Defining our national purpose

fstatad@gmail.com

2023-01-25T08:00:00.0000000Z

2023-01-25T08:00:00.0000000Z

The Manila Times

https://manilatimes.pressreader.com/article/281483575509936

Opinion

IN the first six and a half months of his presidency, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM) has traveled to more capitals than many of his predecessors had covered in their lifetime. This was perhaps unavoidable, given the times and the world in which we live — (Elon Musk, the richest man on Earth, is already thinking of exploring and doing business on another planet). But not only former planning secretary Winnie Monsod has begun to worry about the cost and usefulness of these trips and their possible effect on the primary function of his office. It is only fair to ask what compelling message about his country, his government or himself he has left in his wake. Are we better known today as the home of a hardworking and frugal government, the next destination of the world’s direct foreign investments, or simply as a constant source of domestic migrant workers? Have our neighbors in the region and distant capitals begun to look at us as a “serious country with a clear and specific purpose”? I have to ask this question after listening to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu declare, in a recent interview, that the small state of Israel owes its high standing in the world to the fact that it was established by the Jewish people for a clear and specific “purpose,” namely, to secure the future of all Jews. The operative word is “purpose.” Netanyahu is now on his third term as his country’s longest serving prime minister, and Israel, with only one-tenth of 1 percent of the world’s population, is now the eighth strongest power in the world. This, according to Netanyahu, Israel owes to its highly educated and technologically innovative population plugged into the global free market system. At the very root of it, however, is the fact that the Jewish people created their nationstate with a clear and specific “purpose,” which is to secure their future against all possible dangers. This is part of the vocabulary of all Israeli leaders which I heard for the first time some years ago from the late President Shimon Peres at his office in Israel. I was traveling then with Vice President Jejomar Binay, Noynoy Aquino’s presidential adviser on OFW concerns: Peres spoke glowingly of the knowledge industry as the source of Israel’s growing wealth and power. He did not elaborate on Israel’s “purpose” then, but he spoke of Israel as a country with a clear vision and mission. What Peres merely hinted at then, Netanyahu now eloquently proclaimed in his interview with the Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson. It seems an eminently valid proposition for all nations. In Southeast Asia, the tiny islandstate of Singapore, from the time of its founding father Lee Kuan Yew, could echo the same claim of being a nation with a “purpose.” Where Israel had to survive the Holocaust, Singapore had to overcome its problems with Malaysia, of which it used to be a part, and the builtin disadvantages of being a small state without any natural resources of its own. Now, what about us, the Philippines, a much bigger and more highly endowed nation? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the purpose of our existence as human beings — it is to know God, to love and serve Him, and to share His eternal happiness in Heaven. But this has no political equivalent that defines the “purpose” of our national or individual existence; in the last 126 years, we have managed to exist as a nation without having to declare this in clear and specific terms. The Constitution defines the system and structure of our government, but it says nothing about what our people can expect of their government. But what is not written in the Constitution or in any foundational document can still be written in the people’s DNA to become part of what Marcos the elder used to call their “fighting faith.” Although we find no mention of it in BBM’s Inaugural address or in his state of the nation address (SONA), or in any of his speeches to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and foreign audiences abroad, it is not too late for him to define his country’s real purpose, at least for the rest of his term in the next five and a half years. This is what I would respectfully propose he should do. First, I would like to see him roll out the road map that would ensure raising the economic well-being of our people to upper middle-income level by the end of BBM’s term, as promised, and transforming our nation from a potential flashpoint in the simmering dispute between China and the United States into a bridge of mutual understanding and cooperation between the two world powers. But beyond this, I would like this government to assure our people with conviction that they need not worry about the threat of war (whether hot or cold), famine, disease, disaster, climate change, global recession or whatever, because the government is “in charge.”

en-ph