Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Who is the Reform Candidate in 2010?
by: Harvey S. Keh
When the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a story about the leaders of Kaya Natin! discussing with Senator Mar Roxas the possibility of him taking part in a nomination and primary process (to be conducted by a separate group) to help select a common reform candidate for the 2010 national elections, we received various responses from the public. Some reactions were positive saying that they completely support the move to find a common alternative candidate that would champion good governance and ethical leadership in our country. Others were pessimistic saying that it might be too late in the game to actually conduct this process. While others expressed their disappointment saying that Kaya Natin might be mislead to thinking that Senator Roxas is a reform candidate when in actuality he is not.
How then can we determine whether or not a Presidential candidate is actually a real reform and alternative leader that we can entrust our support to?
I have always believed in the saying that great leaders are products of the need of their time. I believe that aside from poverty and the great amount of cynicism that Filipinos feel, the biggest problem is the lack of moral values, ethical fiber and principles of our government leaders. It seems that graft and corruption in our government has become so prevalent that many Filipinos now feel that it is an epidemic that can no longer be eradicated in our society. Sadly, many of us have accepted it as part of our way of life. I don’t think so. Imagine if the billions of pesos that is stolen by our leaders are used to create decent jobs, then I don’t think Filipinos will still be forced to leave their families behind just to earn a decent wage abroad. A reform leader should have a proven track record of moral integrity, upholding the rule of law and fighting against graft and corruption in our country.
A reform leader should also have a proven track record in public service. I agree with my friends and colleagues at the Ateneo de Manila School of Government that good intentions are not enough. A reform leader should be able to also govern effectively thus, s/he is able to deliver basic services to his constituents. It is sad that we have current Presidentiables who continue to look good when speaking in front of the camera but when you look at their track record you would realize that they have actually done nothing to help uplift the plight of the Filipino people. Leaders go beyond lip service to produce concrete outcomes and results.
Thirdly, a reform leader realizes that he is in government to serve and not to be served. Many of our government leaders use their power to gain certain privileges and perks that ordinary Filipinos like us don’t experience. Many of us have seen this while waiting in line at the airport while a so-called “VIP” is whisked away without going through the proper processes. For those of us who drive and are usually stuck in the middle of a traffic jam, we suddenly hear a loud siren coupled with a convoy of vehicles who don’t even respect traffic rules just because their passenger is a government official. We have even heard stories of government leaders using government funds and road projects to benefit their own companies. Now, these same government leaders are spending millions every month posing in TV and Radio commercials trying to get the support of people by showing us that they actually understand our plight. I hope we will be more discerning and no longer be fooled by them.
Fourthly, a reform leader is not beholden to the ruling elite and oligarchs in our country. Sadly, many of our current leaders continue to place the interests of a few rich businessmen above the interests of millions of suffering Filipinos who continue to live with less than P 100.00 a day. This happens since in every election, a candidate would need to spend millions or even billions to have a fighting chance and this becomes an opportunity for the ruling elite to “buy” the support of the candidate in the form of huge campaign contributions. Thus, I have always said that the challenge is for all ordinary Filipinos to chip in their own share of resources no matter how small to help support a real reform and alternative candidate. We already saw it happen in Isabela and Pampanga wherein ordinary people chipped in to help elect Gov. Grace Padaca and Gov. Eddie Panlilio.
Fifth, a reform leader should have a solid track record in helping the poor and powerless in our society. A more recent test of this was the push for the extension and reform of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARPER). Land reform is very critical in solving our current state of poverty given the fact that the agricultural sector is one of the leading industries in our country today. Sadly, despite the fact that our farmers ensure food security for each one of us, they themselves continue to live in poverty due to their lack of ownership of land and adequate support from government. Many of our current Congressmen and Senators are against this since this will go against their own personal interests given that many of them come from landed families.
Finally, a reform leader should be someone that can make every Filipino believe and hope again for a better future. S/he must be someone who can unite and inspire all of us to believe that anything is possible if we all work together to promote good governance in our country. A reform leader is humble enough to admit that s/he is not the savior of the country but rather his or her role is to serve as the captain of the ship that will help move our country to a common vision of prosperity and a better quality of life for every Filipino.
Will 2010 be the year that we will finally be able to elect an inspiring, morally-upright, effective and ethical reform President?
Many people don’t think so but I continue to believe in the greatness and the goodness of the Filipino people whom I know if given the chance will always choose to vote not for the most popular but for the right leader for our country.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Can Alternative Reform Candidates for President win in 2010?
