Who Is To Blame For Poverty In The Philippines?


By: Atty. Benji


(this article is partly a response of atty benji to our discussion Corruption Is Just  A Tip Of The Iceberg…)

The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) has bared the facts regarding poverty in the Philippines:

“1 out of every 3 Filipinos is poor.”

Mr. Neil Cruz of the Philippine Daily Inquirer has pointed out in his column the everyday realities, which rosy description of the economy could not hide: the number of poor people is increasing. There are more children and old people begging in the streets, squatter colonies where the poorest of the poor lead wretched lives are expanding. More and more people are looking for jobs and finding too few; recruitment agencies are always awash with people hoping to get jobs abroad. The Department of Foreign Affairs can’t cope with the demand for passports as more and more Filipinos try to escape the poverty at home for greener pastures overseas. All of these are clear signs that something is very bad with the economy: it cannot support our population.

And so the persistent questions are ever before the Filipino people and those in government and business: why are there so many poor Filipinos? Why can’t so many Filipinos find jobs at home? Why are they forced to leave their families to earn a living abroad? Why don’t so many Filipinos have enough to eat? If the economy is really as good as the President claims, there would be few poor Filipinos, they would have jobs here, they would have enough to eat, there would be few squatters.

Those in government are quick to make excuses for the growing incidence of poverty: It is because of inflation brought about by the increase in oil prices, they say. It is because of the typhoons. And more excuses, excuses. Other countries were also hit by the high oil prices; other countries were also hit by typhoons. But we are the only country that had such a big increase in poverty.

Corruption in government and among government officials:

Moreover, Mr. Neal Cruz is emphatic in pointing out that it is neither OPEC nor typhoons that are to blame; it is CORRUPTION (….is just a tip of an Iceberg?). Companies find it expensive to do business in the Philippines because of corruption and red tape, so no jobs for Filipinos. Funds that should go to projects and to basic services to the people go to private pockets. Commissioners and brokers are no longer content with 10-percent commissions. They now collect 100 percent of the original cost, thus doubling the cost of the project. The ZTE-NBN and North Rail projects are JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.

We may be wondering why the Philippines is not as stable (or progressive) as the United States although we have copied, and tried to improve, the American Constitution and also in spite of the fact that we are comparably well educated as the American people are. As a matter of fact, well-known constitutionalists claimed that the Philippine Constitution (e.g. Marcos & the Aquino Charter) is the best Constitution in the world.

6 thoughts on “Who Is To Blame For Poverty In The Philippines?

  1. Thanks Atty. Benji. I guess it’s a chicken and egg question. On one end, we can blame the government, and on the other we can blame ourselves, the people, all of us.

    First, the government exists based on a “social contract” be that a theory based on Rosseau or John Locke. The idea is that the people set-up a government, agreed to respect it, pay taxes, etc., on the condition that it will serve the people and pursue the public interest. But there came a time when the government became corrupt, became “manhid” that it failed to do its obligations. On the other hand, the people also permitted it, pay grease money (paipit, pakimkim, under-the-table), did not howl over government irregularities, still elected the politicians with questionable character, sold their votes, etc. In simple sense, the people tolerated the government. So there your poverty comes.

    Second, there is also this problem of definition. Every now and then the government would release statistics saying the economy grew. The people would not ask nor require the government an explanation why this figure and that. As a result, the government became comfortable and believed its own propaganda to be true.

    Lastly, there is also this problem of consciousness. In this, the Church is also a party to blame. The Church would emphasize “Blessed are the poor for they will enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. As a result, the people made no questions and thought it’s just okay to be poor. At any rate, there is an afterlife — Heaven. Whether the Church did it intentionally or not, we cannot say. The possibility is that it missed the context — meaning, its interpretation was wrong. And the Church being wrong is not anymore new nor surprising because like any other organizations, it is also infallible. One evidence of this is when the Church declared Galileo a heretic and excomulgado when the latter declared that the earth is the one moving around the sun. Otherwise, why should the people remain poor when the Bible says “man is created on the image of God”? Unless God is also poor.

    The other possibility is that the Church missing the context is intentional. Studies in psychology and sociology shows that the people tend to cling to God or any gods or goddesses for that matter when they are poor. In simple terms, a great number of individuals seek God only in times of scarcity but in the times of plenty, you can count the fingers of your hand as to the number of those who still go to Church. This observation is also the basis of Karl Marx when he said that “Religion is the opium of the people” — a statement which is commonly taken out of context.

  2. Mostly, people here in the Philippines are not worried of said poverty; many work here to sustain their needs, especially that of their families. When you say that there is justice in other countries we also have it here in the Philippines. Poverty should not be a hindrance to our success, right?. (edited)

  3. Why Is The Philippines Poor?
    By Dr. Arsenio Martin of Fort Arthur , Texas ..

    The difference between the poor countries and the rich ones is not the age of
    the country:

    This can be shown by countries like India & Egypt , that are more than 2000
    years old, but are poor.

    On the other hand, Canada , Australia & New Zealand , that 150 years ago were
    inexpressive, today are developed countries, and are rich.

    The difference between poor & rich countries does not reside in the available
    natural resources.

