Bernardo M. Villegas
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Message to Millennials and Centennials (Part 1)

           According to data from the Commission on Elections, a majority (52.50%) of those who voted in the May 9, 2022 elections were between the ages of 18 and 39, born between 1983 and 2004, comprising the generations of the millennials and the centennials.  These are the Filipino citizens who will still be around during the decade of 2040 to 2050, when the Philippines can be expected to be a high-income economy with more than $12,000 per capita in today’s prices.  For those of them who voted for the winning presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., it can be assumed that they expect that the next Government that will be in place for the next six years will continue to attain a GDP growth rate of 6 to 7 % that had been sustained between 2011 to 2019 under the two Administrations of former President Benigno Aquino III and the outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.  In fact, if these supporters of BBM are optimistic enough to assume that, despite all the fears of the critics of the elected President during the election campaign, President-elect Marcos will be able to minimize corruption and crony capitalism, our economy can even attain a growth rate of 8 to 10% under the new Administration.

          This sanguine view of the next six years is premised on the President-elect following the example of all of his predecessors since 1986 of choosing and best and brightest to occupy the Cabinet positions that have much to do with the management of the economy, i.e Department of Finance, Department of Agriculture,  NEDA, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transport and Communication, Department of Tourism, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Energy. We are fortunate that the best Central Bank Governor of the world, Governor Benjamin Diokno, can continue to expertly manage the monetary sector of the economy for a few years more under the new Administration and can actually be reappointed for another six-year term.  As I have discussed many times in my previous columns, the Philippines succeeded in getting rid of the notorious label of “sick man of Asia” over the last decade or so because of the institution building efforts and enlightened policy reforms that, despite the varying quality of political leadership during the last 35 years or so, were pursued by very competent technocrats appointed by successive governments. I expect nothing less from BBM, among other reasons, because I was in a team of economists, political scientists, public administrators and business executives that crafted a list of the most competent and honest professionals who could be appointed to the various Cabinet positions.  This list, completed at the end of April 2022, was meant to be submitted to whoever would be elected President.  This list is now in the hands of the President-elect.  What he and his transition team will do with it is no longer under our control.  Also beyond our control is the possibility that some of these personalities in our list will not accept the offer to work for the next Government.  Without specifying names, this already happened in the case of some of the names we suggested for Department of Finance.  I just hope that one of those many names we suggested for this very critical position will be willing to serve in the next Administration, putting aside partisan politics for the common good.


          Let me just comment on the appointment of Vice President-elect Sara Duterte to the position of Secretary of Education.  I find it a very positive move because as Vice President, she will have the clout to make sure that the budget of education is increased from its present 3 % to the 6 to 8% range that some of our ASEAN neighbors have already attained.  Our list contained a good number of experienced and morally upright educators that can be appointed as Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries, in addition to those who are already career officials in the Department of Education.  Vice President-elect Sara Duterte will not encounter a shortage of very qualified officials she can count on to help her in the very challenging task of improving the low quality of Philippine basic education, as shown in the very poor performance of our students in international tests in reading comprehension, mathematics and science.

          I would like to address some special words to those in their twenties and early thirties who were part of the “pink revolution” that supported Vice President Leni Robredo in her run for the presidency.  I hope that the rumor that some of you have given up on Philippine society and are planning to migrate to other countries is not true.  Even if your worst fears about BBM are realized, our country has enough inner strengths to continue its economic progress, as we witnessed in the outgoing Administration that was led by a less than perfect individual who started his presidency blaspheming God, insulting the Pope and is accused of abetting extra-judicial killings.  Because he had the common sense of following the example of his predecessors in the presidency of appointing competent economic managers, the Philippine economy was one of the fastest growing in the Indo-Pacific region.  I am sure that BBM will do no less. 

          Besides, the person you admire, VP Leni Robredo, has already sounded a stirring call:  “There are bigger fights and ours does not end with this election.   Many eyes were opened.  Many minds woke up. The fight continues.”  I was very impressed with those of you who were at the Ateneo campus on the night of the finals of the UAP basketball tournament.  Those of you who are basketball fans exhibited the right priority.  You missed a most exciting game to be able to join VP Leni Robredo in comforting those traumatized by her defeat in the polls by announcing that on July 1,2022—when the new Government will be officially inaugurated—she will lead the launching of “Angat Buhay” (Uplift Lives), a nongovernment organization (NGO) that can evolve into the widest volunteer network in the country that will continue to help those in the margins of society. This movement is not starting from scratch.  It will just continue the many anti-poverty initiatives that VP Robredo undertook as a government official in the last six years.  Now, she can count on the tens of thousands of youth volunteers who were part of her “kakampinks.” 

          The many millennials and centennials who unselfishly went from house-to-house campaigning for VP Robredo can now channel their efforts in carrying out anti-poverty operations in the next six years to parallel whatever the BBM Government will do in this regard.  Also they can be the “vigilantes” who will make sure that if their fears about the next Administration, i.e. that corruption and cronyism will be rampant should actually happen,  they will use whatever people power they can generate to keep the next Government honest or suffer the fate of impeachment as has already happened in the recent past with misbehaving Presidents, not only in the Philippines but also in other East Asian countries like South Korea and Malaysia.  All these possibilities should convince the “kakampinks” that their efforts have not been in vain.  They have awakened the youth to actively promote the common good of the country instead of just being passive onlookers.  

          I fully understand why some of the centennials and millennials, despite these considerations, will still decide to leave the country.  A most important human right is the freedom to decide where to reside and where to use one’s own talents and build a family.  It is not a lack of patriotism to decide to live and work in another country in which one was not born.  There are always serious personal reasons for migration.  What I would just like to emphasize, though, to those traumatized by the loss of their presidential candidate is that the Philippines has enough inherent strengths and assets that can enable the country to progress economically from one Administration to another, despite the varying quality of the people running our Government.  We have already proved this over the last thirty years or so.  A motivated and upright young professional can still build a bright future in the Philippines, despite the personal weaknesses and limitations of our political leaders.  To be continued.