Freedom is not Independence

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Founders of the Katipunan

Founders of the Katipunan

Indeed, we have freedom. Sadly, we have no independence. There is a struggle to be won, not against an external aggressor, but against our own weakness.

Free but dependent. That is the Filipino, the collective Filipino. There are changes, of course, but not yet enough to earn independence. Not until we rise above our poverty, not until we rise above corruption.

With half of Filipinos believing themselves to be poor, and ten million reported to be working abroad at the cost of separation from their families during the best years of their lives, independence remains a struggle of a free people. Freedom may mean we rule ourselves instead of submitting to a foreign power, but independence is a collective standing on our own two feet – and we do not.

In a homeland that is blessed with awesome abundance, poverty haunts Filipinos in great numbers. Definitely, our Overseas Filipino Workers have dramatically lessened the numbers of the poor. By doing so, they have raised the level of our self-reliance, our independence. But they do so feeling forced, wanting to rise above their inherited poverty in the bosom of their motherland but not being able to. It is a choice made from freedom but difficult to say the choice was independent.

We have paid a great price for our freedom. Four hundred years of enduring the rule of foreign masters, and the wars they had waged against each other, the freedom we gained in 1946 put us squarely against a more insidious enemy – our own patterned conditioning. History had been most unkind these last four centuries. We tasted the loss of our freedom, we tasted the iron hand of colonialism, we even became witness to the betrayal of some of our own who chose to collaborate with the enemy for ten pieces of silver. The harshest of all, though, is that too many of us lost our anger and learned to accept submission as a way of life.

Poverty does that. Poverty keeps a human being and a family at survival mode. Foreign masters had to plunder our native resources; that was why they conquered us in the first place. They had to make us poor, then weak. That was the only way to exploit us on a prolonged and sustained basis. It meant bribing local leaders to help them exercise control over a native population that far outnumbered them. Greed is such a powerful motivation for treason, just as fear, and the foreign masters knew how to stoke both.

When freedom wins for us the absence of foreign rule, it does not win for us everything else. The loss of inner strength, the loss of confidence from a loss of opportunity, and continuing governance that copies the exploitative bent of the past masters instead of one that seeks democratic empowerment had stunted independence despite freedom from external rule.

People can confuse freedom with independence. This confusion is aggravated when leaders do not guide them firmly and effectively away from begging and towards self-reliance, and actually perpetuates exploitation. That exploitation of power, always accompanied with material gain, is what is known as corruption. Nothing encourages corruption more than poverty in the midst of plenty. History, too, negates the assumption that the rich do not need to take advantage of power; it is almost always the opposite.

No wonder, then, that in the midst of plenty, in the midst not only of natural resources so mind-boggling in their abundance but also of an economy that thrives from remittances and the aggressive intelligence of the elite, corruption defines governance at all levels. Statesmanship is lost when power has open access to wealth. The common good is nowhere as inviting as personal gain for those who govern when a country has great wealth but a poor population. Inner temptation can be a more formidable enemy than a foreign invader.

It does not mean that change for the better is not possible. A crusading president, if the crusade outweighs all other considerations, can make history turn. But he needs to be relentless in order to make history change its course. A leader cannot reverse patterns unless he or she has personally risen above these same patterns. All the more when the leader works within the confines of democratic rule because a system based on political maturity makes good governance almost impossible in a reality of selfish politics.

But leave it up to evolution to level the playing field. Tipping points are not only reached by personal efforts but maybe even more so by collective convergence. Our younger generations, complemented powerfully by awesome technological advances, now challenge the patterns of history and are actually winning. They have ripened the tipping point and guarantee radical changes. The culture of corruption dominates still but is severely challenged by the transparency triggered by technology and the surprising nobility of our youth.

The moment nears when freedom will finally find its sought-after independence. The moment nears when the poor will find kinder treatment and more value in society, when they will value themselves more. When they do, they will not tolerate poverty from inheritance. And they will stand up to the corrupt. It can be then said that the maturity of democracy is such a sweet fruit.

What stands between today and that coming moment is sacrifice and commitment. Those who seek a better life must invest more towards it. Those who advocate for change must be more single-minded in its pursuit. There will be no quantum leap from poverty and corruption to justice and prosperity, no quantum leap from freedom to freedom and independence without paying the price, a steep price.

Filipinos are paying the price.

7 Responses. Have your say.

  1. pat talens says:

    Very insightful article indeed.

    Many things I agree, but other thing I disagree as well, as cited in the article. I shall confine my post on an issue I disagree so much—that the writer asserts the country is in the midst of plenty, in the midst of natural resources so mind-boggling in abundance. Tell these to the thousands of disillusioned college graduates who can not find jobs because of lack of jobs; tell these abundance to the countless poor who can hardly survive, and hardly make ends meet and make pagpag food their best food on the table; tell these plenty and abundance to those who withstand the long wait and lines just to peek and apply for employments overseas, even in dangerously war-torn countries; yes, tell this to those Filipinos who brave it to become domestic helpers abroad only to be beaten and tortured by their employers, just so they can send money homes; also, tell this abundance to so many suffering families who were victims of disasters, that today I find them victimized again, not by natural disasters, but by ineptitude and apathetic, misguided rehabilitation operations by the national government.

