Friday, December 18, 2009

Popular Culture and Elections

An election is not only regarded as a legitimate way to choose a political leader in the Philippines but also enjoyed as a spectator sport or a game of chance. The popularity of the game of chance as an activity and symbol is linked to the folk belief that life itself is an adventure or a risky undertaking: Ang buhay ay isang pakikipagsapalaran. Thus, for many of those who want to become overseas Filipino workers, the desire for adventure comes as a close second to the desire for economic improvement. They might have grown tired, too, of the age-old adventure of life on these islands with its generous share of sunshine, rain, typhoons, volcanoes, earthquake faults, floods, flawed laws, and flawed officials. There are few places on earth where all these can happen in a year: the sun dries the rice, lava snaps trees, ash falls and pours, storms level homes, waves and floods drown, and laws catch only small fish and flies but no crocodiles.

Popular culture has to be taken into account by those who want to become elective public servants in a democracy. Popular culture comprises traditions, expressions, and sentiments “common to the general public that in the Philippines is the Filipino masa” (Felice P. Sta. Maria). Multi-awarded journalist Sheila Coronel wrote in a 2004 PCIJ study on lawmakers: “Those who rule must be able to clothe their power with the cloak of legitimacy by tapping into popular belief or ideology. The most successful political families have been able to do this” (The Rulemakers, 84).

An example is the Payumo family, which has ruled the town of Dinalupihan, Bataan, after the ouster of the Marcoses in 1986. Its most prominent member is Felicito ‘Tong’ Payumo, an engineer-industrialist who became a three-term member of the House of Representatives from the Eighth to the Tenth Congress, before he became chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority for six years. Like many successful politicians, he has used expressions that resonate with the masses.

For instance, in a miting de avance in San Isidro village, Dinalupihan, during the 1992 electoral campaign, Payumo asked the crowd to vote for his team of candidates para tuloy-tuloy ang daloy ng biyaya mula sa itaas hanggang sa baba (so that grace will flow freely from high above to down below). “Biyaya” is a Tagalog term used in both official and popular religion to refer to grace as a gift or help from God, who is usually pictured as dwelling in the heavens above. It is also widely believed that the gift or help reaches the recipient through a mediator like a patron saint. Payumo also referred to Lucy, his sister-in-law, then the mayor running for re-election, as a mother not only to her children, but to her constituents as well.

In January 2007, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao announced over national television that he would run for Congressman of the 1st District of South Cotabato, which includes his hometown of General Santos City, “upang maging tulay” (to serve as a bridge) to link the poor of his district with the national government in Metro-Manila. He lost to the 2nd-term incumbent, Darlene Antonino Custodio, a member of the Antonino political dynasty of South Cotabato and whose father, mother, grandfather, and grandmother had been members of Congress.

In general, the cultural tendency of the masses to seek mediators, patrons, and parent-like authority figures is understood better by traditional politicians and members of political dynasties than by reform-minded citizens out to challenge them. Similarly, according to Joel Rocamora, “those who exploit the peasantry are more adept at the rituals and the languages of peasant communities than those who would defend them.”

A sufficient grasp of popular culture, which is part of the intangible heritage passed on within a political dynasty, helps ensure electoral victory, besides the considerable resources of the dynasty to maintain a patronage system. As they are raised and socialized, the offspring of political clans become familiar with the language and practices of the prevalent political culture, and they “get used to a retinue of followers and to entertaining ward leaders and favor seekers” (Rulemakers, 59).

In some locales, dynasties allocate resources for bribing election personnel and hiring goons to intimidate voters and inflict violence on opponents. Perhaps unlike the phenomenon of warlords or brutish bosses among some governors and mayors, the PCIJ study on legislators says: “the so-called warlords in Congress, politicians who keep armed goons and terrorize their constituents, have largely died out” (Rulemakers, 48).

