By Harvey Keh
LAST March, I was invited as commencement speaker of the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) in Zamboanga City, one of the biggest state universities in the Philippines. During my brief stay, I was able to sit down and talk with some student leaders. I started our discussion with a question. “Who among you here still believes and supports President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?” I asked. About a third of them raised their hands. “Who among you here wants the President to resign and step down?” I continued. About half of them raised their hands. I pressed on and asked again, “Who among you here are still undecided?” still some few raised their hands. But when I asked, “Who among you here wants change and reforms in our country and government?” All of them raised their hands.
When I got back to Manila, I held the same discussion with some student leaders from Miriam College in Quezon City and I got a similar response. What am I trying to say?
1. Yes, our country is divided on how we view President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. You have, on one side, a group supporting Arroyo despite all the anomalies, allegations of corruption and scandals that have rocked her administration, while on the other, you have groups and highly-influential leaders that have called for her immediate resignation and ouster from power.
2. However, it seems that judging from my experiences in dealing with these student leaders, the people I talk to and the e-mail I get from Filipinos here and abroad, we all want to see positive and lasting change and reforms happen.
That is why I think that if we want to help in bringing our nation together towards a common vision to move our country forward, this unity should not be based on certain personalities like President Arroyo or other politicians. Rather, we need to work together towards building, strengthening and transforming our democratic institutions. That would make them more responsive to the needs of the poor and the powerless in our communities.
Isn’t it sad that we are now facing a food crisis when we were once one of the world’s top agricultural countries? This could be an indirect effect of the almost 800-million-peso fertilizer scam that was allegedly used to fund President Arroyo’s election. If it was used properly and for the right purpose, then we might not be facing this crisis now or if we do, the effect wouldn’t be as worse.
We at Team RP believe that a fight for change and reforms continues regardless of who becomes the president, vice-president, senators, congressmen, etc. We are doing this because we believe that many of our government leaders have failed us and that its time for all of us to take control of our own future and work together for that genuine and lasting change that we all want to see in our country.
Let’s quit making excuses, being inactive, hopeless, indifferent and whiny; these all amount to nothing if we ourselves don’t participate in proactive solutions. 2010 is a big deal for all of us. We will vote for the Philippines’ next top leader in less than two years. Our decision on who will lead us to progress and prosperity is a very important one that could potentially change the course of the country’s future.
Change is now. Hope lies not in our country’s leaders and those in power but in every Filipino. Change does not happen overnight, but when we work together, it can happen in 22 months.
IamChange2010 is a joint project of the Ateneo de Manila School of Government and Team RP. It aims to get the young Filipinos to register and vote in the coming 2010 presidential elections and educate them on the various issues concerning elections. For inquiries, you may also contact Kai at +63 2 4265657.