    What the country has in terms of plenty and abundance is on criminalities in all walks of life—perpetrated by high caliber politicians and leaders in government who ironically swore to serve the people.

    At any rate, anyone who lately follows the news and who loves the Philippines should be somehow inspired that the machineries of justice seems starting to turn, though quite slowly. High profile corrupt politicians will continue on with their politically staged spectacles to garner sympathy, they will exploit in hypocrite manners the name of God for their ungodly ways, they will stage love of family and love of their children as pretext they are somewhat noble when they are truly not—for they stole so much that cause so many people and children to suffer, so many farmers to become poorer…so many lands unfertilized, so many roads not built and unprepared, so many schools in disrepair and lacking on a country experiencing the extreme challenges of population explosion.

    The Philippines is in a crossroad. Its President Aquino is in his defining moments of his legacy to be. And the Filipino people should now be fed up—with all these unabated corruptions in the institutions of government. The time is due for a change. Otherwise it will be nauseatingly the same—Revilla, Enrile, Estrada and their likes will rule the once-upon-a-tme abundant Philippines and once well-cultured and truly god-loving Filipinos.

    • pat talens says:

      Of course, I don’t mean I now recognize my blood nation entirely no longer well-cultured and truly god-loving. But it now mirrors the prevailing mindset of many Filipinos—their manners while in worship in their churches instantly evolve when they exit the walls of their churches to actions reflecting mindset of hipocricy, greed, and the instincts for animalistic survival mode. And here political leaders are known for their betrayal of their people in scope and dimensions I feel much worse than what Judas Iscariot did. While Judas executed himself for betraying Jesus, these corrupt politicians continue to live and to deceive. And while Judas caused the death of Jesus, these high profile corrupt bandits, bring about unintended deaths among so many, from their thievery of the people money.

      Indeed, President Aquino is in his defining moments of his Presidency. His “daang matuwid” is becoming more crooked than straight, and with so many potholes that are becoming deeper and larger.

    • Bobby Bagps says:

      Pat, our country is not only in a crossroad, it has reach that point of no return. Like a plane traveling over vast oceans, only to realize that the it does not have enough fuel to make it to its destination and turning it around will have the same result. Our kababayans in my opinion are in the same predicament, they can allow the likes of Enrile, Revilla and Estrada to continue to pull the rug from under their feet or have enough common sense and say enough of these bullish*t, we are taking charge of our destiny for the sake of our family and our beloved Filipinas, we are going to start holding our elected officials feet to the fire for their failures and throw them out of office. Now, if our kababayans can do that, Juan de la Cruz may make it yet, even with not enough fuel.

    • manok says:

      i think what the article means is that there is plenty of natural resources like the seas..unproductive lands etc. etc…it means that a few powerful rich corner the natural resources together with the foreign investors and smuggling of our minerals and means that if government were to spend the pork barrel for dams..geothermal projects..irrigation..pouring billions of pesos into infrastructure for the depressed areas like samar and Mindanao…then there would be less of imports of rice..meat products is the wrong allocation of funds for infrastructure projects to have kickbacks etc. that makes the Philippines poor..Years back there was an article in the Readers Digest that analyzed why America is powerful and the greatest nation on earth..It was not the military might BUT THE ABUNDANCE OF FOOD ..a well fed armed nation is always a powerful nation..what makes the Filipino weak is that he is hungry..instead of protesting against injustices, he has to first look for food and on this thing, he looks up to government because he does not have anything else but himmself and government…if the Filipino were full in the stomach and well fed nutritionally then he will have time to work against injustices and rise against those who trample upon him..only then will the Filipino be independent..when he can eat 3 nutritionally full meals a day..

  2. Jose Samilin says:

    The freedom without independence. We are in the brink of eminent danger for another revolution brought about poverty situation in our motherland due to not by foreign government or colonial control but by our own weakneasses to self govern our own wealth and individual rights of the citizenry. We are truly link with humankind and its history by the deepest of bonds. Therefore, the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the Filipino people who are victims of the unwanted administration of the current President Benigno Aquino III of the Republic of the Philippines, whose majority population is wallowing deep in poverty, subjected to the culture of impunity and experiencing, homelessness, powerlessness, joblessness and hopelessness.

  3. roy says:

    When a politicians used their own or borrowed money during election, there is a great tendency that when he or she wins should recover what was spent by hook or by crook.
    That’s why the politicians always promised everything during election campaigned to get the voters. But the truth is there is money coming if they sit down in the office.
    If there is no changes the elections conducted, there’s no way a changes for a better Philippines will come.

  4. zeny says:

    Yes I agree with the ideas of your editorial. I have always felt that Filipinos could achieve more if only we could have a greater political will than we have ever had. Our fellow citizens have not used their right of suffrage wisely and always voted without much freedom of thought and conscience. They have been bought by politicians whose only concern is to line up their pockets. If the citizens of the Philippines remain uninformed or uneducated, corruption will doom us forever to poverty.

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