For example, the descendants of Ramon Durano Sr. of Danao City in Cebu, and Ali Dimaporo of the Lanao provinces, specifically Tourism Secretary ‘Ace’ Durano and Lanao del Norte Representative Abdullah Dimaporo, have cosmopolitan manners and high educational credentials and have gone beyond the crude coercive ways of their fathers. “In part, this is because they did not have to muscle their way to power as their fathers and grandfathers did. The descendants inherited the political base and the electoral machine put in place by their fathers.” (Rulemakers, 48)

While congressional warlords are mostly gone, the reality of political dynasties is not on the verge of dying out, as this description from the same PCIJ study shows:

“In the Eighth Congress, the first post-Marcos legislature, 61 percent or 122 of 198 representatives were from political clans….In the 12th Congress, which was elected in 2001, 61 percent or 140 of 228 representatives came from political clans. In the 11th House, it was 62 percent. If the percentages are computed without the party-list representatives, however, the numbers increase to 65 percent for the 11th House and 66 percent for the 12th.” (Rulemakers, 47)

In my review of the 216 single-district representatives of the House in the 14th Congress, a sizeable 69 percent, or 150 representatives, are from political clans.

Dynasties can spend so much to keep themselves in power. Says PCIJ: “A congressional campaign in 2004, according to campaign insiders, can cost up to P30 million in Metro Manila. In rural areas, the price tag is much less: P10 million on average, although campaigns can be run for P3 million or less in smaller districts where the competition is not too intense.” (Rulemakers, 86) In this light, reform-oriented citizens who are not members of political clans find the pursuit of an elective office difficult, distasteful, and demoralizing; thus, many of them become cynical about Philippine elections, politics, and democracy, and surrender electoral politics to traditional politicians by default.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

State and Family in the Philippines

To Alfred McCoy, a historian and observer of Philippine politics, our republic is a “weak post-colonial state” where “the interaction between powerful rent-seeking families and a correspondingly weak Philippine state has been synergistic” (An Anarchy of Families, 19). This essentially means that these families and their rivalries have been both cause and effect of our weak State.

Over the years, beginning with the 1907 Philippine Assembly elections under the tutelage of the United States, members of provincial families who have risen to national offices have used their positions to obtain “rents” or economic values through government regulations, permits, or low-interest loans that give their families an artificial advantage, special access, or even a monopoly over the markets of goods like sugar and copra, and services like banking and broadcasting.

The Lopezes of Iloilo, for example, have shown how business and politics can mix and feed off each other. In the period between World War II and the Marcos dictatorship, Eugenio Lopez Sr (1901-1975) became a successful entrepreneur who controlled several large corporations including the Manila Electric Company and ABS-CBN, among the nation’s top broadcasting networks. His brother Fernando (1904-1993) became mayor of Iloilo City, a senator, and then vice-president for three terms.

“Fernando’s political success afforded Eugenio access to government contracts for his business concerns. Indeed, this symbiosis of political influence and corporate growth was a key factor in Eugenio’s spectacular rise from provincial bus operator to the Philippines’ most powerful entrepreneur in only a quarter of a century.” (Anarchy of Families, 447)

This practice of rent-seeking that has persisted to this day has decreased public resources, degraded the political impartiality of the civil service, and diminished accountability, competence, and efficiency among public officials and employees. Whether rich or poor, families in the Philippines are clannish and tend to give greater premium to family loyalty than patriotism. As a result, “we imagine ourselves foremost as brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers of our families instead of as citizens of a nation” (Arnold Alamon).

Compared to family and friends, government, especially at the national level, is remote and distant to many of the rural and urban poor. Even when national officials happen to be honest and efficient, kith and kin are nearer, dearer, and more reliable when it comes to fulfilling one’s needs and wants. The kinship network is relied upon for employment, money, medical help, education, and socialization, among others, especially in hard times.

More importantly, according to McCoy, the family strives to pass on to the next generation its “name, honor, lands, capital, and values.” The kinship network even expands to include acquaintances, peers, and superiors with whom one can be bound through rituals of initiation like baptism with its potentially numerous sponsors, kumpares and kumares.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Democracy and the Catholic Church in the Philippines

A major cause of the weak sense of nationhood among many Filipinos is the historical connection between the Roman Catholic Church, the country’s dominant religious institution, and the colonial powers. To both the political and religious rulers of Spain, it was important that the Philippine Islands, named after the absolute monarch Philip II (1556-1598), be colonized and evangelized at the same time. The Spanish missionaries and friars blessed and legitimized the colonial enterprise. In turn, the colonial Church gained from the Spanish crown martial protection, support for its missionary efforts, resources for constructing churches, control over colonial education, and large estates from which much wealth was derived.

