Catholic Good Friday will see some Filipinos crucifying themselves in a blood soaked ceremony whose participants claim helps them to understand the suffering of their Lord. But while there are different views on the ceremony ranging from total condemnation to theological approval, there is a different kind of crucifixion that takes place in The Philippines on a daily basis.
Just as in the Bible it is taught that Jesus Christ suffered for the sins of mankind, in a secular sense it is ordinary Filipinos who are suffering for the sins of their 1987 Constitution and the elites seek to defend it. It is due to the fact that the 1987 Constitution has some of Asia’s strictest prohibitions on foreign direct investment that the country’s once region leading economy has fallen far behind many of its ASEAN partners in spite of President Duterte’s reformist agenda.
While in other ASEAN countries, foreign money is allowed to enter the market and create new jobs which in turn leads to future generations developing their own businesses and entrepreneurial ventures, in The Philippines, a still far too closed economic system leads to a cycle of poverty in which a few oligarchs control the nation’s wealth while ordinary people are deprived of the foreign capital necessary to help generate fresh wealth.
As a result, while some countries export goods and some countries sell services, The Philippines exports people. For this reason, many millions of Filipinos will have to celebrate Easter far away from their homeland.
There is another parallel between the Biblical story of Easter and the contemporary Philippines. In the Bible, Christ preached against a corrupt legalistic political and financial oligarchy that dominated his land. Christ’s teachings advocated for a more ethical social environment where people were not judged based on social status or legal standing but based on the quality of their moral character. Within such a system, those who made mistakes were to be given a chance to rectify their standing in an atmosphere of atonement and good public works.
In The Philippines, a good moral standing is hardly valued and it is the politicians who set the worst examples. Just as Christ threw the money lenders out of the ancient temple, Philippine politics is filled with the lowest forms of avaricious, dishonest, unethical and cunning individuals one could imagine. Although Duterte continues to wage a war on corruption and all that goes with it, it is the very system of politics in The Philippines that breeds dishonesty, laziness and arrogance. For every money changer that Duterte throws out of the political temple, the system continues to breed many more.
In a parliamentary system, a genuine meritocracy could develop in which people are judged daily by the their works and record rather than on an obtuse and vulgar popularity contest in which political dynasties change the money of the wealthy oligarchs under the eyes of a nation that can do nothing to stop the disastrous process.
A fully fledged parliamentary system when combined with federal governance would help politicians to become more accountable and therefore more honest and responsive. Likewise, if a politician is sabotaging the will of the people, parliamentary systems allow for such politicians to be thrown out of government, just as the money changers were thrown out of the temple.
For far too long, the clerics of The Philippines who claim to be Christians have attained great wealth for themselves while telling the people to be content with poverty. This is a deeply destructive message. Ultimately, the goal of all peaceful religions like that of all peaceful political philosophies is one that seeks to implement the golden rule. So long as one can attain wealth through hard work rather than through the suffering of others, it is totally proper and healthy for one to seek earthly enrichment.
As such, Filipinos should commit themselves to changing their rotten form of government to one that allows people to improve their lives on earth rather than be content to suffer for the sins of others as the 1987 continues to metaphorically crucify Filipinos in more ways than one. It is time for Filipinos to seek redemption on earth.