Atty. Alex Lacson (8th from the left, standing) poses with the attendees during the UFN
by Francis Perez
The Universitas Fellows’ Night (UFN) last June 6, 2019 featured Atty. Alexander L. Lacson who spoke on the three biggest dangers our country faces today.
Atty. Lacson is best known as the bestselling author of the book 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country. A prolific writer, he has penned several books that promote love for our country. He also wrote the poem “I am Filipino”, which is now being memorized by many elementary students in schools nationwide.
Currently, Atty. Lacson serves as a partner in the MALCOLM Law Firm in Ortigas, Pasig City. He also wrote columns for the BusinessWorld newspaper from 1996 to 2004 and served as an external legal counsel for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Atty. Lacson graduated from University of the Philippines’ College of Law in 1996. In addition, he took the Program for Instructions for Lawyers (PIL) at Harvard Law School in 2002 and attended a leadership program in the Haggai Institute of Leadership, Singapore in 2007, where he delivered the valedictory address for graduates coming from more than 30 countries.
Hope for the Philippines
During the UFN, Atty. Lacson began by explaining how in the year 2000, he and his wife seriously thought of migrating abroad. But after much consideration, they decided to stay and live their lives in the Philippines where God planted them.
In his desire to help the country, he decided to use the small talent God gave him, his writing. This subsequently led to his writing the well-known book “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country”.
To his pleasant surprise, his book became an instant bestseller. As a result, he started receiving a lot of speaking invitations. In the next 10 years, Lacson received over a hundred speaking invitations every year to share the message of his book.
But nineteen years had passed since he and his wife decided not to migrate, and fourteen years since he wrote his book. Atty. Lacson posed the following question to the UFN attendees: “Is our country better today than in 2000?” He further quizzed the attendees with his follow-up questions such as “Is there hope for the Philippines?”, “Where will our hope come from?”
Atty. Lacson then presented some data to show our country’s present situation.
He showed the 2018 World Bank Report on poverty, where Philippines posted a poverty ratio of 21.6%. But he pointed out that the threshold line used to measure that poverty was a daily earnings of US$1.90 (or P98 daily). So Atty Lacson asked the question, if World Bank raised the threshold amount to the minimum wage of P537 daily earnings, instead of P98, what would be our country’s poverty ratio? Will it still be 21.6%, or much higher?
Ironically, however, the Philippines has posted the 5th highest economic growth in Asia based on GDP from 2010 to 2017. Our country also generated much wealth during the period. The size of our nation’s economy almost doubled during that period. Our country’s national budget has grown tremendously from P1.5 Trillion in 2010 to P3.7 Trillion in 2018.
And yet during that period, poverty in the country remained substantially unchanged.
So where did all those economic growths go? Who benefited from them?
Atty Lacson cited the study made by Dr Cielito Habito, former NEDA Secretary. Dr Habito made a study to determine who benefitted from the 2012 economic growth of our country. His findings showed that 76% of the country’s economic growth in 2012, benefitted only the companies of the top 40 richest families in the country.
It has been like that for several decades. It is the “super rich” in the country who benefit the most from our country’s economic growth every year.
In fact, from 2010 to 2015, the wealth of each of the richest 12 Filipinos tripled.
Then Atty Lacson showed some data on our country’s poverty today.
He showed the data from Philippine Statistics Authority that said 12 million Filipinos live in extreme poverty. He presented the SWS survey that showed that 12.3 million Filipinos were jobless in 2018. He also showed that over 10 million OFWs work in 192 countries because they could not find work in the Philippines.
The importance of political action
Atty. Lacson asked the question: “Bakit ganito ang bansa? What are the root causes of our problems?” The answer, according to Atty. Lacson, is largely political.
He said that the biggest problems of humanity were addressed or solved by political actions. The slavery of Negroes or blacks in America was abolished by a political decision by the President. The right to vote by women was a victory won in Congress. It was a political victory. The Minimum Wage law, SSS benefits, work benefits like sick leave, maternity leave, among others, were all political victories in Congress, pushed by lawmakers who had the heart for ordinary workers.
The Solution to our poverty is also largely political. It is political to campaign and vote for the good leaders our country needs.
To protect our environment, we need political measures such as the banning of plastics and the reduction of fossil fuels.
To protect our country’s sovereignty, especially against China, we need a strong “political will” to implement the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the international court that ruled in favor of the Philippines against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea.
If we want to have a good government that respects life, then we need to elect good servant leaders. This requires political involvement and action from us.
Atty. Lacson underscored the idea that the biggest problems of the world can only be solved through political solutions, and accordingly, we are called to have political involvement and action, when necessary, by ourselves becoming servant leaders. Stressing the importance of leadership at home and workplace, he hailed good leaders as “the drivers of progress and prosperity.”
A call to be vigilant, politically-involved
Atty. Lacson, then, expressed his own observations with respect to the current Philippine administration.
He shared what he perceived to be the three biggest dangers our country faces today, namely:
First, President Duterte’s inclination in allowing China to have greater access to our nation’s territory and natural resources.
Second, Congress may convert itself into a Constituent Assembly, and revise the Constitution to adopt a Federal Constitution that might contain many provisions that are anti-Filipino, anti-democracy, anti-poor, anti-family, anti-youth, among others.
And finally, the possibility of the president declaring Martial Law or a Revolutionary Government, especially if he believes that the reforms he needs can only be attained under a Revolutionary Government or Martial Law.
Atty Lacson encouraged the audience to be vigilant, to be politically involved, in one way or another, before it becomes too late.
To end, Atty. Lacson asserted that “to realize ‘Our Dream Philippines’, we cannot be non-partisan. We must be politically involved.”
He wrapped up his speech with the following quote by Edmund Burke: “It takes only for good people to do nothing, for evil to succeed.”
NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.
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