By Silverio F. Aquino, Lawyer
I AM now 75. I have a wife and six children and two truckloads of
grandchildren, but my family has been breaking up because of the failures
of our government. All this makes my blood pressure shoot up. I think many
senior citizens are in the same situation.
I know whereof I speak because I have lived through the administrations of
Quezon, Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia and Macapagal, and life
under them was good. I was a boy during Quezon's time and I know little of
Osmeña's rule, but I know they were good and dedicated leaders. During the
administrations of Roxas through Macapagal, I got an education, got
married, had children and educated them in turn. The government under them
was also good.
Then came Marcos. At first the people responded well to his exhortation:
"Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan (For the nation to
progress, discipline is needed)." But he turned out to be a dictator. He
killed or imprisoned his political enemies, stole money in the billions of
pesos, and repressed the people's freedoms.
One day my youngest daughter, who had just finished her course at the
University of the Philippines announced, "My future has been ruined by
Marcos. I want to leave."
I was dumbfounded, but I knew she was right. She went abroad.
Then my eldest son, an electrical engineer, followed her. I terribly missed
them, and I blamed the government for taking away their hope for a bright
future in their own country. Upon the petition of my eldest son, now a
citizen of another country, my wife and I were granted immigrant visas so
we could live in that country. I did not go, but my wife went to live with
my children there, so now we only visit each other. She, too, was
disillusioned with our leaders. Her leaving was to me the unkindest cut of
Marcos was thrown out of power, and was succeeded by the widow of his
foremost victim and later by a former army general. But my four children
remained skeptical about the future.
Tragedy struck when a movie actor was elected president. Then he was
charged with plunder and detained without bail. I watched what my four
remaining children would do. True enough, two of them soon gave up and
left. I could not believe they would go, since they had studied in good
universities, they had decent houses, drove cars and lived in relative
comfort. But they left because they saw no hope here especially for their
Now I have only two children left with me. They are also jumping ship
because they do not see any good reason for staying. Sadly I know they are
just waiting for me to go to my final destination, and they may have only a
few years to wait.
A recent survey found that about 20 percent of Filipinos want to leave the
country. Many families really want to go abroad for good. One Inquirer
columnist said it all for them when he wrote, "For the first time in my
life last week, I really felt that this country has become hopeless."
Like my four children who have gone, many people are convinced this country
is hopeless and wish they had the opportunity to move elsewhere with their
families. Countless Filipinos have chosen another way to leave, which is by
finding work abroad. If they could, they would uproot their families. But
they are forced to leave behind their spouses, children and parents in
order to take foreign jobs, mostly menial and below their level of
education, and they and their loved ones must suffer the pains of
separation and loneliness. While the government is happy for the millions
of dollars that they send home to prop up the economy, it does nothing to
address the reason why, like the emigrants, these overseas Filipino workers
have to go abroad in the first place. There is also the big brain drain
that the government does not seem to care about. Educated and talented
Filipinos go to live abroad and apply their expertise and knowledge to
their foreign jobs. The exodus of doctors, nurses, engineers and
technicians goes unabated, but the government is not bothered by this waste
Why do Filipinos go away? First of all, there is so much corruption
everywhere in the government. A world opinion survey has revealed that our
country is the third most corrupt in Asia and the 11th most corrupt in the
There is also too much politics. The finance secretary has said that
politics is the cause of our dire economic problems.
But who is engaged in too much politics? Why, the politicians, of course.
There are too many of them in and outside Congress. They are concerned only
about their personal ambitions and their expensive junkets and their abuse
of their pork barrel and other perks. Gone are the days of Recto, Laurel,
Diokno, Osias and House Speakers Cornelio Villareal and Eugenio Perez, of
Ramon Magsaysay, and of justices like Concepcion, Moran, and Avanceña. Many
politicians give speeches about poverty, joblessness, crime and other ills,
but do very little, if at all, to address these problems. Instead, they
resort to what is expedient or good for themselves. Look at the shameless
speed with which congressmen have railroaded the impeachment charges
against the Chief Justice and how some senators are thirsting for the
publicity they will get as judges during the impeachment. Look also at how
fast many politicians have risen to defend the Chief Justice without
ascertaining that he is really innocent in his handling of the Judiciary
Development Fund amounting to billions of pesos.
The people are now cynical of this government. Even Filipinos abroad share
this cynicism, as shown by the fact that only one out of every 100 of them
has bothered to register under the new Absentee Voting Law. Like my wife
and children abroad, they do not trust the government enough to participate
by voting. The common lament is, why vote when the same kind of so-called
leaders will get elected anyway, by hook or by crook?
Now, I am horrified to learn that another movie actor, who has reportedly
not finished high school, will be elected president in 2004. When my last
two remaining children leave because this country is hopeless, my family
would be completely shattered and, if I would still be alive, my hope in
the government will also be completely lost. This would be tragic for me. I
have seen better governance from the likes of Laurel, Recto, and Magsaysay,
and I will never see the light of hope in this hopeless country.
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