When World War II ended in 1945, our country was left battered, almost barren, badly beaten and desolate. The colossaldestruction left a population orphaned and miserable. 73 years later, the same condition, except for a few token improvements, is still obtaining in the greater part of the country. While there is a semblance of development in urban areas, the same blight, post war profile can still be seen in the countryside. We have remained undeveloped.
I could just take a glance on what happened in South Korea after the Korean War in 1953. During the same period, Taiwan was full of bicycles and Army trucks flanking the streets with tile-roofed housing units. Kuala Lumpur then was a small village surrounded by jungle and Bangkok was an area with crisscrossing canals. Singapore at that time was merely a backwater. It took a few years when these countries would turn the table, grabbed the tiger’s tail and became developed.
After Indonesia got its independence in 1949, it advanced only 114 university graduates compared with thousands of PhDs in our country given the same timeline. In the 50s and 60s, we were the most envied and coveted country in Southeast Asia. Our Asian neighbors were flocking to our schools to study. Their generals got their diplomas in our Military Academy. Their experts in agriculture came from our education institutions. We were almost there. But that was yesteryear. After the war, the best and brightest struggled to reach the apex of their commitment, became leaders and tried to attain affluence for the greater population. But prosperity never came to be.
Now, we are left behind by South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore… even war torn Vietnam.
What really happened?
The explanation according to economists is basic: Our government did not inspire the production of cheaper and better products. As a matter of fact, our economy had been overtaken by smuggled products until we became a nation of consumers, buyers of products made from abroad. Worst, even pins and needles, simple barbs at that are made in China! Our government incompetently slowed down and forgot to modernize fast enough consigning the people to poverty.
Japan and Taiwan, both suffered tremendous losses after the War, pursued agrarian reformseriously thereby releasing the energies of landlords who in turn became entrepreneurs, the forerunners of change, and the moving spirit behind industrialization and mass production. Our best and brightest politicianson the other hand personified by Recto and Tanada merely advocated Anti-American sentiments and skipped land reform.
Then came patronage politics with its double-headed creatures, cronyism and corruption. It came as a curse, a situation considered wasteful which our elected representatives allowed or tolerated itsexistence because of loyalty to family or friend and not to the larger good. It damaged everything even our culture.
There were options available before, the so called nationalist revolution, a continuation of the rumble in 1896. And, through the complex process of education, the same line Rizal promoted when confronted with revolutionaries during his time. We have virtually circumvented these considerations. 1968 First Quarter Storm failed to bring about the nationalist revolution and our educational system today is as commercial and too servile to stimulate creativity. We have western education as patterns. In USA, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg had to drop out in college to succeed.
There is only one option left if only for our nation to wiggle itself out of poverty. Yes, it’s political. Yes, the solution lies at the leadership, the no non-sense, frank, at times tactless leadership of Duterte. He may have surpassed ethical divide, aloof and rough, but that is the only way to remove the barnacles, the cobwebs of indifference, the excesses of abusive vices, the threats to peace and order. These are the challenges which the current national leadership is confronted. The social cancer which Rizal described during his time has metastasized into the fabric of our society and it would take more than a revolution or education to address this.
It takes a friendless, though popular, bold, daring leadership to make things happen. Don’t look now but the policy to decimate criminality and build massive infrastructure are exactly what would constitute as the initial steps to reach the gateway of prosperity. That in itself is the key to change, a policythat would push us towards modernization. And it is only this administration, fortunately or unfortunately, whether we like it or not, which has the will and the sworn duty to do it.