On Monday, 10 May 2010, the people of the Philippines will again exercise the right and the privilege of suffrage- the political franchise that embodies the idea that the people, under one government, shall have a voice in selecting the leaders and the representatives that will hold authority and exercise control and administration of the political machinery of that sovereign state in the far east.

It is thus high time for me to at least share a few of my thoughts on some of the most basic aspects of democracy, and hope that every filipino realizes the very importance of not only choosing their leaders, but of choosing their leaders well.

First off, do realize that in democracy, it is not the government that keeps the country’s economy in shape- it is the private sector, the business people, the working individual. The taxes paid by these entities hold up the economic architecture of the country, while the government does its job well (or rather too well) of trying to spend all of these revenues, all for the grandest intentions of public service.

Ask yourself now, why are there so many people in the public sector? The government is seen by many as a very stable employer, once you got in, you are insured of your livelihood for life, and sometimes even for the afterlife (“ghost employees”?). You get a good enough salary, with taxes practically lower than the amount you spend on cigarretes for a week. You ride with the wind and wait for retirement and then enjoy a good enough pension, a tribute for spending your whole life in service to the public.

Don’t get me wrong. Government employees are heroes in their own right, and there are many that is there for their genuine desire to help their fellowmen. It is the “system” and the “methods” used to run that system that needs retooling, not the people. Consider these points:

1. Hiring too many people in the government service is counter-productive to the economy. Of course, they generate more jobs (and more votes), but hey, if the government saves enough money not paying salaries and benefits to twenty people holding different positions but otherwise having the same job description, we could build more roads to help the farmers get their produce to the market at the least cost, thereby bringing down the prices of basic commodities;

2. Instead of over-taxing the business sector, why not create initiatives that make their businesses profitable and enable them to grow and invest more in the country, thus generating more “real” jobs and enhancing the revenue generating capacity of the government. Why should the government need to employ 100 people that contribute 1 peso in taxes, when it can create better employment opportunities for the same 100 people, who can now shell out 10 pesos for the national coffers?

Second, in democracy, it is said that the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. I beg to disagree. What is really happening is that the rich grow richer faster than the poor grow richer. Everybody is getting richer, what with all the things that the poor can afford now compared to what the poor can afford 30 years ago, it is the gap between the rich and the poor that is really widening, and it is a natural progression of development. If everyone is rich, who will work for each other? if everyone is poor, who will invest and give work opportunities for each other? the key is to find the balance between the two and make it possible for interdependence.

The government must make education world-class and at the same time affordable for everybody. Institute Financial Aid Programs and give everybody the chance to get a good education. Use tax money to improve schools. Stop with the “poor but deserving” nonsense! Everybody should have access to quality education, the rich and the poor alike. It is a fact that a good education almost always lead to good jobs, so educate the children. Stop the profiling between the intelligent and the dumb, we all know there is no such thing. The ones good in math become engineers, the ones not too good become construction workers- the former cannot succeed without the latter, as much as the latter cannot survive without the former. The trick is to educate the construction workers, give them the technical know-how that make them very good workers and help the engineers attain their goals. In turn, the engineers keep them employed, raise their salaries and they keep their families fed. Interdependence, through quality and affordable education.

Third, in democracy, the great equalizer is the citizen’s right of suffrage.

The vote of the fisherman is just the same as the vote of the ship captain. The vote of the jeepney driver is just as equal as the vote of the pilot. The vote of the beggar or the janitor is just as powerful as the vote of a Corporate CEO or the vote of the President. Each is entitled to only one vote.

So, think deep and think long. Don’t just hitch a ride on the bandwagon. Exercise your right, it is the only time that you are at par with everybody else. Vote for what you believe in, not for what others want you to believe. Be aware of everything that is happening around you, get involved.

Don’t sell your vote- and i don’t just mean selling it for money. Choose according to your mind, not according to your heart. Emotions almost always cloud rational thinking, and you cannot afford committing a mistake at the rare time that you are given the opportunity to decide for your and your family’s destiny in the country you call your home.

This rare time has come before us now, on Monday, the time of the Great Equalizer.

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