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What's Stopping Us?

Our beloved Pilipinas is in ill-health. As a nation, we are afflicted with a stunted growth in our economy that is starting to float but still barely above water (certainly a dwarf compared to its potential), massive poverty, deficiency in pride in our country and in ourselves, severe anemia in discipline, and an open, widespread cancer of corruption in our government. While there are some noble and honest officials in the government, by and large “they are mostly crooks and plunderers with bottomless pockets, overflowing with bribes and stolen money,” as the general perception goes. We cannot argue with that bull’s eye evidence-based diagnosis.

But how about being honest and zooming in the microscope into high power mode and, for a change, candidly examine ourselves, “we, the people,” its citizens, up close and personal, instead of burying our head in the sand, deceiving ourselves, and putting the blame only on the politicians.

Are we, the accusers and finger-pointers, totally innocent and faultless in the sad state of our nation today? While the Philippines and its robust economy were only second to Japan a little more than half a century ago, we are now at the bottom, second to the last, just above Bangladesh. Singapore and the other Asian countries, including Vietnam, are now more progressive, way above us, in spite of all our potentials as a people and as a nation. Shame on us!

I would be the first one to condemn the crooks in our national, provincial and city governments, but didn’t “we, the people,” the majority of us, who, time and again, election after election, the ones who voted them into office, repeatedly? Then, aren’t the majority of us to blame? Plain and simple. Those who elected them, which included the disorganized, disunited and dysfunctional opposition, and “we, the people,” who supported the known corrupt politicians, certainly deserve the rape of our nation, our people and our economy. Unfortunately, the minority, who did not vote for the “kurakot candidates,” are also suffering as victims of the amoral leaders in public offices, who are nothing but common thieves, cloaked and hiding behind the dignity of their offices.

For a moment, let’s pull our head out from under the sand, take off the tinted glasses we are wearing, look at ourselves at the mirror, view the reality before us, and do some soul-searching self-analysis. And let’s start from the basic and fundamental behavior and character of most of us.

For instance, what’s stopping us from exercising proper social etiquette (which was taught to us in the kindergarten) and wait for our turn when we are entering a crowded church, a mall, a movie house, boarding a plane or a boat, or at a line in a restaurant buffet, etc.?

What’s stopping the cigarette smokers among us from respecting the rights of the non-smokers and not expose them to the more than 4000 chemicals in one stick of cigarette (200 of them poisonous) in secondhand smoke, which has been proven beyond doubt to cause cancer and respiratory diseases?

What’s stopping us from following the rules of the road when we drive (and/or asking our driver to do so) and staying within our lane, and not being inconsiderate hugging two lanes, blocking the cars behind us? Or, from driving through an intersection cautiously, and not disregarding those cars which have the right of way?

What’s stopping us from not littering the streets and not throwing cigarette butts and trash out of our cars? Or, from flashing public toilets after we use them? Or, from voluntarily moving to sit nearer the front of the jeepney to allow a struggling old lady with a heavy and bulky luggage to sit near the door? Or, from smiling and saying “thank you” to the person we “assign” and nonchalantly hand over our jeepney fare to give to the driver?

Why can’t those of us who drive motorcycles adhere to the traffic rule that mandates us to use their designated lane, and not drive between cars in any which way we want, disregarding all safety precautions, and endangering even the lives of the little ones by taking them with us on a dangerous machine, and not even providing them with a helmet? Why are our traffic enforcers not enforcing the laws to protect the citizens?

What’s stopping us, “we, the people,” from demanding our city government to implement our laws and put an end to irresponsible and reckless jeepney drivers and others who stop anywhere, even in the middle of the street, causing traffic jam, to load or unload passengers? Why can’t we suggest to those unthinking officials concerned to designate a specific loading and unloading site for every 5 blocks or so, since walking is good exercise for all of us anyway? This is done in other countries. So what’s stopping us from doing the right thing for the safety of our citizens?

What’s stopping us from paying our friends the money we owe them, when they were generous enough to trust us and loan us money when we needed it? Or, from any acts of dishonesty and deceit? Or, from showing respect (instead of contempt) towards the less privileged amongst us, and from being kind and compassionate towards the poor?

