Sunday, April 29, 2012

Education and Land Reform

Education is the key to a successful land reform program, just as ignorance is the one plague that has kept our people in bondage for so many years.

In our country, it is not uncommon to hear people say that if one has not attained higher education, tilling the land is the only option available. People equate tilling the land with ignorance.

In rural agricultural areas, farmers who were awarded lands find themselves unable to sustain its productivity on their own. Eventually, they get lured by the promise of easy money and they sell off their lands to real estate developers. Not knowing any better, they use the money for non-revenue generating assets like houses and furniture which they eventually pawn or sell – or worse on gambling, booze and other vices. Then they end up with nothing, and they go to the urban areas to try their luck.

In cities and urban centers, people from the provinces who used to farm and raise livestock become informal settlers and join squatter colonies. Without education to land them decent jobs, they fall prey to all kinds of opportunists. Unscrupulous businesses take advantage of their cheap labor. Politicians encourage a mindset of mendicancy and use them as voting blocks. Militants take advantage of their situation to push for their own agenda and incite class warfare. For some, poverty becomes an excuse for crime.

But there is no excuse for greed – whether individual or corporate. Neither is there also an excuse for remaining poor and ignorant. There are no reasons why farmers cannot be successful landowners. There are no reasons why they cannot help each other to make lands more productive. There are no reasons why farmers cannot work with businessmen to supply the demand for produce and earn a decent profit. There are no reasons for farmers to remain poor.

It is not the land, or the lack of it, that keeps our farmers poor. It is ignorance. Being poor is not a reason for ignorance. Rather, ignorance is the reason why people remain poor. Education gives the people the power to rise above ignorance. Land reform without educational reform is bound to fail and will just perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty.

The government must ensure that Land Reform is preceded and sustained by Educational Reform. Congress must pass laws on genuine and sustainable land reform that will put forward social justice that encompasses both the landowners and the farmers. To be truly encompassing, land reform must also include urban areas to address the growing and worsening problem of the urban poor.

On the other hand, the Executive Department led by the President must have the political will to implement these reforms. There is logic to the intent of the Constitution to limit the tenure of the President to only one term. It is to give the Chief Executive the free-hand and political leeway to execute hard decisions without the burden of thinking about a re-election campaign. For us to move forward, sacrifices must be made and we need a leader who will do what is right even if it means the end of his political career. Our President must cease to be a politician and become a statesman.

Our Judiciary is supposed to be the defender of our rights, the bastion of equality and the fountain of social justice. The current Supreme Court is dominated by justices appointed by a President bent on protecting her interests over and above that of the country. She took advantage of history and circumstance to appoint justices who are not only legal lightweights, but heavily indebted to her – foremost of which is the illegal Chief Justice.

Our Judiciary has been and is being prostituted. Sad, but very true.

Some people say Presidents should not appoint the justices. Others say that the JBC is a farce and a failure. But good justices, many even great, were appointed by Presidents in the past. P-Noy himself appears to have done good appointments to the Supreme Court. The key then is to choose leaders that will abide by the greater interest of the people, not theirs.

There is a sarcastic joke going around that for the Philippines to escape from corruption and impunity, we need to eradicate a whole generation to start fresh. What we actually need is to eradicate ignorance through education reform. We need to have an informed electorate that will vote with discernment. We need constituents who will actively participate in good governance. Corruption and bad governance will continue only if we allow it to do so.

Social media is revolutionizing the use of information in our society. It is providing an informal platform from where people can be educated in the reform of our government in particular and our society in general. Education need not be confined in schools, nor is it an exclusive domain of academics. We can all learn from each other. And by not giving up on each other, we ensure a better future for the generations to come.

* Picture is from

Sunday, April 22, 2012

June Keithly Castro - Woman with a purpose

Dear Ms June,

I may not know you from Adam, but you have touched my heart so deeply, so intimately.

A mother's love, like that of our Mother Mary, is unconditional. Sure, there are exceptions, but they are just that - exceptions. Good or bad, a mother would do everything to protect their children. I remember one mother who was recently in the news. Her son might be a cold-hearted monster to a lot of people, but to her he is just a little boy who needs her complete love and attention. She would do anything, everything, even if it makes her look insane to the entire world, just to protect her son.

