20 August 2006

Decentralization and the atomization of the Filipino nation

IT WAS a punishing week facilitating three sectoral planning workshops (four, if not for the postponement of this afternoon's session with the Youth sector for tomorrow morning) between a long scheduled check-up of a daughter at the National Children Hospital in Quezon City. Thus far, we have already covered eight, the most recent with the Senior Citizens last Friday. But work has not been toxic; it was fascinating to start a conversation with people who care deeply for their city, and the sector they represent.

So let me start this week with my take on the recent failed impeachment bid, albeit a largely expected one, with two dishonorable Bikolano representatives, Luis Villafuerte and Edcel Lagman, outdoing each other as hitmen of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. How come the Filipino people are again sitting through this bloody murder idly by?

I think it has to do more with the ever growing distance between Imperial Manila and the goings on in the corridors of power of the central government on the one hand, and the individual citizen on the other. There is just no connection anymore, so why care? The great difficulties notwithstanding, the poor are mostly able to scrape it whether a pretender is in Malacañang or not.

Atomization, I believe, is how experts call it. And what is ironic about it is that decentralization seems to have accelerated it. Nowadays, citizens deal with their barangay captain, either the municipio or city hall, and then the capitolio or the office of the congressman, in that sequence, when they need to get things done for them or on behalf of their community. That is the automatic reaction; nowhere does Malacañang come into the picture, notwithstanding the Philhealth cards, the land title distribution and all other gimmicks being cooked up by Mike Defensor, Toting Bunye and the other palace lackeys.

Malacañang is the magic word—but only for the congressman, the loyal governors and mayors and their coterie of contractors, the generals and their hangers on, and the businessmen who wants the inside track in some sleazy deals being cooked up. But never for the ordinary citizen.

I think it will only begin to matter again if we get to have a president that is able to inspire, able to bridge our social divides, and able to make the lowly Filipino feel important again and hopeful of the future beyond his daily survival needs.