By: Harvey S. Keh
For the past months since Kaya Natin! was launched, I have met and talked with several groups and organizations all asking if Kaya Natin! will be fielding its own Presidential candidate for the upcoming 2010 National Elections. These groups include organizations of farmers and peasants, civil society groups, socio-civic organizations, business groups, religious leaders and student leaders. Rumors have been circulating that Kaya Natin! leaders such as Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo are considering to make a run for the highest position in our land. When I asked them about this, they simply laugh because they feel that it’s such a farfetched idea given their lack of national awareness and say that their personal preference is to go back to their private lives after they have served out the remainder of their present terms, Panlilio as a priest while Padaca as a practicing certified public accountant. Yet, in almost all of the more than 60 colleges and universities that we have visited in our Caravan of Good Governance, the students who attend never fail to ask the Kaya Natin! leaders to strongly consider to run as alternative and reform Presidential candidates for the 2010 polls. In a recent discernment session we organized in Nueva Ecija, majority of those who attended said that they can’t seem to choose who to vote for among all the current Presidentiables since all of them seem to represent the same values and ideals that have brought our country to where it is today.
This then begs the question, is the country actually ready to elect an alternative and reform candidate in 2010? Many of those whom I have talked to also mention the names of Chief Justice Reynato Puno and JIL Leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva as other alternative candidates that will reflect the right values that we need in our next President. Some political analysts and public relations practitioners have also warned me that fielding a reform slate in 2010 will be useless given that the reality of Philippine politics is that one would need money and political machinery just to be able to put up a decent campaign. One of them even told me that a viable Presidential campaign would need at least P 2 Billion Pesos! She told me that if you can’t raise that money, don’t even bother to make a run at the Presidency since it will just be a lost cause. Not to dampen the hopes of many idealistic Filipinos here and abroad but I tend to agree with these political analysts that good intentions are not enough and the issue of having enough resources is very crucial if we want to finally elect a God-fearing, morally-upright, effective and ethical leader for our country in 2010.
However, I’d like to also believe that there is still enough time for us to work together and support an alternative and reform candidate whether it will be Panlilio, Padaca, Robredo, Puno, Villanueva or any other reform leader but we have to be united and we have to act now. I still believe that the spirit of people power is still alive in Filipinos everywhere in the world. There is a silent majority of Filipinos especially those who are living abroad that are now longing to see change in our country especially in the 2010 elections. Imagine if all the overseas Filipinos would just decide to chip in at least US$ 5.00 each to support a reform candidate then that would give the candidate at least US$ 30 Million or P 1.5 billion pesos to help him or her in putting up a good and decent fight against the ruling oligarchs and traditional politicians in our country. Another thing going for us is that majority of the voting population of our country are young people aged between 18-40 years old thus, it is imperative for all of us to support initiatives such as the Movement for Good Governance, YouthVote Philippines and IamChange2010 that are encouraging the Filipino youth to register for the upcoming polls. The energy and idealism of these young Filipinos can also be tapped as we have seen in the Presidential campaigns of Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Raul Roco, both of whom almost made it despite meager resources due to the support of the Filipino youth. Padaca and Panlilio showed that people power in the polls can happen in the provincial level but whether or not it can happen in the national level is now up to all of us. Will we allow ourselves to have another President that is beholden to the interests of a few elite families and oligarchs? The answer lies in your hands.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Harvey S. Keh is the Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Will there really be an Election in 2010?
by: Harvey S. Keh
The recent news approving the 11 billion supplemental budget for the full automation of the upcoming 2010 National Elections was welcomed by many sectors in society as a big step forward towards having a more transparent and honest election. One of the challenges now is to make sure that the bidding and procurement process for the equipment and materials that will be used for poll automation will be monitored properly so as to ensure transparency. In addition to this, it is imperative that proper training be given to those who will run the election counting machines especially since this is the first time that we will be doing this on a national scale. Let us remember that it may actually be easier for our current political leaders to conduct wholesale cheating in the elections given that they will only need to manipulate the election machines thus, we need to continue to remain vigilant in ensuring that we have a clean and honest election whose results will reflect the true mandate of the Filipino people.
Aside from this, one famous radio commentator also remarked that the passing of this huge budget only goes to show that there will indeed be an election this coming 2010. Yet, just the other day I got a chance to talk to a former high-level member of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s cabinet who told me that the passage of the poll automation budget may actually be a diversionary tactic by our present administration. The present administration would want people to actually believe that any moves to push for Charter Change before 2010 are now dead given that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) are now preparing for full poll automation. This former cabinet member also told me that the President’s cohorts at the House of Representatives are looking to spring a surprise when they go back to session in April. The strategy will be to push for the convening of a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) by getting 197 combined signatures from Congressmen and Senators. This is unconstitutional given that the constitution clearly states that for Con-Ass to happen, the House of Representatives and the Senate have to vote separately and each of them will have to get at least 2/3 of their members voting for Con-Ass. If this will continue and Arroyo’s minions will get their 197 signatures, the Senate will definitely contest and bring this to the Supreme Court who will decide with finality on the proper interpretation of the constitution. Given that almost all members of the Supreme Court are already appointees of Arroyo, it will not be surprising if they rule in her favor.
