Power Concentration

40 families control 76% of the wealth in the Philippines. These families dominate politics because of their resources and influence and the way that our electoral process favors candidates who can spend the most funds. So unless we change how we elect our politicians, elections are always going to be an exercise in futility—a choice between the silent, yellow oppression of agricultural oligarchs or the overt, red oppression of violent populists.

I don’t know the answer though. Is it a parliamentary form of government where only ministers are directly elected to avoid the popularity trap, or campaign fund caps to avoid the graft and corruption trap?

Symbols of Oppression

Is the symbol more important than the actuality?

The Philippine flag is a symbol. The national anthem is a symbol. But are they more important than the actual country?

So how come we’ve decided that it’s a good idea to arrest 34 people for not standing up when the national anthem was played in the cinema?

It would be like burning a map of Luzon and getting arrested as if you actually burned Luzon. Shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime?

What is the wisdom of spending precious national resources to monitor, arrest, process, and even imprison (yes, imprison!) these people when they could be out there making a living as productive citizens of the country?

So they disrespected the anthem. Meanwhile, other people who are actually disrespecting the country by littering, stealing, and defecating on our economy are enjoying themselves to high heaven.

What is the wisdom of forcing people to go through the motions of nationalism out of fear that they would be robbed of their liberty? Does it improve the economic conditions and quality of life of the nation?

It’s good to be patriotic, but if you’re doing it because you fear fines or prison, that’s not patriotism.

Philippine Drug War Metrics

In business, the metrics you focus on and incentivize determine how the organization behaves. Are you looking at the end result or vanity metrics that may not actually make a difference?

In the Philippine drug war, what’s our measure of success? If it’s arrests and seizures, doesn’t that encourage our police to meet arrest quotas? Isn’t there something seriously wrong about the idea of needing to arrest X number of people per month to look successful?

Shouldn’t we be looking at real metrics like morbidity (illnesses), mortality (overdoses), and rates of abuse? The question is: are they going down using the current method?

Unity is Disastrous

On August 7, 1997, Korean Air Flight 801 crashed into a hill, killing 228 of the 254 people on board. According to the investigation, one of the causes was the “the first officer’s and flight engineer’s failure to effectively monitor and cross-check the captain’s execution of the approach.” In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell theorizes that they failed to do so out of respect for authority and fear of upsetting their leader.

While there are other factors at play in the story, there are lessons here for the Philippine nation. Our leaders are human and fallible, no matter how noble they may seem. There are those arguing that we must stop questioning, shut up and keep quiet in order for us to progress.

That thinking is misguided. As in the Air Flight story, blind obedience can lead to catastrophic outcomes. “Obey and never complain” is a recipe for disaster. Criticism hurts, but constructive feedback is a way to improve.

What do you call an organization that does not allow any dissent and expects absolute obedience to its tenets and the will of its leader? A cult. A whirlpool of destruction.

But criticism and debate doesn’t have to be hurtful. As a country of 100 million minds, it’s inevitable that we would have diverse perspectives. We all want a nation where every citizen enjoys a good quality of life. We just differ in how we think that can be achieved.

I believe we can learn how to engage better by learning how to argue better. Enough of false dichotomies where criticizing Duterte means liking Aquino and vice versa. Enough of black and white thinking where all the policies of our favorite party are good and all the policies of the opposing party are bad. Enough of ad hominems attacking the messenger. More evidence-based and data-driven thinking.

No, we don’t need less criticism. What we need is more critical thinking. Independence means having the responsibility to think for ourselves.