Of Citizens and Citizenship

I learned this in elementary school. Back when teachers influenced half of my young life and opened the windows to learning and understanding. Back when their words echoed with wisdom and kindness.

“Some men are born to be leaders

whose role is to guide and lead

but great is the burden of leadership

that no man can alone achieve.”

When Rodrigo Roa Duterte took the oath of office as President, a lot of promises were made; a lot of expectations were raised. The tough talking mayor who cleaned Davao and made it a good place to live in was tasked to do the same for the entire country. And he gamely and wholeheartedly accepted the challenge. Two years into his presidency, fatigue and frustration are setting in. The 73-year-old president is showing his age.

Recently, he spoke of resigning if only a competent successor is waiting in the wings. In his opinion, Leni Robredo is not going to cut it. Such a pronouncement was taken by supporters and detractors alike as dark clouds in a gathering storm. Prepare for the worst because it is coming.

The war on drugs seems to have met a wall. Shabu smuggling in billions of pesos continues and the worst part is none of the big time lords are caught and prosecuted. The authorities are a step behind and are left with excuses and mea culpas. Unreasonable or not, the people expect that the drugs will stop like turning a faucet off. Yet all they do is watch and condemn.

Duterte came to office appointing public servants whom he believed shared his mind and heart. But he has more firings than appointments because of corruption. From his own exasperated words, he described corruption as endemic; perhaps part of the Filipinos’ DNA. Born with it, will die with it.

Then there is the issue of election cheating; the worst violation of a citizen’s right. Stealing the people’s money is something. But stealing the people’s will is a crime that must not go unpunished. Yet none of the senators, congressmen and other elected officials take such seriously. Is it because they all benefited from such?

In all these problems, the ordinary citizen suffers and questions. He asks in all anger and frustration, when are all these problems going to end? Shouldn’t Duterte, the President, the saviour that the people voted for, solve all these? Is he doing his job? Or is he going the way the other presidents went? Incompetent. Spineless. Visionless. Inutile. Useless. Corrupt.

And there lies the crux of all the problems.

Filipino citizens have no citizenship. Filipinos do not care about their country. They only care for themselves, what they own, what they posses. This is not more evident in how houses are fenced, with grounds immaculately maintained yet garbage accumulates on the streets. No individual owns the street. The responsibility to keep it clean is not a citizen’s job. Duterte is the one responsible.

Check the way traffic laws are perceived as suggestions. And how each one takes advantage of its violation. The enforcer demands bribes, the violator bribes to get away. And recently, in the clearing of city streets initiated by Metro Manila Development Authority(MMDA), people with high education, people who are supposed to implement the laws, people who are rich and privileged, defy, cajole and even attack the enforcers. And in violating all these laws, the citizens have the gall and the chutzpah to complain about the state of traffic and the streets! Not our problem. It’s Duterte’s.

And everybody suffers.

Citizenship. The Philippines is owned by all Filipinos. Where’s the care and pride in ownership? Where is the resolve to keep the Barangays and their communities clean and safe? Where’s the responsibility and commitment to stand as one people, one nation and promoting the country’s patrimony? Where is the FILIPINO?

The conquistadors never had it so easy conquering a fragmented people. They brought in a fraction of their forces and used the different tribes against each other. They had wine, cheese and crackers while the natives wage war against each other trying to gain the invaders’ favor. Colonial mentality was tattooed in each Indio’s skull and was handed down from one generation to the next. And yes, the conquistadors have left, but proudly like a badge of honor, Filipino colonial mentality remains.

There is no country without citizens. There are no citizens without citizenship. The country’s problems are not just the responsibility of Duterte. The solutions are each Filipino man’s, woman’s and child’s responsibility.

True then. Truer now. We all live within the parameters of what we are willing to work, sacrifice and even die for.

Citizenship. Each citizen, like it or not, deserves the country he has.


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