This is where public opinion and public clamor should come in, we need to remain vigilant because as we have seen the past 8 years this administration is capable of doing anything just to remain in power. We need to show this administration and her allies that we want to have elections in 2010 because we want a new set of leaders who are God-fearing, morally-upright, honest, effective and ethical to lead us towards a better society. We need to show them that we want to practice our right to elect the right leaders for our country. If we do not act now, we may just wake up ten years from now and still have the same set of corrupt leaders continuing to lead this country down the drain. Many of the people I have talked to said that the main problem of our current administration is the fact that our leaders do not have a clear vision for the country. I totally disagree with them, this administration has a clear vision and that is to continue to stay in power even beyond 2010 by continuing to manipulate each one of us while continuing to destroy every single democratic institution in our country.
As a Filipino, I think we deserve much better than this but unless we act together, make our voices heard and demand a better government they will just continue with their shenanigans. It is now time to show our leaders that we have had enough, we want an elections in 2010 because we are sick and tired of the same traditional politicians that have continued to enrich themselves while millions of Filipinos continue to go hungry each day.
To make your voice heard and support the drive against Charter Change before 2010, please visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/nochacha/petition.html
Comments are welcome at email@example.com
Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government. He is also the lead convenor of Kaya Natin! A National Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Relive the Spirit of EDSA in 2010
At the same time, let us remember that the people power revolution didn’t happen overnight. It was a product of years of struggle against the Marcos regime. The struggle eventually reached its peak when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on his way back to the country. It is very sad that our current administration does not anymore give much importance to the spirit of EDSA. Even the President chose not to attend commemoration rites last February 25, choosing instead to attend to more “important” matters.
What could be more important than to celebrate one of the proudest moments of our people’s history? Could it be that President Gloria Arroyo knows that she has not lived up to the spirit of both EDSA I and EDSA II?
The sad reality is, 23 years after EDSA, millions of Filipinos continue to suffer in poverty and many Filipinos even the young are slowly but surely becoming more cynical about our country’s future. I recall one of my students at the Ateneo de Manila University telling me that she loves this country so much but she is losing hope in our country because of what she is seeing in our government leaders. On the bright side, the spirit of people power has remained alive in small pockets all over the country as evidenced by the victories of Gov. Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga and Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela.
In Naga City, Mayor Jesse Robredo continues to ensure transparency and accountability in his government by getting people’s organizations and non-profit organizations to be involved in decisions that are made by city hall. These small islands of good governance and ethical leadership continue to make us believe that there is still much to hope for in our country if only we have national leaders of the quality of Panlilio, Padaca and Robredo.
In 2010, we are all called to relive the spirit of EDSA but this time people power will no longer happen on the streets but rather, we are challenged to bring this same spirit when we go to the polls and elect our next leaders. Right now, many Filipinos say that we are worse off than we were during the Marcos years but the reality is, unless we all do our own share in making this country better, we will forever be condemned to a Philippines that is run by tyrants, thieves and corrupt leaders.
When we once again practice our right to suffrage this coming 2010, let us make sure that we choose the right leaders for our country. Let us choose leaders who are God-fearing, honest and ethical, pro-poor, well-educated and have a proven track record of delivering basic services to their constituents.
Besides this, now is the time to push for new faces and better alternatives to our national leaders. Many of my friends are considering not to vote in 2010 since, they told me, regardless of who they will vote for, the candidates are all of the same kind. But if we all have that attitude then we will never have be able to elect reform candidates to our government.
Our right to vote for whom we want to lead us was one of the most important gains in the EDSA People Power Revolution. Let us make sure that we practice this right in the best possible way so that 27 years from now when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our nation’s first people power revolution our countrymen will no longer have to entertain thoughts again of leaving and giving up on our country.
(Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government. He is also the lead convenor of Kaya Natin)!
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Different Faces of Change... Filipino-Style!
Last week, the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, originally convened by the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government, brought its Caravan of Good Governance to Malayan Colleges Laguna in Cabuyao, Laguna and to First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities (FAITH) in Tanauan City, Batangas.
More than a thousand students and teachers listened to the talks of Kaya Natin! leaders Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio and San Isidro, Nueva Ecija Mayor Sonia Lorenzo.
