Is the Philippines Poised for Another "People Power" Revolt?

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Posted July 22, 2005

Fueled by massive street rallies in Metro Manila, the news media in the Philippines is focused on the mounting pressure on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign, or face impeachment.

Ten of her cabinet secretaries have withdrawn their support from her by tendering their resignations. Of course, if the military establishment continues to support her she may hold on to power indefinitely.

What is the cause of this recent crisis? Partly, it is the widespread perception that in the last national election President Arroyo's supporters employed the "Dagdag-Bawas" scheme [the padding and shaving of votes] to insure her win over her top contender, Fernando Poe, Jr.

Initial suspicion of voter irregularities was later confirmed when tape-recorded phone conversations between her and an Elections Commissioner became public knowledge. Finally, a few days ago, she publicly apologized for her "lapse of judgment" but her credibility had already been critically damaged.

In the Philippines it is common knowledge that during the Commonwealth Government period (1935-1946) the first President Manuel Quezon in his fervent quest for immediate independence said: "I would rather have a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos, than a Philippines run like heaven by Americans." Sadly those famous words were grossly misinterpreted by many to mean lowering their personal ethical standards of honest conduct. That was not his intent. But his words have been twisted out of context and used to justify unethical standards to the point that corruption is now regarded as "endemic" to this nation.

The fruit of this malady is evident in the economic decline from the Commonwealth period to the present. During that time, the nation had a dollar to peso exchange rate of $1 = P2. It has since deteriorated to about $1 = P55. Also, during that period some Japanese and Chinese men would even come to work in this country as gardeners or cooks. Now, in contrast, our Filipino women go to Japan or Hong Kong to work as "entertainers" or domestic helpers.

In the light of this present crisis, the relationship of national morality to political order and economic welfare was recently highlighted in a public statement by the very influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Issued on July 10, 2005, it reads in part: "At the center of the crisis is the issue of moral value ... The people mistrust our economic institutions … whose lack of moral compass produces for our people a life of grinding dehumanizing poverty. They also mistrust ... our political system. This mistrust is not recent. For a long time now, while reveling in political exercises, our people have shown a lack of trust in political personalities, practices, and processes. Elections are often presumed tainted rather than honest. Congressional and senate hearings are sometimes narrowly confined to procedural matters and often run along party lines ..."

Over many decades, in spite of valiant efforts to correct this situation by some well-meaning, sincere administrators as well as ethical and honorable citizens, the problem has remained widespread. It is so entrenched that even sincere governmental attempts to make a meaningful dent in those corrupt practices have shown little effect.

What's the solution?

We need higher standards for our individual and national morality. This need is not limited to the Philippines. It is a global need. And i mprovement must begin at the level of the individual citizen.

The Bible explains, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs:14:34). It also gives us this insight and advice "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan" (Proverbs:29:2).

God's Ten Commandments provide the moral principles that make or break individuals and nations—depending on whether they apply or ignore them. They are active, living laws just like the law of gravity. The God who gave them tells those who would serve Him to "... to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD ... for your good" (Deuteronomy:10:12-13).

Where do you stand? Does your life reflect those ethical principles that make a righteous, law-abiding community? Are you a part of your nation's ethical problem, or are you a part of its solution. Do you know how to apply God's commandments to the situations you face day by day?

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