The Challenge of a Hundred Days: Believing that Filipinos can End Poverty and Corruption in the Philippines

By: Antonio Meloto

Is it possible for Filipinos within my lifetime - I just turned sixty- to unite and raise a great President who can make us believe that ours can be a strong nation?

I believe we can.

That leader can be President-elect Benigno C. Aquino III. The historic moment can be now.

Hopefully, we don't squander this chance. Time is running out on my generation and I don't want my children to inherit a country that they cannot be proud of, that will not guaranty them safety and opportunity for a dignified life.

The first 100 days after June 30 is not just for the new President to prove to us that he can lead but, more importantly, for all of us to prove to ourselves that we love this country enough to set aside our differences and interests to help him succeed and finally show the world that we are not too selfish and self-serving...and downright stupid... in the practice of our faith and freedom.

The first 100 days is our test if we can do things differently given this new window of opportunity. We not only need a good leader but we have to prove to ourselves that we are deserving of a good one.

The new President has feet of clay who has yet to end his nicotine addiction and he will most likely fail us if we do not give him the strength he needs to overcome his weaknesses.  He needs us as we need him to be strong as a people. Let's try our best not to fail one another.Now that elections are over it is time to come out and express solidarity with our chosen leader for the good of all by being what we demand him to be.

I deliberately hid from sight in the last election to remain non-partisan and respect the choices of friends with their multi-coloured political loyalties. While I prayed for good leaders I personally knew to win, I kept my silence... and peace, and waited for winners to be proclaimed, eager to get back to work with those who want to work with us.
I saw no candidate as adversary or enemy.  l engage those who  respect our  terms of engagement. Anyone who is a friend of the poor is a friend. Anyone who loves my country is family. I regret the defeat of good leaders I know, but look forward to working with the victors that I have yet to know.

Leadership after all is not about winning elections or staying in power but about going beyond self-interest and rising above rivalries for a higher cause, even working with political opponents - call it balimbing or whatever name you like - for the common good.

To build a strong nation, we must learn to engage everyone, bridge gaps that divide and leverage limited resources by encouraging those who have to give more to those who have less.

While we must engage every politician without judgment and without compromise, our cause of nation-building must transcend politics. Politics is for politicians, nation-building is for everyone - from the highest leader of the land to the weakest squatter in the poorest slum. It is for ordinary citizens like me to help provide connectivity to the un-reached, build trust among the wary and give hope to those in despair.

In the first 100 days, let us be a people of faith.

First, it is good to start by having faith in our leader. We must accept him wholeheartedly as the President for all Filipinos, including those who did not vote for him.

Given the circumstances of his miraculous ascendancy to power, reluctant in the beginning yet resolute with an overwhelming mandate in the end, we must accept that it is his divine destiny to lead us. If he is God-sent then we must treasure the gift and provide him all the support and encouragement to build a just and prosperous nation.

Let us not trivialise the opportunity to start right with our petty politics nor be influenced by ugly cynics who do not see anything good in this country or in this life. Let us be radical optimists and hope-weavers for a change, to give our new leader and our country a chance.

It is imperative for those who worked hard for his victory to remain noble and true by not expecting any favours in return for their efforts. Great leaders are often pulled down  by followers who demand their share of power. Great chances to do great good are spoiled when nobility is exchanged for the spoils of victory. On the other hand if asked by their leader to do a crucial task, they must also be humble enough to accept.

From our new President, let us demand nothing but faith in himself that he can be faithful to his covenant to govern with integrity, courage and justice.

From every Filipino, let us also demand nothing less than faith in ourselves that we can transform an entire nation - slum after slum, barrio after barrio - by transforming ourselves first. Let us not simply depend on the awesome power of the President and blame everything on him if he fails to deliver. Rather, let us harness the awesome power of the people, united and committed to do good, to help the President deliver.

Concretely, what can we do?

Start by believing that every Filipino can help, even the poorest among them.

Like the poor in Payatas who did not sell their votes but even contributed their meagre resources to his campaign or carried his yellow ribbon in their tricycle without getting paid. We must see the poor as a blessing, not a assets, not liabilities.

The poor are starting to see him as hope. This was their statement in the last election when they chose Noynoy.  We must therefore help him champion the rising Filipino poor for their hope not to be dashed again. Help him help them out of extreme poverty and give them middle-class aspirations. That will motivate them to work and send their children to school. The rejected stones can be the foundation of a strong nation. A true leader is one who will make this happen.

To usher in a season of hope, we can do many things in the next 100 days.

* Give unproductive land to the squatters.
* Build a home for the homeless. * Start a business.
* Join a medical mission.
* Plant a tree.
* Send a poor child to school.

The list of good things to do is endless. The list of things to complain about is also endless.  Better to walk the talk than preach and bitch.

To start a period of grace for corruption to end, we can also do many honest things in the 100 days.
* Do not cheat the wife.
* Do not give or accept a bribe.
* Do not rob the poor of just wages.
* Do not pad the expense account.
* Do not cheat in exams.

Again, it is a long list but it always begins with me.

I cannot demand honesty from our government leaders if I cannot be honest myself.

As for me and my household,we will offer the  100 days in simple and sincere service to our poor countrymen.  We will pursue our drive to build sustainable and empowered communities in every barangay in the country.  The Gawad Kalinga People Power Over Poverty campaign we launched in 2004 with Tita Cory  will be a great legacy for the  son to continue 6 years later. Continuity is key to development which does not happen overnight.

Many  social initiatives that bloomed during the term of the mother may finally bear fruit and be ripe for harvest during the term of the son. But they must be willing to work with one another to make things work for the good of an entire nation.

This is key to the first 100 days. It must send the signal to everyone, starting at the top all the way to the ground, that the interest of the country is first.

To have impact, it must be supported by those who placed him in the highest office of the land. Imagine the power of the 14 million Filipinos who voted for Noynoy to lead in being good citizens - obeying traffic rules, avoid polluting our waterways, staying away from drugs or simply not pissing in public.

We must be first in showing discipline and character in defining our own 100 days.

An important statement needs to be made. The Yellow Power is not just about waging a political campaign to win an election. It is about winning the campaign to build a nation.

This is also true for Filipinos abroad who gave Noynoy a big vote of confidence.  They must have enough confidence in him to match this with action. They can visit, volunteer, remit, donate or invest or whatever they can do for the country's benefit. Most importantly, they must herald the advent of hope for a beloved Mother-land and the emergence of the Global Filipino who will no longer allow himself to be defined by poverty and corruption.

I'm writing this piece at 4 am in Washington DC on the third leg of an eight city tour to rally Filipinos in America through GKUSA to build our Filipino Dream in this new springtime of hope with our People Power President.

Pardon the musings of a senior citizen who is tired of waiting for the right  leader to come. This time I cannot afford to fail. I owe it to my six grandchildren and those who are still to come to give my all to make my new President the right one, for them and every Filipino to have a future full of grace in this cherished Pearl of the East.

Before I sleep let me end this with a prayer.

Dear God, bless us with a leader who will be bold, able and true and grant all of us the wisdom to honour the gift of being Filipino.  Amen.