Spanish Catholicism was accepted by the natives partly because it reaffirmed their belief in the necessity of intermediaries in bridging the distance to the supreme deity. The primary structure of intermediation was maintained even though functional substitutions occurred: the saints and angels replaced the ancestral spirits or anitos, while the Catholic priest replaced the native shaman or babaylan. Thus, from the colonial period down to our times, most priests, ordinary devotees, and their popular devotions highlight the powers of the mother of Jesus and the saints as patrons, intercessors, or intermediaries more than their virtues of courage, wisdom, justice, and integrity.

Bishops tend to give great importance to intermediary power and undemocratic hierarchical authority partly because of their inherent duty to be guardians of the Roman Catholic tradition. Conservative pastors predominate in an institution that asserts the apostolic authority of the bishops and the primacy of the Pope. Yet there have been turning points and conjunctions in the history of the Church when, even for brief periods, the Church became both conservative and radical. Locally, one such turning point was the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) in 1991.

With the participation of selected priests, religious, and lay leaders, the bishops at PCP II asserted that, for genuine and lasting social transformation, “people empowerment” is necessary—implying “greater involvement in decision-making, greater equality in both political and economic matters, more democracy, and more participation” (PCP II Conciliar Document nos. 325-326). Nearly two decades after PCP II, however, it remains unclear to what extent the hierarchical Church is a genuine democratizing force in society.

Today, the hierarchy remains undemocratic in that its members—the clergy—are selected in a process with little participation from the laity, who form the great majority in the Church. Also, the clergy tend to be secretive about the assets and liabilities of dioceses, religious institutes, their schools, and their hospitals. Likewise, some Church organizations do not practice what is preached about the dignity of human work and the rights of workers to just remuneration and to “participative management” in which workers are involved in decision-making.

While the Church decrees that “bishops, priests, and religious must refrain from partisan politics” (PCP Decrees Art. 28 #2), and teaches that the laity, and not the clergy, ought to be at the forefront of the task to renew the political community in accordance with gospel values, some high-profile clerics and religious exempt themselves from these precepts. The late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin (1928-2005) had been criticized for sometimes acting more like a political power broker than a prudent moral teacher. To journalist and public relations practitioner Ramon Isberto, the Cardinal “always appeared to relish his role as mediator, go-between, and king maker or unmaker.”

In December 2006, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias publicly called on soldiers “to defend the Constitution” by joining the “prayer rally” against Charter Change to be held at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila, and organized mainly by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. By issuing mostly moralistic or morally judgmental statements against the proponents of Charter Change, several bishops have not helped clarify the complex and muddled issue of the strengths and weaknesses of the 1987 Constitution.

Both Church and State have contributed to the weakness of democracy and patriotism in the country. As sociologist Arnold Alamon puts it: “The State and religion, the two institutions whose primary function is to forge social solidarity, have repeatedly failed in this task owing to their colonial origins. Instead, we continue to draw our moral identities from our clan memberships which served as our pre-colonial moral and political communities.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Time with Books, Time with Friends

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-7).

The annual National Book Awards is a timely occasion to speak about the best books published in our country and to celebrate Filipino excellence in writing and publishing in the past year. The best books offer texts, images, and blank spaces that generate active reflection and meaningful action. Bad books breed mere words in which the more the words the less the meaning, and the multiplication of mere words is the work of the fool or the scoundrel.

As the prospective candidates for next year’s elections engage in mature and premature campaigning, our society will become noisier with both empty words and effective words, words that bring fresh air and foul air with showbiz glitter. More than ever, we shall need periods of quiet reflection to help us tell the difference between the relevant and the trivial, the reality and the hyperbole, the attainable and the unattainable. Reading a good book can help our spirits seek or create light even in the midst of deep dark heat.

