Edsa Revolutions: Wasted Opportunities

Monday, June 26, 2006

CBCP: On the Wrong Track?

We’ve been stuck for so long with this culture thing as the generic problem of Philippine society. Culture is the behavior of society and is inseparable like space-time, body-soul and structure and process. Government is one human environment that is part of the whole structure. The behavior of government is the problem that attracts an equivalent behavior from the people. It is not the other way round as identified by the CBCP.

Anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in 1871 defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Many other definitions of culture have been offered, but by and large all refer to shared systems of values and behaviour.Encarta Encyclopedia

Behavior is a property that needs a viable structure. Society, community and family are the physical structures; and culture, custom and habit are their respective properties. Man or the individual is the structure and has a personality. Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose Driven Life” says that the personality of a man is the sum total of his little habits, while Confucius said that “men's natures are alike; it is their habits that carry them far apart.”

Government behavior is the result of government structure and has a great influence on the behavior of the people and the culture of society as a whole, beside the influence of the natural environment. Clannishness is not an exclusive Filipino trait and self-interest was installed by nature in every individual for survival. All politicians have personal interest as a nature. All these personal interest, when bonded in a government structure should transform into the general interest for the good of the whole society, like the poisonous properties of sodium and chlorine that produce salt beneficial to life.

Corruption and cheating have been government qualities enclosed in lies since Gomburza, as observed by the late Senator Raul Roco. These traits that have survived for so long could only be the result of an inappropriate government structure. Self-interest and clannishness belongs to the individual and community respectively and are situated at one side of the cultural structure, while corruption belongs to government at the other side of the equation.

The seed of solution is with the problem. To identify self-interest and clannishness as the problem would invite solution in that side of the structure like changing the values, instilling ethics to every individual and the institutional approach of “Schools and universities to have stronger honor codes and make a new commitment to teaching integrity and building character.” The need to create a new social contract… that fosters a sense of trust and fairness”. These are suggested solutions by David Callahan in his book “The Cheating Culture” which were labeled “weak” by critics. The problem is at the other side of the cultural structure which is government behavior.

The structure of government has to be reengineered to change its behavior. The parliamentary system proposed by advocates of charter change is insufficient to destroy the “winner-take-all” system. Political parties will still be situated at the national level and will support local candidates to assure them majority at the parliament and monopolize the administrative function of government. The massive vote-buying and cheating from the presidential form will just mutate to a more virulent strain in the parliamentary system because they are cumulative. Coup d etat is not alien to the parliamentary form of government and is nature’s process towards a viable power sharing.

Power sharing of the administrative function of government by the majority and minority parties as earlier suggested will effectively destroy the winner-take-all system that breeds the cheating culture. This will make Philippine government operate towards the good and eventually address poverty.