Essay: Of People and Government

Moreover, the recent advancements in technology open a lot of possibility such decentralisation of power in one entity (which usually is prone to corruption). As unorthodox as it may seem, taking down political representation (e.g. Congress) and placing such power at the hands of the masses may very well be feasible in the future. Imagine legislation via internet.

Tao o Gobyerno: Alin ba ang mas importante?

Noong ako ay nag-aaral, tinanong kami ng aming propesor: alin daw ba ang mas mahalaga: ang tao o ang gobyerno. Parehas silang importanteng elemento ng isang estado: With people being interpreted as “inhabitants, electors, or citizens” and government being “the institution by which the society carries out necessary rulesto enable men to live in a social state”. Kung wala ang isa, hindi kumpletong state ang isang bansa. Pundasyon mo iyun eh.

Nung kami ay nagdidiskusyon tungkol dito, nahati ang buong klase sa dalawa. Iyung isang grupo, naniniwala na mas mahalaga ang tao. Iyung isa naman, naniniwala na dapat, ang mas bigyan ng importansya ang gobyerno.

Kung sisimplehan natin ang tanong, eto yun: should the people work for the government, or should the government work for the people?

Nakakatuwa kasi noon, gobyerno ang pinili kong sagot. Noon, naniniwala ako na dapat, ang gobyerno ang magpalakad ng lahat; na maayos na bansa ay nakukuha kung maganda din ang kalakaran sa gobyerno at ang lahat ng tao, sumusunod dito. Conservative, ika nga.

Nung nagtapos iyung klase namin noon, ang sabi sa amin ng aming propesor: tanungin namin ang aming mga sarili pagkatapos ng mga isa o dalawang taon, at alamin kung parehas pa rin ang aming sagot.

And guess what. Eto ako ngayon, mas naniniwala na ako na mas makapangyarihan ang tao. Yes, I still think that you need both for a civilised society to function well. Pero mas inclined ako sa thought na dapat, ang kapangyarihan at pamamalakad, nagmumula sa tao o sa taong bayan; na dapat, ang stratehiya eh ang tao pa rin ang namumuno at ang gobyerno ay sumusuporta lamang. Iba pa din kasi kapag hinayaan mo iyung mga tao na humanap ng magandang malalagyan eh: you’re leading them to greater chances and opportunities. Lesser spoonfeeding and giving liberality in one’s actions may result to an exponentially-higher rate of growth and improvement.  Hindi restricted, kumbaga. Opinyon ko na dapat ang gobyerno, gumagawa ng paraan para makita ng taong-bayan ang importansiya nila sa mundo; na dapat, sila ang maglatag ng tamang daan para ang mga tao, maging prodaktibo.

Moreover, the recent advancements in technology open a lot of possibility as to decentralisation of power in one entity (which usually is subject to corruption). As unorthodox as it may seem, taking down political representation (e.g. Congress) and placing such power at the hands of the masses may very well be feasible in the future. Imagine legislation via internet.

But at the end of the day, dapat maging open-minded ka pa din na you need both to complement each other para payapa at masagana. Iyung pagkukulang ng gobyerno, dapat punan ng tao, and vice-versa. Walang lamangan; parang konsepto lang ng yin and yang. Change is constant. Iyung sagot ko nga, nagbago eh, pano pa kaya ang buong mundo. Pero dapat, kung ano man ang maging pagbabago sa pamamalakad, patuloy pa rin na nag-aadjust at nagbibigayan ang gobyerno at ang tao. That way, equilibrium is maintained.

Ikaw ba? Anong palagay mo?

PAUNAWA: Ito po ay hamak na opinyon lamang. Wala po akong intensyong masamain ang kahit ano mang tao o bagay. Feel free to comment and express your ideas if you have a different point of view.

Essay: Why should the State implement mandatory and free education for everyone?

Answer: Education is one way of future-proofing yourself against unwanted events. When done right, it equips the person with good tools to survive outside school. It then redounds to the benefit of the family and then ultimately to the State. Therefore, implementing strict measures such as making it mandatory or imposing higher taxation rates to fund a totally-free education can be reasonable and effective.

If you rode a PUV which goes through the Makati Ave-LRT Buendia (Gil Puyat) route, chances are, you will come across several children jumping from one vehicle to another, asking for spare changes. They do sing and/or dance while doing so. If you have been through University Belt or several portions of Taft Avenue, you will see kids cleaning the front side of your vehicle in exchange of your spare coins. Some sidewalk vendors, such as those selling fishballs or street foods, employ the underage as well.