Reading a good book in a reflective way is like interacting with a true friend, whose word is reliable and who helps enlighten and enliven us. An Ilokano proverb says: “To libro iso ti gayyem/ Nga saan amo a masoctan ti rupana” (A book is a friend/ you can never change its face).

With true friends with whom we can eat and take in words of wit and wisdom, time is better spent. The Good Book reminds us: as there is a time for everything, a time to be born and a time to die, everything is breath; everything is transient. Life is short especially for the children of the streets, the sons of the soil, and the daughters of the dumpsite.

Everything we do or produce is transient. Thus, many men especially rulers throughout history have been obsessed with producing something that endures, something that would enable them to live beyond the grave at least in human memory. Some scholars and pseudo-scholars produce books in the hope that they would be in libraries forever or at least become footnotes in future books.

In the transience of our lives, we should waste no time, but spend it with true friends, or use it to seek true friends, both friends of the written word and friends of the breathing and living word, as every person is a story or an anthology of stories.

For the past 28 years, members of the reading public have found it easier to discover books as friends, or to choose new friends of the written word, through an annual recognition of the finest among local books, authors, and publishers, and for this the Manila Critics Circle (MCC) deserves the gratitude of government, the book industry, and our reading public.

Two years ago, the Manila Critics Circle invited the National Book Development Board to be a full partner in the organization of the National Book Awards. As part of our 5-year National Book Development Plan, the NBDB considers book awards and the promotion of award-winning books among the priority activities for the development of the creative sectors in the book industry and for the enhancement of industry competitiveness.

In the MCC-NBDB partnership, we have instituted a pre-screening process that involves reputable academic institutions and professional organizations in the short-listing of nominated books in various categories. The NBDB and the MCC recognize and are grateful for the invaluable help of various institutions, organizations, and individuals in the pre-screening process and in the selection of the finalists and winners. This year is another milestone because not only will the National Book Awardees receive beautifully designed trophies, all of them for the first time will receive modest cash prizes also.

We congratulate this year’s awardees and finalists. Their books will become part of a 28-year collection, which can offer a foretaste of the book-lovers’ Paradise, the paradisal library where knowledge of good and evil, power and weakness, life and death has to be digested by everybody who wants to stay there.

The National Book Awards and Philippine Book Development have gone a long way, yet we still have many miles to go in pursuit of our dream of a Filipino nation that eats well, reads well, and achieves well: a nation of lifelong learners and lifelong achievers. This is not the time to give up on the dream. We are on our way, and occasions like the National Book Awards keep us hopeful that the time will come when we will get there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Disasters and Miracles

If the Creator Spirit respects the (sometimes destructive) laws of nature and the (sometimes hurtful) decisions of people, why do miracles still happen, although rarely? In our world where many suffer unnecessarily owing to human actions, natural processes like typhoons, and their combination in ecological-social disasters, should we often hope for miracles?

A miracle is a “supernatural intervention” in the cause-and-effect sequences of the everyday world. The Roman Catholic attitude is: “openness to the possibility of miracles in principle, but skepticism toward any particular alleged miracle in practice” (Peter Berger). Catholics are open to the possibility of miracles because the Creator Spirit retains the freedom and power to intervene even as it freely abstains from gross intervention in the world of nature and humanity.

Miracles have happened though rarely. The rarity of a miracle is necessary, otherwise we will not learn to be responsible and resourceful. If during floods God will intervene to enable us to walk on water or to make our homes float safely, nobody will bother to study and learn the science of rainfall and water flows from highlands to lowlands, and everybody will be careless and lazy in leaving plastic and garbage to clog the drainage systems and letting urbanization and "development" happen haphazardly or without sustainability.

Hindi ba "sa Diyos ang awa, sa tao ang gawa"? Kapag panay ang himala (o sa Diyos lang ang gawa), ang tao'y magwawalang-bahala. (Do we not say "to God be mercy, to humanity activity"? When miracles are many, and to God alone be activity, humanity takes on irresponsibility.)

