Wow Philippines?

By J.G. Azarcon, Esq.
I spent two weeks in Manila in May to visit family and some R&R. The Filipinos are still there, and in greater numbers.

There is a raging debate over the reproductive health bill introduced in both houses of Congress in the hope that population explosion in the country can be controlled and thus alleviate poverty.

Church groups are vociferous in their opposition arguing on moral grounds that artificial birth control violates the tenets of God. Supporters of the legislation say that there is nothing in the law that allows or promotes abortion as a means of family planning and that population control is imperative in the fight against poverty.

Driving through the rural highways, I noticed that there were a lot more children than adults moving around in the countryside. With food production lagging behind the rate of population increase, more children will go to bed with just a drink of water before bedtime.

Unless the unrelenting bishops can produce miracles by turning condoms into pancakes, there is going to be more hunger while the country stretches its limited resources to feed more and more people.

This should not be a choice between the condom and the crucifix. After all, alleviating the suffering of the living is also a Christian thing to do.

* * *

Is there hope in the Philippines? You bet, hope springs eternal.

For all the complaints about congestion and traffic in metro Manila, one can’t deny signs of progress. The major road infrastructure and railway built in the last fifteen years have definitely made a dent in the perennial traffic problem. Vehicles still move slowly specially during rush hours,  but at least they are moving unlike in the 90s when you spend significant idle time on traffic stops.

You can drive to the far corners of Mindanao on paved roads. This has stimulated commerce in the rural areas.

For all the talk of corruption, you can see legitimate application of government funds for the benefit of the general public. Of course we don’t know how many pesos were blown away by the wind for every peso that was actually spent to buy cement, steel and gravel.

* * *

I have spoken with a handful of practicing attorneys in metro Manila. The picture that they painted regarding the integrity of the judiciary is bleak. Without saying it in blunt terms, they were basically insinuating that justice is for sale even at the appellate level. You can be a lousy attorney and still win many cases, if you know how to play the ground game. ”You don’t need a Wharton graduate to handle your tax practice here.”

“Who do you approach, the Clerk of Court or the Justice?”

“You deal with the person who makes the decision.”

On the bright side, one attorney says that he has encountered honest judges in the provinces and that women judges or justices are not prone to corruption. How do you account for the moral disparity? The explanation is probably economics. The woman judge usually has one husband and her family to spend for, whereas, the male judge has a wife and many undeclared dependents to spend for.

To cleanse the judiciary, I pray that Pres. Noy will appoint only nun-lawyers to dispense justice.

* * *

Tourism in the Philippines is burgeoning with great potential. Many delightful sights are now accessible to transportation.

The government has spent several millions of pesos to promote “Wow Philippines” enticing tourists all over the world to spend their vacation money in the Philippines.

The government however must also do everything so that the tourists who come in will have a wonderful visit with incentives to return. It should start with providing clean restrooms at all airports with soap and water. A stinky restroom is a big turn-off to all visitors. “Wow Philippines” should not be just an empty slogan. It should be a program to build and upgrade facilities for the convenience of the spending visitors. A tourist should not be made to choose between holding his breath in a dirty bathroom or doing his thing behind a coconut tree breathing the luxury of fresh air.

For a start, how about spraying the Manila airport restrooms with Sampaguita mist?


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