It is a very depressing sight. By doing so, you do not only expose these children to danger; you also steal a considerable amount of time from their youthful age – time which would have been better spent on learning new things to mold their growing minds.

“Ang kabataan ay ang pag-asa ng Bayan.” As a parent, if you want to future-proof your family, make sure to provide good education for your children. As the head of the State, if you want to future-proof the nation, make education MANDATORY and COMPLETELY FREE for everyone.

My proposals:

  1. Make elementary, secondary, and college education mandatory for everyone. And when I say mandatory, I mean force it and enforce sanctions to parents/guardians who will not allow their child to avail such right.
  2. Make such education completely free. And by that, I mean COMPLETELY FREE. This will prevent parents from giving excuses such as “I cannot pay for my child’s education even if the school does not cost any tuition at all.” I have been through public schools in my youth, and even though I did not pay tuition fee at all, I still have to pay money for my food, notebooks, and all other basic necessities. Those are expensive, and my opinion is that the State should provide that.
    • People might rebut and refer me to state universities and whatnot. If that is the case then explain why there are still people who are not able to finish their studies even in the presence of these universities. I stand my ground on the fact that while these institutions do not ask for fees, necessities will still have provided by the student himself. That defeats the concept of free education, really.
  3. Create more public schools and state universities, and distribute them among different regions in the Philippines. Eradicate excuses such as “Walang pamasahe papuntang x” or “Wala akong pera pangluwas ng Maynila para makapagaral doon sa free university.”.
  4. For these free educational institutions created by State:
    • Elementary: Make the curriculum more advanced. If some public schools are already teaching what-would-be–highschool-subjects to elementary students, then everyone should do it as well. This allows the student to build a strong foundation of knowledge and develop critical-thinking at such an early age.
    • Secondary: We already have K-12; all the more reason to teach students with topics as advanced as college disciplines. Focus more on stuff which they will need in real life: e.g. taxation, financial independence, investments. But do not leave the other necessities behind: e.g. algebra-geometry-trigonometry-calculus/biology-chemistry-physics. The common notion is that those might not be of use in real world, and indeed, it may be true. However, those subjects allow the child to develop/acquire critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities along the way.
    • College. By this time, people should have the critical-thinking abilities needed to study more advanced fields. For all intents and purposes, he can choose any fields that he wants to study. However, it is my belief that technical courses are the way to go if people want a good standard of living, and the State can enforce it by opening more slots for courses related to these disciplines (e.g. engineering, science, computer and technology, economics, finance, etc).

People might ask where can the State get the funds to finance these projects. It goes without saying that the government’s main source of revenue is taxation, and such funds are allocated by the Congress through the annual General Appropriations Act. Such act also requires that the highest proceeds should go to education as well. But realistically speaking, it does not work out to education’s benefit. Lack of strategic planning coupled with corruptions here and there tend to get in the way of the intended goal.

And so my proposal:

  1. Retain what we have right now: that the highest proceeds should still go to Education. However, employ a more strategical way to distribute these funds. And of course, remove the traditional/archaic way of doing things (which is unfortunately present in most of the government operations) and get more innovative in the implementation. I know this is vague, but my point is, just because it is there does not mean it is useful. Change what needs to be changed to progress.
  2. If #1 is not enough, increase the budget required for General Appropriations Act. Once done, it will increase the budget for education as well.
  3. If both of the above are not effective, increase taxation rate. People might lash out at me for this, and with a good reason. However, it is my belief that an increase in taxation is proper if it meets the ends desired. In some European countries, they have a very high taxation rate, but that is coupled with free education and healthcare; so much so that people do not complain about it. We can implement it here as well if need be.
    • I have to stress the fact that as a parent, you won’t mind paying higher taxes if you are confident that the State can provide your children with good education all the way. It is as if you are indirectly paying an educational plan for your child.

Of course, everything above is without prejudice to the school’s authority to filter out students. I think it is just and befitting for the school to handpick individuals and retain only those which pass their standards. For as long as such standards are reasonable, it is fine in my book. It may be harsh, but it forces the student to study well if he wants to have access to such free education.

With everything implemented above, anyone will not have an excuse as to why he is not able to obtain the educational requirements needed to land a decent-paying job. It will now depend on the student to exert an effort on his part to comply with the standards set forth by school. It will be difficult, especially if you are to enter a technical course; but this way, e can focus more on studying since he does not have to worry about anything else (e.g. where to get the fees). The State does it for him.

