King Chris

If I were King of the Philippines...

I would...

Implement a functional family planning program. The Philippines population continues to grow at a horrific annual rate of 2.5%, yet every time I read about a legislator introducing any kind of family planning education bill in the Philippine Congress, it gets shot down straightaway by The Church.

Implement Land Reform. There are millions of landless peasants in the Philippines who generally pay their rent by giving the landlord half of their harvested crop. Meanwhile, a succession of Presidents have given lip service to a national land reform agency that has never given much land away. Many economists agree that bonafide land reform is an important step towards achieving sustainable economic development.

Foster peace between the Catholics and the Muslims. Beginning under the Spanish, the Catholics have been at war with the Muslims here for... going on 500 years now. In Mindanao, aggressive intentional colonization and immigration by Catholics from the north of the country have pushed the impoverished Muslims into a relatively small area. I think the initiative for peace needs to come from the Christian side....they have most of the guns and virtually all the political and economic power.

End war with the NPA (New People's Army.) This war too has been going on for decades, with an estimated 20,000 armed NPA guerrillas fighting a much larger Philippine army. Peace negotiations are stalemated, with bad faith on both sides.

Reform the BIR. The Bureau of Internal Revenue is one of the most corrupt agencies in the government and contributes hugely to the shortfall in government inflows (corrupt BIR bureaucrats allow rich individuals and corporations to avoid taxes in trade for "personal favors"; the country is the net loser.)

Reform the military. The armed forces are disgruntled; witness the succession of coup attempts over the past twenty years. Yet the high brass seem to retire with huge portfolios of personal savings and U.S. real estate, an amazing feat considering their relatively small salaries.

Quit the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Membership in these multilateral monetary institutions has been a colossal disaster for the country. Pushing the well-worn mantra of “Liberalize, deregulate and privatize”, these three agencies have hindered real economic development in the Philippines while helping to enrich carniverous transnational corporations and saddle the nation with an unpayable national debt of five trillion Pesos ($94 billion U.S.) Enough!

Stop Privatization. The Philippines continues to privatize public agencies like utilities providers, resulting in deterioration of essential public services and spiraling costs while the successful private bidders reap windfall profits.

End Impunity. No members of the military or police forces in the Philippines have ever been brought to trial for human rights abuses.

Justice for victims of Marcos. Thousands died under his reign of terror, and tens of thousands of surviving victims have never received a single peso compensation in spite of the government having recovered millions of dollars of Marcos assets. Hundreds of killers and torturers from the Marcos era are still at large and pursuing their well-honed craft. There has never been a truth commission to allow national reconciliation.

Immediate freeze on commercial development of food-growing agricultural lands. The Philippines is already a net food importer, and high population growth coupled with greedy developers filling in rice fields to build malls and warehouses is a national tragedy which exacerbates the food self-sufficiency problem.

Give Filipinos a stake in their own country. Standing with a crowd of Filipinos during the playing of the national anthem is a sad experience, because very few of those present sing along. Still, I have an idea why they might feel that way: this country is run by and for a tiny minority who enrich themselves at the public trough while leaving the masses to toil endlessly with no hope of reward. Why love your country?

Outlaw kings.

(March 2006)