    Japan has a limited territory, 80% mountainous, inadequate for agriculture &
    cattle raising, but it is the second world economy. The country is like an
    immense floating factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and
    exporting manufactured products.

    Another example is Switzerland, which does not plant cocoa but has the best
    chocolate in the world. In its little territory they raise animals and plant the
    soil during 4 months per year. Not enough, they produce dairy products of the
    best quality! It is a small country that transmits an image of security, order &
    labor, which made it the world’s strongest, safest place.

    Executives from rich countries who communicate with their counterparts in poor
    countries show that there is no significant intellectual difference.

    Race or skin color are also not important: immigrants labeled lazy in their
    countries of origin are the productive power in rich European countries.

    What is the difference then? The difference is the attitude of the people,
    framed along the years by the education & the culture & flawed tradition.

    On analyzing the behavior of the people in rich & developed countries, we find
    that the great majority follow the following principles in their lives:

    1. Ethics, as a basic principle.
    2. Integrity.
    3. Responsibility.
    4. Respect to the laws & rules..
    5. Respect to the rights of other citizens.
    6. Work loving.
    7. Strive for savings & investment.
    8. Will of super action.
    9. Punctuality.
    10. and of course…Discipline

    In poor countries, only a minority follow these basic principles in their
    daily life.

    The Philippines is not poor because we lack natural resources or because
    nature was cruel to us. In fact, we are supposedly rich in natural resources.

    We are poor because we lack the correct attitude. We lack the will to comply
    with and teach these functional principles of rich & developed societies.

    • Why is the Philippines poor?

      I think the recent Ampatuan Massacre has given us some clues as to why the Philippines is poor.

      For us the Philippine nation is actually a farce for it is not a nation but a collection of ethnic minorities or some powerful clans or dynasties who wish to have a nation but are not ready yet for it because they do not want to join together and help one another build that dream of a nation.

      The main indicator of this is that these political clans do not respect the provisions of the constitution- which is supposed to offer us a nation and a rule of law- for these conflict with their own local, clanistic or dynastic interests.

      In short, the interests of these powerful political dynasties conflict with the idea of nation or of nation- building. Hence, the Philippine nation that we think exist, in reality doesn’t exist at all. And a nation that only exists on paper can never become rich, hence can only be poor against such nations- however small and poor in natural resources- because they do exist as nations where people work together for the benefits of the greater majority, of the nation. The reason why Japan or Switzerland are progressive nations despite their lesser natural wealth.

      If you just go back quick to our past and arrive again to the present reality, what do you get? Nothing but an administration and politicians just like in the past that are genuinely interested only in their own “local” and “personal” needs, powerful mayors who have no laws but their own wishes and who slay the wives of their election opponents- and of course a president who is presiding not the affairs of a nation (for there is none) but her own personal affairs.

      I agree with Dr. Arsenio Martin’s statement above that “We are poor because we lack the correct attitude”. Our political leaders lack this correct attitude- if nation-building is meant by it- for they don not want to have this attitude for what they actually want is the poor majority to remain poor as they are for in this condition they don’t pose a threat to their political monopoly and they are easier to manipulate. The people also lack the correct attitude for though they are aware that they are under the control of these dynastic political machineries around them, they still play along with these machineries. “The point however is to change it”, nothing to do with communism but with a social change that in the end harmonizes with the Filipino soul, with his dreams of having (or building) a progressive nation that supports his aspirations for a better life for him and his family as he enjoys his freedom, rights and responsibilities.

      To sum up, to escape from poverty, we should first understand what a nation is and help build it. And for this to occur, we need the right attitude and the willingness to have this attitude.

      jun asuncion

  4. I’m posting herein a comment emailed directly to me by a Kababayan Mr. Gravador:

    From James Gravador


    PIO- Municipality of Bulan, Sorsogon

    My high regards to the municipal government and also to our honorable Mayor De Castro, you have established good political stability. I always respect your benevolent administration….. please extend my high regards to all of my KABABAYAN. We Bicolanos must do something with regards to the rapid growth of poverty rate; we are very much affected because of different calamities, but if there were to be blamed, then it’s us. So let us be one for the betterment of our community. I hope some day I can drop by there to share my skills and knowlegde I learned here in Manila; some day I hope that BULAN will be the Number One TOWN in the South…

    I am runing for a college student council here in Manila, and I hope I’ll win the match.

    More blessing and mabuhay ang mga taga BULAN!!!

    Basta taga BULAN listuhon yan!

    thanks a lot,


  5. If you will ask the question “Who is to be blamed for the poverty of Bulan?”, most residents of that town will surely tell you either one of the following: the government, the congressman and the mayor.

    Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore to the right direction and onwards to prosperity.

    Saudi Arabia is one of the most difficult places in the world and Filipinos can compare with the Saudis in terms of education, attitude and most notably, industry. It is one of the richest country in Asia because of oil (of course) and a good government that helps spread the benefits from oil to its people. Can you imagine Bulan if it has oil? Will the previous congressman and the mayor spread the benefits from it to the people? I dont think so.

    Thailand was once one of the emerging tiger cubs in Southeast Asia because of sound economic policies and good leadership. Now of all it’s attained successes are gone because of bad leadership.

    We need a good leader who will help us change our ways and lead us to the right direction. I hope we voted for them last May.

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