After listening to their talks, the students were given the chance to interact with Gov. Panlilio and Mayor Lorenzo and one of them said that after hearing their inspiring stories, her sense of being a Filipino was renewed.
Another student leader also shared that she thought that all of our government leaders were corrupt but after listening to them she felt more hopeful for our country’s future knowing that there are effective and ethical government officials like them.
Finally, many of the students asked how they can get involved in promoting good governance and electing better leaders for our country.
This just goes to show that many young Filipinos may feel cynical about our nation’s future given our situation now but if only we give them an opportunity to meet God-fearing and morally-upright leaders then that same cynicism can be transformed into a more positive spirit that will drive them to proactive action to help change the Philippines. Other founding leaders of Kaya Natin! include Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City and Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela as well as Gov. Teddy Baguilat, Jr. of Ifugao. For more information about Kaya Natin! visit http://www.kayanatin.com
Aside from Kaya Natin! another group that is very active in promoting youth involvement towards electing effective and ethical government leaders is YouthVote Philippines (YVote).
YVote is a coalition of different youth-led organizations such as the Young Public Servants, Ayala Young Leaders and the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines to name a few. They are currently going around different colleges and universities to encourage the Filipino youth to register for the upcoming elections.
Just recently, they were able to convince the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to open their offices to accept registrations from students. This is very important since during weekdays many of the students are not able to find the time to register since they are very busy with their respective school work.
YVote has gone nationwide and has established chapters in Davao, Cebu and Nueva Ecija. These chapters will be organizing events and activities that will inform the youth on the importance of taking part in the upcoming election as well as the necessary requirements that they will need to bring to their respective COMELEC offices. For more information about how you can support or join YVote Philippines, you can check out their website at http://register2vote.wordpress.com/
GOAL: 10 MILLION VOTERS
Finally, a bigger coalition of civil society groups, church groups and business groups that aims to gather 10 million voters who will vote for the right leaders for our country is the Movement for Good Governance (MGG).
Among those who are spearheading MGG are Dr. Milwida Guevara of Synergeia Foundation and Bill Luz of Ayala Foundation.
MGG believes that there is a reform constituency in our country now that if united can easily elect our next President. This reform constituency will primarily come from the youth sector which is expected to compose at least 50 percent of our country’s total voting population by 2010 and the Filipinos who are working or living overseas who number around 8 million.
Recently, the MGG helped organize the world premiere of a set of political satire videos that are portrayed by YouTube star, Juana Change. These videos are fun to watch but at the same time depict the kind of situation that our country is in right now. You can watch one of the videos by going to this website, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10Jh8Nzu7Zs
Another major plan of the MGG is to organize a series of Presidential debates that will be aired over a major television network partner. This will allow us to be more discerning about the track record and platforms which our candidates will be standing up for when they run for office in 2010. If you would like to join or support MGG, you can send an email to email@example.com .
With so many groups now working for change in our country especially as we near the 2010 National Elections, there is no reason for us not to get involved and be active in helping shape a better future for our nation. Let us always remember that if we don’t do anything to help change our country then we we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Harvey S. Keh is director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
by: Maetrix Ocon
The Manila Bulletin (Page N4)
"We're having our next library launch in Bacnotan." When I learned that the A.H.O.N. (Acts of Hope for the Nation) Foundation would be developing a library in Bacnotan, La Union, I was very surprised.
Normally, I don't get excited over library launches because I had worked as the Marketing and Promotions intern of AHON Foundation in the summer of 2008. Library launches were not new to me, because AHON Foundation builds and develops public elementary school libraries in the Philippines as the corporate social responsibility initiative of Filway Marketing, the sole distributor of Time Life books in the country.
But as soon as the words "library launch" and "Bacnotan" reached my ears, I felt a jolt of energy and enthusiasm. I felt I was close to jumping and I had to restrain myself. Instead I asked Harvey Keh, the President of AHON Foundation and one of my former bosses, "Really? A library launch in Bacnotan?" When he nodded his confirmation, I said, "Oh, I want to go! I definitely want to go!"
And so I found myself committing to volunteer for the launch in Bacnotan. I knew that this was an opportunity I just couldn't miss.
Why all this fuss about Bacnotan? And more importantly, where is it?
Bacnotan is an agricultural town in Northern Luzon, smack in the province of La Union, around five to six hours from Manila. More than that, though, it is the place I grew up in. My childhood there led me to appreciate books because I had chronic asthma and not being able to play active games lest I have asthma attacks, I turned to reading as a way to entertain myself.