My point in this post is: right now, our education system is either: a) a ripoff, money-wise; or b) not as effective as it may seem. People have a lot of excuses to why they are not able to finish their studies. And even for graduates, some are not able to get a good-paying job. Please do not get me wrong. It is good to study something you are passionate about, but let us be realistic: that educational field that you are in right now might not be capable of giving you that much-needed dough to survive after school. Personally, I have experienced working in both administration/management and IT, and believe me when I say that generally, IT-related jobs give exponentially-higher salaries than the others. An entry-level position in normal administrative work can be about Php15,000 a month, while the positions of same level in IT/Engineering can go as high as Php25,000 a month. Also, add the fact that technology is being developed at a very fast rate that it creates a lot of demand for everyone. The steady increase in such field is unbelievable, and getting into it is one good way of future-proofing yourself against any economical disasters and job competitions.

My own sentiments, coupled with those bad feelings when I see out-of-school youth, prompted me to create this post. And so I stand my ground in saying that with proper regulations and implementations by the State, it safeguards the people a good future and forces them on the right track. It may run contrary to the liberal thinking that I normally advocate for; but a good authoritative-like measure to impose mandatory and free education might be what the people need to give them a headstart once they reach the age of majority and become the breadwinner of their family. Increased literacy rate can solve a lot of things.  If it is not working out quite fine, something needs to be changed.  And the State should pave way for such change to happen.

Thoughts: There is as yet insufficient data for a meaningful answer

Have you read “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov? It’s a brilliant short story.

Sometimes, you’re at the point of questioning the significance of humanity in the universe; that the ever-so-expanding space has no time to bother about the human race which comprises a very small portion thereof; that the people, in general, have no power to affect anything that is naturally-occuring in the cosmos.

And then at times, you can’t help but wonder about the question that we had to come from elsewhere; and for the human race to continue existing, we had to continue evolving, producing. For that to happen, we must consume, on and on. This cycle of production and consumption, while inevitable, poses a threat if the equilibrium is thrown off. If left unguarded, we may reach to a point where everything descends down to what I would like to call as “nothingness”, or that state where everything ceased to exist because the very own source of our existence is gone.

Still, I strongly believe that the humankind is intelligent enough to pave way for efficient innovations. We may be getting “THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.” prompts if Cosmos AC exists right now in our world; however, my current thoughts also believe that humans are still a healthy race once Cosmos AC, or any machine for that matter, is able to provide a good answer. For we are at the stage where we do not only create, but also foresee future problems and address it. I still have my hopes up for humanity.

It is amazing how the author was able to connect three, normally-irreconcileable schools of thought into one single short story. Definitely worth the read!

The link above will take you to the aforecited short story as shown in Princeton University’s Physics Department site.  Credits to them.

Tech Talk: OpenSource and Legislation

Imagine how easy legislative process can be with Git! Imagine a world where every citizen has the capability to propose new laws or amend the existing ones; where strategic implementation can arise from anyone and is not limited to Senators and Congressmen alone; where healthy arguments can make way for progress. It will be hard at first as you’ll have to consolidate all discussions coming from millions of people, but the more you feed the computer all possible data, the easier it will be. In the end, it will all be worth it.

You don’t need to be very knowledgeable in computers or laws to understand these stuff; just grasp the basic concept and it will suffice.

True democracy is present when the possibility of shaping a state is present at the hands of every citizen. And I believe Git (or any open source project for that matter) can help.

Short Life Plans

Many of you folks might wonder why I put something as ridiculous as a “bucket list” in a blog which is supposed to contain nothing but serious notes and legal matters. Well, why not? My employers always tell me to set reasonable goals and lay them out in a timeline to measure my progress and how well I am doing with my tasks; and if it is that effective at work, then I bet it is going to be as effective in real life scenarios. Besides, I am about to reach my 24th birthday, so I might as well do it.

At the age of 25, I should have:

– At least a total of 150000Php invested in stocks.

– A small food or drink kiosk. I remember having a small fruit shake stall in front of our house when I was around 10 years old. Let’s take it up a notch and offer something that is more sellable all year around: fingerfoods?

At the age of 30, I should have:

– An Atty title. It does not matter if I fail a subject or two as long as I become a lawyer on time.

– At least a total of 250000 Php invested in stocks.

– A coffee/tea shop; or a pasta stand in a business district.

– A life insurance, setting my brothers/sisters and parents as beneficiaries. No, I am not planning to get married.

– A full-time job, earning at least 50,000Php a month.

– A Macbook, lol.