What’s stopping the majority of us from voting for and electing only candidates who have no prior history of graft and corruption, only those with integrity, honesty, and proven care and compassion for our people, especially for the poor? And what’s stopping us from teaching our movie stars and unqualified candidates that “we, the people,” demand quality and experienced leadership, and not popularity and good looks, to help lead our country out of this moral decay and devastation? The fact that we do not have optimum requirements for those seeking public office, where even the unqualified is allowed to run, is in itself an indictment of our poor political system and the kind of people we are.

What’s stopping those of us who know better from persuading and pressuring our fellow Filipinos not to sell their votes to the candidates, who obviously spend millions during the campaign, which amount they have pre-planned to “get back” a thousand fold when elected into office, by plundering the nation’s coffers and by accepting kickbacks and bribes, etc. What’s stopping us from realizing that these crooks among our elected “leaders,” ran for office, not to serve the country and their constituents, in the first place, but to rob them blind and get rich fast? And that these dirty politicians are actually insulting our intelligence, secretly mocking us for our “naivete, if not stupidity,” and capitalizing on our very short memory?

Moreover, what’s stopping us from demanding a higher expectation from our elected officials and legislators, holding them to a higher (the highest) standard of the laws of our nation, and bringing the corrupt ones to swift justice with maximum punishment, be they members of the executive, legislative or judiciary branch of our national, provincial or city government? If those public officials proven guilty of corruption beyond any reasonable doubt were expeditiously executed (or sentenced to long jail terms for lesser offenses than plunder), like what our Philippine laws prescribe, and like what they do in other countries, I am sure decency and honesty among our government officials and among our people would not be far behind.

And going back to the basic structure of our society and family, what’s stopping some of us from aggressively teaching our youngsters more religion, moral values (integrity and honesty), common courtesies, proper behavior and decorum in everything they do at home or in public, and making sure they learn and obey?

What's stopping us from shedding our crab mentality, especially among expats abroad, and support each other, and root for successful Filipinos, instead of stepping on, and putting them down, just to destroy them to get ahead of them? Could this apathy, envy and greed be the reasons why we, Filipinos in the United States and around the world, lag behind our fellow Asians, like the Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Vietnamese, etc., as far as business, economics, and politics are concerned?

Those are only a few of the signs and symptoms of the contagious epidemic that afflicts the majority in our country, resulting from lack of discipline and integrity, lack of pride and self esteem in the Philippines and in ourselves, our indifference and apathy, and our crab mentality.

“We, the people,” are the basic building blocks of our society. Our individual and personal principle, behavior, and actions determine the integrity of the structure of the whole nation. If the majority of the citizens are undisciplined, indifferent, opportunistic, and corrupt themselves, we cannot expect our elected officials in the government to be honest, scrupulous, just and fair. After all, they “came” from us, the citizens, chosen and elected by us.

It is clear to me that the primordial fault lies in us, the Filipino people and those “good” officials who simply look the other way, and not only in the corrupt politicians we voted into office, because our government, our integrity and image as a nation and as a people will, and can only, be as good as “we, the people,” the individual pieces of tiles that make up and form the mosaic of what is called The Philippine Society. Our society, our government and our elected officials are a reflection of our individual behavior, character, integrity and wisdom as a people.

For our beloved “Pilipinas” to become a great nation, “we, the people,” must apply the pearls of wisdom, the Godly principle of love and compassion towards our fellowmen, and the protection of our integrity and dignity --- all of which we learned from Kindergarten.

Now that the recent elections have shown us that the “impossible” is possible, that “we, the people”, can create miracles here and there if we will it, what’s stopping us from electing a “Lee Kuan Yew,” the “Dirty Harry” who “cleaned up” Singapore, from our young, idealistic, honest, and God-fearing leaders of today who can help discipline us, terminate the massive corruption in our governments, bring back our national pride as a people, and lead our nation to peace and prosperity that could only be the envy of other nations?

What’s stopping us?


Philip S. Chua, M. D., is Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, a Past President and Editor Emeritus of the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America, the Chairman of Cardiovascular Surgery, Cebu Doctors' University Hospital, Cebu, Philippines, and the Vice-President for Far East of the Cardiovascular Hospitals of America (CHA), a hospital builder-developer in Wichita, Kansas ( ). His email address is:

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