By Monsi A. Serrano
The pandemic has brought us down to our knees literally and figuratively.
Literally, because many have knelt down in prayer, now more spiritually mindful of what will happen to them after this life. I can say that Filipinos in general have been more reflective and conscientious in their actions and deeds. Figuratively, the weight of this pandemic has brought us to our knees, losing jobs, closing business, or worse, losing a loved one.
While the bayanihan spirit has become a buzzword, for some, it is an evocative word or rhetoric that serves as bells and whistles to those who want to be called bayani (hero). The truth is we do not have to die to be a hero, which is one that is always typified of a hero.
But what disturbs me now are lawmakers who are supposed to act on economic reform bills in order to make the lives of the Filipinos in these trying times less burdensome. They’re supposed to give our countrymen hope by hastening the passage of economic bills direly needed for our economic recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of ensuring their passage, why did they leave hanging the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy or ARISE Bill that has a P1.3-trillion budget to boost the economy? Then, we have the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (Create) bill that calls for reduced corporate income tax rate that could be used by companies for expansion or distribution. The Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA) by lowering the minimum paid-up capital for foreign retail investors to $300,000 from $2.5 million, and this I am sure will spur more direct foreign investment. Last, but definitely not least, is the Public Services Act, lifting foreign ownership limits in certain sectors except telecommunications to 49%. This would pave the way for modernizing a wide range of public services. Filipinos deserve more than the current state of public utilities which have not evolved that much. Sadly, since last year, we’ve been hearing the noisy drumbeating and bravado from our congressmen and senators yet fall short of delivering in these areas of economic concern. By the way they acted, it seemed they only saw the pandemic as an opportunity to grandstand instead of truly respond to the needs of the nation.
I still cannot understand why there are lawmakers who shamelessly and insidiously push for Charter change in the guise of economic reforms. Clearly, they’re just looking after the future of their political careers. Your honors, have some conscience. If you care for the Filipino people who trusted you to represent them and their primary concerns — food, health and jobs — pass the aforementioned bills now. Don’t be anxious about your political career’s future, instead be anxious about the families and individuals who put their hopes and trust in you to make this unbearable life in the midst of pandemic more bearable. Give them hope and compassion.
You want to heal as one, and to recover as one? Then, pass these economic bills now. They’re urgent. You want to be heroes? Do what is good for the greater number of people and in their eyes, and even in the eyes of your family, you become heroes. And if that happens, you can proudly say, “I live the true meaning of the bayanihan spirit.”
Truly, Plato is right when he said, and I quote: “There are three classes of men: lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain.” Where do you think you belong?