I am Change, Are You?
By: Harvey S. Keh
Last March, I was very fortunate enough to be invited to be the Commencement Speaker of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) in Zamboanga City, one of the biggest state universities in the Philippines. During my brief stay at WMSU, I was able to have a session with 30 of their student leaders who are leading their student council and other student organizations in their school. During this session, I started with a question, I asked them, Who among you here still believes and supports President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Around 10 of them raised their hands. Then, I asked again, Who among you here wants the President to resign and step down? Around 14 of them raised their hands. I pressed on and asked again, Who among you here is still undecided? 6 of them raised their hands. Finally, I asked again, Who among you here wants Change and Reforms in our Country and Government?
All of them raised their hands.
When I got back to Manila, I did the same activity with about 25 student leaders from Miriam College in Quezon City, one of the top schools here in Metro Manila. I got the same response from them, 7 were supporting President Arroyo, 12 wanted her to resign/step-down while 6 were undecided. When I asked them who wants change and reform in our Country and Government, all of them raised their hands as well.
What am I trying to say through these two stories and experiences with these Filipino Youth Leaders in our country?
a.) Yes, our country is divided right now in how we view President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. You have on one side, a group supporting President Arroyo despite all the anomalies, allegations of corruption and scandals that has rocked her administration. On the other side, you have groups and highly-influential leaders which have called for her immediate resignation and ouster from power. This then leaves us with a political stalemate since President Arroyo is not weak enough to fall while the Groups calling for her ouster and resignation are not strong enough to push her out.
b.) However, it seems that judging from my experiences in dealing with these student leaders, the people I talk to and the emails I get from Filipinos from here and abroad everyone wants to see Change and Reform in our Government. We are all united in wanting to see positive and lasting change and reforms in our Government.
That is why I think that if we want to be able to help in bringing our nation together towards a common vision which helps move our country forward then this unity should not be based on certain personalities like President Arroyo or our other Government Leaders. Rather, we need to join and work together towards working for concrete and lasting reforms in our Government Institutions that would eventually make it more responsive to the needs of the poor and powerless in our communities.We need to work together towards building, strengthening and transforming our democratic institutions. For example, Isn't it sad that we now have to face a growing Food Crisis when we were once one of the world's top Agricultural countries? This is an indirect effect of the 1 Billion Fertilizer Scam that was allegedly used to fund the election expenses of President Arroyo and her allies. If this 1 Billion Peso Fertilizer Fund together with other government funds was used properly and for the right purpose then we might not have to face this crisis now or if we do, the effect wouldn't be as big as we are facing now.
As such, I'd like to invite every Filipino based here and abroad to join us at Team RP as we try to develop a proactive and dynamic movement that is built and organized primarily by ordinary Filipinos like you and me whose only vested interests is to be able to contribute his time, skills, talents and resources towards pushing for Truth, Accountability and Reform in our Government. How? Allow me to share with you some of our concrete action plans:
For Truth: We hope to push for the passing of a Philippine Access to Information Law (PAIL) that would give every Filipino an opportunity to access government documents especially documents that would show how our hard-earned money is being spent by our government officials. Through this law, greater transparency can be achieved thus and more importantly, we are able to make our government leaders live by the saying that Public Office is a Public Trust.
For Accountability: We plan to file proper charges on Government Officials and Private Citizens who have taken part in Graft and Corruption practices and activities that have bankrupted our government coffers. If we do not do anything to hold these people accountable for their actions and curb corruption, then the cycle will just continue with new faces and sadly, with new techniques. Corruption has to stop because the 30 Billion Pesos that is lost to it every year can amount to provision of basic services that will ultimately uplift the lives of more than 20 Million Filipinos who continue to wallow in poverty.
For Reform: We plan to work and lobby for the extension and improvement of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law which expires this year. We believe that every Filipino should be provided with equal opportunities to be able to own his or her own land. In addition to this, we plan to pursue electoral reforms as early as now by developing projects and activities that will encourage and motivate First-time voters to register so they can exercise their right to choose our next President in 2010.
These are just among our concrete plans towards institutionalizing and working for genuine Change and Reform in our country. Since we are not a personality-based movement, Team RP will continue to push for these ideals and programs regardless of who becomes President, Vice-President, Senators, Congressmen, etc. We are doing this because we believe that many of our Government Leaders have Failed us and that its time for all of us to take control of our own future and work together for that genuine and lasting Change that we all want to see in our country. Let us all stop the all our excuses, iinaction, hopelessness, despair, indifference and complaining, these will all amount to nothing if we ourselves don't move ourselves to do anything for our country.
Change is now. Change starts with each one of us. Hope lies not in our country's leaders and those in power but it rests in every Filipino.
I am Change, are you? If Yes, then join us at Team RP by emailing us your complete name and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org . Help us as well by forwarding this email to your friends and posting it in your blogs so that many more Filipinos can join in our cause to take control of our own future.
We would also like to invite all of you to our upcoming Team RP General Assembly on April 26,2008 (Saturday), 1pm to 430pm at the Foyer of Club Filipino, Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. Please send us an email with your contact information at email@example.com if you are joining us for this event.
Harvey S. Keh, 29, is the Chairperson of Team RP, a youth-led organization that is pushing for Truth, Accountability and Reform in our Government. He is also the Project Director of the Asia Society's Philippines 21 Young Leaders Program which annually selects 10 outstanding Filipino Young Leaders which will represent the Philippines to the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit which gathers more than 200 Young Leaders from different countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. Aside from these, Harvey continues to help make our country a better place for every Filipino through his involvements with the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government and AHON Foundation. You can read his writings at his blog: http://www.filipinochangemaker.blogspot.com