, we are still mired in.

    but on a more serious note, thank you for writing incisively on this matter. i have always held the belief that what we have now is a culture of grievances and distrust. but who can blame the people for having this?

    what i think is happening, is a sort of check-and-balance.

    we do have a corrupt government, pretty obvious enough. and a big chunk of our people are pretty much easily bent towards the whims and caprices of some self-serving politicos from the opposition. however, a much bigger portion and the decisive segment of our populace that can move decisions are the quiet middle class.

    i feel that this bigger portion is just silently holding back. we don't want anymore rallies, anymore anarchist movements. we simply want the system we have voted for to work.

    the corrupt government and the malleable crowds manipulated by an equally dubious opposition throwing stones at each other, they're both bound to implode on one another eventually creating a balance for the system to work. i simply wish it happens soon or else, well... baka pulutin na tayo sa kangkungan.

  2. I'm glad you appreciated what I had to say and it's comforting to know there are other people who aren't overly swept up in the current theatrics of the latest scandal.

    I'm not sure how things are gong to turn out just yet, but Marcos must indeed be laughing from wherever the heck he is.