Inclusive Way: An Aug. 21 initiative (Philippines Daily Inquirer)

The elitist and oligarchic structure of Philippine society is no longer sustainable in the light of the truism that the real foundation of the country’s economic redemption after the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the collapse of fundamental institutions wrought by martial rule is not the taipans, the peninsulares, the ruling political and economic elite, or foreign investors. These groups are, in fact, the beneficiaries. Economic redemption happened despite them.

The real movers are those who found no viable options in the country and were forced to go abroad to work: the overseas Filipino workers who remitted foreign currencies in the billions of US dollars year in and year out, through good times and bad, to support the families they left behind. In the process, they built up the Philippines’ economic resources way beyond what the elite could have mustered. The Inclusive Way is the challenge to which the OFWs will respond, along with their advocates, fellow Filipinos of goodwill, who will mobilize and organize with them for the cause.

This is a real call, a challenge to pursue the Inclusive Way. This is a response to Pope Francis’ invitation to go to the peripheries of society and deliver opportunities for integral human development where these are dismally absent. Perhaps an Atip, a roof for all under one roof, can be organized to mobilize Filipinos who see the futility of relying on the present toxic and traditional politics to deliver the required transformation in society for all.

This is a real call, a challenge to pursue the Inclusive Way. This is a response to Pope Francis’ invitation to go to the peripheries of society and deliver opportunities for integral human development where these are dismally absent. Perhaps an Atip, a roof for all under one roof, can be organized to mobilize Filipinos who see the futility of relying on the present toxic and traditional politics to deliver the required transformation in society for all.

The Inclusive Way will reach out, as a first priority, to the poor economic sector: agriculture. Poverty is highest in rural Philippines, and its range includes coconut farmers and fisher folk among the poorer end. Sugar farmers used to be among the poorest, as projected in the image of a malnourished sacada child in the 1970s. There have been successful development advocates for them.

The Inclusive Way will shepherd farmers’ children and help them realize that there is a future in farming for them and their families. There is a calling for tilling the land, harvesting the field, herding the livestock, dropping the fish nets. Family farm schools must have greater impact. Agricultural cooperatives will provide a platform.

The Inclusive Way will address the plight of workers and laborers and offer schemes that they can pursue, to tell them that flight to other countries is no longer the sole way out of poverty. Cooperatives are making headway in organizing individual workers beset by end-of-contract disruptions to be owners of their service capabilities and collectively become service providers to big business.

The Inclusive Way will go to the slums and determine ways to replicate what Gawad Kalinga and similar groups are doing, contributing to the uplift of the most impoverished communities. Slums are consequences of local migration because of poverty in agriculture. Development in the rural areas should put an end to these.

The Inclusive Way will link up with ethnic and cultural minorities, with indigenous peoples, with peoples of different faiths, and in solidarity work for the common good in peace. Bangsamoro is an aspiration by all.

The Inclusive Way will connect with those in society who are blessed with success, building up wealth, tangible and intangible, as well as goodwill that can be tapped for mobilizing and integrating Philippine society toward one nation where inclusive development is a universally shared dream. As the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines so aptly declared: No one is so rich that there is nothing more he can receive, and no one is so poor that there is nothing he can give.

Thirty-two years is a long time passing without Philippine society transforming despite Ninoy Aquino’s sacrifice. The situation is reason for desperation, yet hope springs eternal. After Ninoy’s assassination, two presidents personally untainted by corruption, his wife and son, were elected. Under the circumstances, these are big gains. Where power and self-gain have been pervasive-as summed up by the infamous remark of postwar Senate President Jose Avelino, What are we in power for?-and pursued to its limits under Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule, uncorrupt and incorruptible presidents are great blessings. The country needs more of them.

What is now a cliche, Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country, was typed on an old Underwood typewriter. And the May 2016 elections is an opportunity for change-change we can believe in, according to a slogan for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.

But what change can we expect from the elections when the poor are to be used again for selfish, elitist and trapo interests? The only real change that will matter is when the many poor and poor in spirit work together, for the Inclusive Way, for the August Twenty-One Initiative Pro-poor or Atip: a roof for all under one roof.