Bacnotan is a small and quiet town, more rural than industrialized, so the only forms of recreation there are reading and watching television. I am quite thankful I spent long hours of my childhood with books because most of my early exposure and my creativity came from the stories I was so engrossed with, stories I just had to keep reading over and over and over again.
Needless to say, I was addicted to books then. To my dismay, though, there were no libraries in Bacnotan. To satisfy my appetite for books, I would go to the library of the private elementary school I attended in San Fernando City, which is two towns away from Bacnotan. But I still couldn't get enough. I would ask my parents to buy me books, but there were no bookstores in La Union. I often had to wait until anyone from the family would go on a trip to Manila and then they could drop by National Bookstore for me. So books were a rare, precious commodity for me back then.
Today, I think books still remain that way for most children in Bacnotan, because the town itself hasn't changed so much. The public schools there may have libraries now, but these often are not well-stocked due to limited resources. So a child who is curious and who hankers for books doesn't get much stimulation from reading materials. More often, the child who doesn't get exposed to books misses out on so many things because reading opens up different worlds.
Unfortunately, this is a trend that happens to most children in public schools, because there are little or no resources available and yet there are more and more children getting enrolled. The reality is that books are not the first priority when it comes to allocating resources in schools. But AHON Foundation is doing something about it. AHON Foundation aims to provide an intervention for this rather dire trend, by making books accessible to public school children. Which is why a library launch in Bacnotan makes me so excited.
I believe I am not the only one excited, though. Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J., President of the Ateneo De Manila University and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Education, must be even more excited than I am, because he is the main reason why this library launch has been made possible.
As a member of the board of AHON Foundation and as an endorser of AHON Foundation's "Turn Bookworms into Beautiful Butterflies" book registry project with Fully Booked, Fr. Nebres paved the way for the donation of over half-a-million pesos worth of Time Life and other books to the library of the Bacnotan Central School--the school he himself attended from Grade 1 to Grade 4 in Bacnotan.
During his speech at the launch of the library on February 2, 2009, he shared that there was no library at the Bacnotan Central School during his grade school years there. To be able to gain access to books, he would ask his aunt to borrow books for him at the library in San Fernando City. Such was his love for reading when he was a child and up until now he is still a voracious reader.
And look where his early exposure to reading has brought him - Fr. Nebres is living proof that reading can take a person to unimaginable heights. Aside from being a noted leader in education in the Philippines, and in the Jesuit Order, he is also a well-known mathematician worldwide. Fr. Nebres is indeed a legend in his own right and the people from his hometown are very proud of him.
But I believe there's a bigger reason why the people of Bacnotan are very proud of Fr. Nebres – even with his numerous achievements and titles, he has never forgotten where he came from. Aside from this recent project with AHON Foundation's, Fr. Nebres has now introduced his hometown's public school community to the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED) in the hope that over and beyond the library project, the entire school district of Bacnotan would like to avail of ACED's programs in the development of not just students but also teachers, principals and other school administrators.
I was very lucky to be present at the library launch because the faces of the children who first entered the newly-stocked library were priceless. Their excitement was really contagious. Even the teachers couldn't stop beaming. The sight of the library with more books now was so inviting, so much so that anyone from the community can come visit and enjoy the books.
Aside from the books that were donated to the Bacnotan Central School's library, AHON Foundation also gave books for 100 children to take home,. That afternoon, the children went home with their very own books.
According to Ms. Anna Rojas, Executive Director of AHON Foundation and my supervisor during my internship there, when everyone had left after the library launch, she found a group of about 8 children reading their very own Time Life books at the waiting shed benches just around the corner from the school. Even children who rode off in tricycles kept on looking back at the AHON Foundation team and waving thank you to them, with huge grins plastered on their faces. If that isn't heartwarming, I don't know what else is.
Oh, wait, there is something more heartwarming – it's the fact that I got to do volunteer work for AHON Foundation in my own hometown. It's different when you're doing it right at home because the changes you help put up are actually affecting people you know. This is one of the rare instances that work and personal life connect so beautifully.
But that's not all. The bonus part for me was that I got to know Fr. Nebres beyond the intimidating title of Ateneo De Manila University President (as I am currently finishing my BS Psychology degree in ADMU). I got to dine with him and to talk to him, not as a student interviewing the university president, but as someone trading stories with someone else about the same town they both grew up in, albeit in different times. Everything that happened in connection with the library launch in Bacnotan meant so much to me and I believe that as much as the children and the teachers of the Bacnotan Central School were inspired, I was also very, very inspired.
Thank you, AHON Foundation.
Maetrix Ocon is graduating BS Psychology student at the Ateneo de Manila University and is a volunteer for AHON Foundation. For more information about AHON Foundation, you can call (02) 683-0262 local 109.