At the age of 35, I should have:

– Superb tennis skills.

– At least 500000Php invested in stocks.

– At least 200000Php in a savings account.

– A car, big enough to take a family of five to a vacation escapade. I don’t mind commuting publicly to work until this age.

– A house, somewhere out of NCR but is around 2 hours away from Makati/Ortigas/Taguig when I use public transportation.

– A piano, violin, a good-sized LCD TV plus a gaming console to play what I want.

– A big restaurant, serving a wide range of meals.

I guess that is it. At the age of 40, I can live a life of contentment that I could die.

The best thing about this list? It is the fact that these are reasonable and attainable if I set my mind on getting it. I could go waaay farfetched than those mentioned above and put something like uniting the world as one country or becoming a known business tycoon, or discover the secrets of time travel using blackholes or wormholes; but yes, this list should suffice for now.

Issues of Road Congestions and Bottlenecks

I am sure everyone will agree with me that one of the biggest problems we encounter everyday is road traffic.  Whether an individual is on his way to school, to work, or anywhere else, expect that there will be issues in terms of road congestions and bottlenecks.

And how do the majority of the citizens counter this?  By adjusting their time, e.g., they will wake up 2 hours before the start of their school instead of what-would-have-been-a-one-hour preparation routine.  In a good way, it actually measures a person’s sense of responsibility.  However in my opinion, it is painful and is very uncalled for.

The government should be the one making the adjustments for the people, not the people themselves.  And sad to say, they are not doing a very good job.

My proposals?

1.  Impose a stricter coding system so more people who own cars will be forced to take public transportation vehicles frequently (e.g. plates ending in 1, 2, and 3 are not allowed to operate during Mondays instead of only 1 and 2, and so on and so forth).

It is not supposed to be on the top of my list, and I know it is wrong to actually impugn their hard-earned privileges but let’s face it:  more benefits can arise from it: financial savings and/or environmental preservation, etc.

I know the first one is horrible, but let me try to offset that with #2.

2.  Strategic route planning and stricter road rules.
One of the reasons why people want to avoid public transportation vehicles, especially when they have their own car to speak of, is because they will be inconvenienced.  Ironic, right?

The situation we are in right now is pretty much chaotic; bumpy as a matter of fact!  Passengers can almost board a vehicle and alight anywhere, causing unnecessary stoppage of the queue behind them.  Vehicles can do turns even in roads where turning is not allowed.  Stoplights are not being followed.  Both vehicles and pedestrians can cross the street even when the red light is turned on.

We should have very strategic route maps to prevent bottlenecking.  The plan should be something that would anticipate where most of the vehicles are coming from and where will they go; foresee any fortuitous events and accidents that might arise and have an efficient action plan in hand in case this happens.  It should tackle the specific sites where turnings are allowed/not allowed, one-way routes, roads where only specific type of vehicles are allowed, etc.  Too bad I am not much of a logical thinker and a good commuter myself, or I would have listed more.

And of course, good strategic route will always be useless unless there is an existence of the strict implementation of rules.  Putting a good number of implementing officers and personnel in strategic points will introduce big improvements.  Impose reasonable penalties and it should always remind the people that road rules are set and should be followed.  Loading sites will be strictly for loading; and it should be the same for alighting passengers in alighting points.

Obligatory addition:  More underpasses for pedestrians.  This way, vehicles can ride smoothly.

3.  Trains!  I love trains.  They are very efficient in such a way that they can carry a lot of passengers in a short amount of time.  The LRT/MRT issues that we are having right now mostly centres on the fact that LRT/MRT cannot accommodate the number of commuters, and then it is coupled with idiotic action plans.  The easiest-yet-expensive solution?  Add more trains, and plenty of it.  A more long-term solution?  Add railways which would serve as alternatives for the commuters themselves.
In my idea of an utopian state, trains are pretty much everywhere, covering large areas of land.  Think NRC-to-Cavite routes.  Think LRT-15 or MRT-21.  Think of a 15-minute ride from one province to another.  The best part about this is with proper engineering methods, you can establish those railways underground, making them even more efficient.

And this is not a very good ending statement, but I might as well say this: What irks me the most is that people who are in power do not dare to ride public transportation vehicles on a regular basis.  For someone who “cares about the majority” and “seeks improvement in all aspects”, it is very ironic, isn’t it?  I mean, what better way to see the problems that the masses are having and make a good solution for it other than stepping on the masses’ shoes and seeing the world from their eyes?