God has a purpose for the rare miracle. In the gospel of John, Christ’s miracles are aptly called “signs” (semeia in Greek) such as turning water into wine, clearing the temple, healing the sick, the disabled and the blind, feeding five thousand men, and raising Lazarus. What is vital about every miracle of Christ is its function as a sign: to inspire, strengthen faith and hope, transform attitude and mobilize acts of love and solidarity.

Christ complained about those who were developing a mania for miracles: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4:48). A high point of the gospel is Christ’s declaration: “Blessed are those who have not seen [wonders] and yet have believed” (20:29).

When miracles lose their rarity, they lose their effectivity. An explosion of miracles will likely lead to shallow faith. The best miracle is the significant deed, word, or experience that leads to conversion or inner transformation.

In the story of the sick and suffering Job in the Hebrew Bible, before his health and wealth were restored, the miracle happened when he confessed to God: “I know that You can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted…My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).

Even if the real-life Job would remain poor and ill, the miracle has happened, for “as far as Job is concerned, suffering as a problem has no more significance because he has seen God with his own eyes” (Marcel Gervais).

Walang himala…
Walang himala kapag walang magbabago sa puso natin!
Makakaasa ng himala o hiwaga ng pagbabalik-loob ang sinumang masigasig maghanap nito.

No miracle happens…
No miracle happens when nothing changes in our hearts!
One can hope for the miracle of conversion when one really seeks it. The best miracle is the return or the homecoming to the deep or true self, where the Spirit of holiness, solidarity, and wisdom dwells.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear City, Wretched City

Are private contractors and construction companies doing enough in lending their heavy equipment like payloaders and dump trucks in order to help local governments, the MMDA, and the DPWH to clean up the mounds of mud, trash & debris left in the wake of the recent flood? Perhaps government should consider blacklisting those contractors that offer little or no help.

Those who can lend heavy equipment for the clean-up of Marikina communities are urged to send the equipment to Marikina City Hall and look for Ken Sueno or Ryan Salvador.
As we struggle with the wretchedness of our devastated communities and locales, let me share a partial reproduction of the piece "Dear City" by Filipina poet Conchitina Cruz:

"What comes from heaven is always a blessing, the enemy is not rain. Rain is the subject of prayer, the kind gesture of saints. Dear City, explain your irreverence: in you, rain is a visitor with nowhere to go. Where is the ground that knows only the love of water? What are the passageways to your heart? Pity the water that stays and rises on the streets, pity the water that floods into houses, so dark and filthy and heavy with rats and dead leaves and plastic. How ashamed water is to be what you have made it. What have you done to its beauty, its graceful body in pictures of oceans, its clear face in a glass? We walk home and cannot see our feet in the flood. We forget to thank the gods for their kindness. We look for someone to blame and turn to you, wretched city, because we are men and women of honor, we feed our children three meals a day, we never miss an election. The only explanation is you, dear city..."

"Dear City" is found in the book, "Train of Thought: Poems from 'Tulaan sa Tren,'" published by the National Book Development Board in 2008. Tulaan sa Tren was a project of the NBDB and the Light Railway Transit Authority in which posters of Philippine poems in English and Filipino were displayed in some of the trains of the LRT 2 line and recordings of the poems were played through the public address system of the LRT 2 stations during certain hours from September to November 2008.

As we help rebuild communities and lives after the great flood, may the words, verses, tracks and trains of thought and tone from our veteran and budding poets consolidate our collective conscience, clarify our sense of reality, and strengthen our sense of country.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Typhoons & the Creator Spirit

Creation is not a one-time event at the beginning of time but a process that the Creator began and which the Creator Spirit continues up to our own times. In Psalm 104:30, the psalmist praises God, and proclaims: "When You send your Spirit, creatures are created, and You renew the face of the earth." Through a process view of creation, Christians can welcome the scientific theory of the evolution of species.

What is the involvement of the Creator Spirit in calamities like those brought about by Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) since Saturday last week and Typhoon Frank last year and by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991? Were these disasters willed by God as punishments for the sins of our people or of our leaders (like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today and Cory Aquino in 1991)? Or to be accurate, were they not ecological-social disasters?

