In a few days, we will be celebrating Christmas day, and while many of us are still rushing to buy our gifts for our family, friends and love ones, I hope that we never forget that it is not the amount of the gift that matters but rather the thoughtfulness and the sincerity of the giver.
This season is also a time for us to look back at the past year and be thankful to our Lord for all the many blessings that we have received the past year. As they say, the most content and joyful person is usually the most appreciative of the simple blessings and joys in our lives.
For our country, here are some things that we should be thankful for this year.
1.) Justice for all: The impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona
Many of us followed this “telenovela” which ran from January until June this year. Corona was a known ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was known to have used his considerable clout and influence to move the Supreme Court to always decide favorably on the cases involving the former President and her allies. In the end, the Senate, acting as an impeachment court, voted 20-3 to oust Corona and show every Filipino that no one, not even the highest magistrate, is above the law.
More importantly, the whole impeachment process that was the first in our history to be completed showed all of us that we have strong democratic processes to ensure that our public officials can be held accountable for their actions. Aside from this, more Filipinos were made aware of the value of having the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of our government officials made publicly available for each and every Filipino to see. Sadly, many of our government officials continue to withhold these documents for fear that their corrupt ways will be put into light.
Although there are still many government officials especially in the local government level that continue their corrupt ways, the impeachment of Corona showed us that the present administration is serious in taking major steps to enforce its campaign slogan of “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”.
2.) Championing Public Health Care: Passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill and the Sin Tax Bill
A double victory for the state of public health in our country as President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III used considerable political will to ensure that our legislators would pass these two landmark laws in our country.
The RH Bill would now provide ordinary Filipinos especially our youth with the basic knowledge about sex and sexuality that would hopefully curb the growing number of unwanted pregnancies and the recent surge in sexually-transmitted diseases most especially HIV-AIDS. Aside from this, safe birth control and contraception methods will now be taught and provided to women, especially those living in depressed communities, to help ensure that they are able to properly plan for their families. Finally, the RH Bill, through the support of PhilHealth, will now be able to provide access to proper health facilities and health services to pregnant women to ensure that Filipinas will have healthy pregnancies and will no longer have to risk dying due to complications arising from childbirth.
The Sin Tax Bill, which President Aquino just signed into law, will now help our government generate billions of pesos in additional revenue, which will help upgrade and improve our government hospitals. Aside from this, our government leaders are expecting that since cigarettes and alcohol will now be sold at a much higher price, then this would hopefully curb the growing number of smokers and drinkers in our country. Lesser number of smokers and drinkers would eventually lead to healthier families and communities.
3.) Good Governance is Good for Business: Asia’s next Tiger economy?
Yesterday, a businessman friend and I were talking over lunch over the state of our country. Both of us agreed that there is renewed hope and confidence in our country’s economy during the past two years of the Aquino administration. Proof of this can be seen as international agencies such as the World Bank, Credit Suisse and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch have upgraded our economic growth forecasts for this year. This clearly shows how good governance is able to create a business friendly environment for our country that has led to more local and foreign investors doing business here.
One strong indicator of economic growth in our country is the rapid development of real estate properties all over the country. In Metro Manila alone, you can already see residential buildings rising almost everywhere that goes to show that more and more Filipinos are able to afford buying their own homes. The steady rise in this sector has helped provide more job opportunities for Filipinos even to a point that there are now shortages in carpenters and welders in our country. Hopefully, this will translate into fewer Filipino families going hungry and having more of them being able to access quality education and healthcare.
If our economic growth continues, then it will only be a matter of time before we become the newest Asian economic tiger.
Looking back at 2012, there are many things that we as a Filipino people have to be thankful for as we enter 2013 with much hope and a positive outlook that things will continue to get better for our country and most importantly, for every Filipino.
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Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government and is also the Lead Convenor of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.