Of Taxes and Allocation of Government Funds

Right now, majority* of the citizens in the Philippines are unconsciously* taxed via the following:

1.  Income Tax, the percentage of which is dependent on your, among others, status; and,

2.  Value-Added Tax, wherein an additional 12% is added on the normal purchase price of a commodity.

*Majority because most of the citizens are part of the labor force.

**Unconsciously because more often than not, individuals either do not know about it, or they know but do not care much about it.

There are a few others but allow me to only cite those two as examples.

Taxes are made to raise funds for governmental operations.  It is a very powerful power of a State in such as way that the citizens, under normal circumstances, cannot exempt themselves from it.  But this inherent power is backed by the idea that the collected amount should bounce back to the citizens. After all, being a citizen of a State does not only equate to being imposed with responsibilities; it is also tantamount to the enjoyment of benefits for being a citizen.

Sad to say, as verbose and innocent the purpose of taxation is, it does not act that way.  In reality, we give so much yet receive little in return.  Philippines is one of the countries with higher tax rates as compared to the other ASEAN countries out there and yet majority of the people do not feel benefits coming out of it.  My observation that it is mainly caused by two things:

1.  Corruption of governmental authorities; and

2.  Bad and inefficient strategical planning as to the distribution and utilization of funds.

With those two, one can really tell how dysfunctional or ineffective the current government is.

On the plus side, things have improved as compared to the previous years when Estrada and Arroyo were the leaders.  Still, even with Aquino in power, I feel that there is still much to do as to the allocation of taxes obtained from the people.  I am no financial or economics expert, and there are more factual references out there detailing where the public funds go (Google for governmental reports, they should come in handy).  But from my observation, I can give you three things which we definitely need to improve on, budget-wise:

1.  Education.  I cannot stress enough how important this is.  Ever heard of the motto “Give a man a fish and he will be satiated for a day; teach him how to fish and he will be satiated for a lifetime.”  This holds true in more ways than one.

Fact is, many young Filipinos today cannot study because they do not have the financial capability to do so; it can be a valid excuse, yes.  Compare that to the other countries out there, particularly those in Europe.  Some of them have high tax rates (even higher than us), but students can go to school up until college, free-of-charge.  Most, if not all, of those graduates are then able to enter into stable and good-paying jobs.  Graduates can finance their needs and at the same time, take part in the payment of taxes for the studies of the next generation.  They can pave way for the gradual-yet-fast improvement of the system.  Plus, most educated people can give good decisions, probably on who deserves to be voted upon during elections.  It is a domino effect in such as way that free (and quality) education, as expensive and burdensome as it is, can actually lead to more benefits than allocating the funds somewhere else.

2.  Health care, especially for the elderly.  This time, public welfare is the core.  Elders should be able to enjoy the “golden years” of their lives as a pure act of State’s gratitude of the elders’ contributions when they were in their prime years.  If citizens can think of their future peacefully without the worry of what is going to happen if they reached the stage where they are unable to work, then that would give them enough motivation to become productive during their primes.

And it does not stop there.  If the citizens can expect help from the government during the dire times (in sickness), trust and confidence is developed.  It boosts their morale.

3.  Agriculture, including agrarian-reform programs.  The Philippines is strategically located at a place where crops and other agricultural products can be bountiful without the need of special effort and measures (unlike those in colder states).  We are good at it, and what better way to utilize our resources other than improving what we are already good at?  Include that with the application of innovative scientific research for the improvement of process and it could redound to higher GDP in general (which then leads to better economy).  Also, food will be cheaper for citizens, and hunger rates will go down.

Corruption is another topic, but that is a harder problem to solve and dwelling on that is not advisable.  Instead, focusing on the three above can actually lead to a more efficient allocation of public funds, and it can be an easier and short-term alternative solution to the people’s question of where our taxes go.

Surely we are burdened with high taxes right now.  It is definitely fine if majority of the citizens can feel the benefit arising therefrom; unfortunately, that is not the case at the moment.  Some folks might even suggest the imposition of higher tax rates, but my apologies:  I am not a fan of that concept, thanks to my biased concern for my high-paying salary.  Why would I pay for something that I, or the people, will not benefit from?

In fact, one can say that with the amount that the government deducts from us, they are getting more than enough to fund plentiful projects notwithstanding the fact that most of it are pocketed by those in power.  Going after those stolen funds is not the only solution: we also need to formulate a more intelligence action plan.

Disclaimer:  This is an essay of my personal opinions and as such, not backed up by credible evidences.  It is very vague, yes, but in so far as my ideas go, I am merely putting things that I can think of.