I saw how you calmly accepted your beloved Angelo's passing. I see the courage by which you deal with your own health challenges. Your body may no longer be the sprightly dynamo it was during the heydays of the EDSA revolt, but your mind, your spirit still soars. And now, reading your latest piece on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, I understood where that fortitude comes from, for it can only be given by the same God that gave us His only Son and His Mother. God loves all of us, sinner or saint. If God does not love us, why would He give us mothers who love us so unconditionally?

You write with your heart. Every tap on the keyboard must be like a prick to your heart. It is not easy to so publicly share dark episodes of your life. But in doing so, your soul shines forth like a beacon for all of us whom you have touched with your sharing. Your pain is our comfort, your suffering is balm for our anguished souls. Your brokenness makes us whole. You heal us with your illness.

Thank you for letting us share in your life, for showing us what we are capable of doing and enduring. Thank you for showing us how to love - our mothers and fathers, our families, our country, people we do not even know. Thank you for saying "YES!" to God's invitation to be His instrument. It must not be easy for you, but you accepted it just the same. God Bless your good heart.

I am tempted to say, "Be strong...". I forget that you are much, much stronger than anyone of us. I want to say, "God be with you...". But God is already with you - in you! I will continue to pray for you and your family, that is the least I can do.

Maraming Salamat!

Dennis Concepcion

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter!

I will choose to ignore the senseless and insensitive ranting of a tail-ending senator named Honasan, and the vain and blasphemous claims of Renato Corona who dared likened himself to our Lord when he is more like Barabbas or the unrepentant thief on the cross. I would like instead to impart an Easter message of hope to all the Filipinos who are actively monitoring the Impeachment Trial. You may be toiling in other lands, or chose to slug it out in this country, but your collective yearning for truth, for decency, for integrity and for honesty in government have made you more Filipino than anyone in the halls of Congress or in the august chambers of the Supreme Court.

After Jesus rose from the dead, He chose to show Himself not to His disciples – not even to Peter or to His most beloved, John. Instead, he showed Himself to Mary the Magdalene. This is significant because historically, women are not on the same level of status in society as men in the time of Jesus. Thus, it can be said that Jesus exalted the lowly with a first glimpse of His glorious resurrection.

Yes, the Lord is risen! And He chose to reveal Himself first to a lowly maiden, not to the apostles who will lead His flocks, not to the High Priests who claims to be the keepers and defenders of the Law of Moses, not to the Roman Governor who holds the power over the land. It is to a woman, who was among the nameless and faceless throng who toiled in fields, who worked in households, who laboured in the market – who left everything to follow the Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ.

As in the glorious story of our Lord’s resurrection, the Truth that will set us free and redeem us from our bondage to patronage politics, sense of entitlement and impunity is not revealed to those who falsely claim to have the sole authority to discern it. The Truth that do justice is not revealed to the Senator-Judges who chose to see and hear only the parts of it that will benefit their re-election, or the election of their relatives. The Truth that liberates is not revealed to the Prosecutors-Congressmen who fear that it will mirror their own sins and shortcomings. The Truth that will separate the sheep from the wolves is not revealed to Corona and the defense team as they would do anything and everything imaginable to twist and bend it until the wolves become sheep and the real sheep are sent to the slaughterhouse instead.

In God’s infinite wisdom, the Truth is revealed to the people themselves. It comes in different forms, on different times, through different channels – not in legal terms that can only confuse, but in concrete situations that every Juan Dela Cruz can understand and relate to. It is the Truth that Sister Flory longs for, the truth that the PAL labor union seeks, the truth that has eluded the family of Navy Ensign Pestano, the truth that Corona’s SALN so blatantly tried to hide and distort, and the truth that Corona’s lawyers want us to see as lies.

Social media and other public forums, including the surveys, are the new Galilee, the new Mount of Beatitudes, and the new Temple of Jerusalem where the Truth is proclaimed - not to the high and mighty, but to the lowly so that they may realize that the power of salvation lies in their own hearts. The Lord died and rose again to show us that there is a higher Truth that only faith can comprehend, one that transcends all laws and logic, but lies in the very heart of each man, that which compels us to do good to every man.

To all Filipinos to whom Truth is being revealed – keep the faith! Let Easter’s message of hope and redemption be an inspiration for us to carry on our search for the Truth that will liberate our country from the destructive clutches of self-serving politics.