The Creator Spirit nurtures life and creation by freely opting to respect not only human freedom but also physical laws, which have evolved sometimes gradually, sometimes radically in deep time or millions and billions of years. The Spirit nurtures creation by making room for created creativity (and possible destructiveness) on the part of creatures and natural forces.

God has endowed human beings, animals, plants, and natural forces with significant autonomy from divine control. In this sense, the process of continuing creation is also the Spirit's free exercise of self-restraint in abstaining from a heavy-handed regulation of the natural world and history. The Creator Spirit freely abstains from gross intervention in the created creativity and destructiveness of nature and humanity, while at the same time this selfsame Spirit actively accompanies nature and humanity throughout their gradual and radical evolution. In this view, the Spirit's great and unequaled power is more persuasive than coercive.

The formation and movement of typhoons are part of the created creativity and destructiveness of the earth, its atmosphere, and its geo-physics, which are autonomous from the Spirit's control. Definitely the Creator Spirit did not want the loss of lives, livelihood, and homes and the displacement of people in the wake of the rains and floods initiated by Typhoon Ondoy, yet the Spirit respected the complex atmospheric and geo-physical laws that caused the sustained heavy downpour and the complex social forces and personal decisions that rendered individuals and communities ill-prepared for or maladapted to nature's ways.

Does this view offer adequate hope and compassion to the many people who are suffering from the calamity? What has to be added and expressed, not just in words, is the belief that, in the wake of the extensive suffering caused by natural, man-made, and eco-social calamities, God suffers with those who suffer, and grieves with those who grieve. God's Spirit groans with those who groan, and thus a true believer cannot be indifferent in the face of such suffering.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ensuring Textbook Quality

To ensure quality textbooks in the private school system, every school or school association like the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) should set up a textbook procurement system that requires all prospective books to go through an evaluation committee that has clear and established procedures.

Private schools should have an adequate screening system that carefully evaluates the books that they require parents to purchase for their children. If the schools effectively evaluate books before prescribing them, then the publishers will be forced to produce those of better quality knowing that there will be no market for substandard publications. After a textbook has been determined by reliable evaluation to be of good quality, only then should there be other considerations (e.g. discounts & incentives) for any procurement decision.

Unfortunately, it has been reported that some schools make their procurement decisions primarily on the basis of the discounts and incentives (e.g. low-interest loans to finance a school building, expensive gifts like a new school vehicle, or sponsorships of local and foreign trips of teachers & administrators) offered by the publishers. This practice is a major reason for the entry of poor quality books in some schools.

How can the National Book Development Board help private schools and their associations? The NBDB has a Textbook Review Service in which experts from different centers of excellence evaluate books or manuscripts that are voluntarily submitted by publishers and schools. Results of the evaluation are considered by the Governing Board, which then urges the publisher either to take into account the minor or major recommendations of the evaluators or, when the book has been determined to be of poor quality, to stop its production and sale.

Since 2008, the NBDB has given Quality Seal Awards to encourage publishers to produce better books. The agency solicits nominations from schools and publishers for the best books initially in Mathematics and English used in basic education. Six Math books and 1 English book so far have been awarded. These books were judged on the basis of content, editing and design.

I recommend that associations like CEAP should formulate and require their members to adopt a Code of Ethics in Textbook Procurement in which violators will be held accountable and which will promote fairness to the learners, their parents, and the publishers, and respect for rules and procedures.

Such a Code should make it easy for school administrators to answer questions like the following:

Is it right to solicit or accept gifts and sponsorships from publishers and suppliers?

Is it right for a school to demand high (e.g. 40%) discounts from the publishers and then sell the textbooks to the parents at the original prices?

Is it right for a school to monopolize the supply of its required textbooks especially before the opening of classes? (Some schools prohibit the publisher from making the books available through commercial outlets that might sell them at lower prices.)

In the particular case of CEAP schools, which are owned and managed by religious institutes or members of the clergy, should not Catholic parents rightly expect them to be models of fairness and accountability in their textbook procurement?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Education & Readership towards 2010 & beyond

“Our greatest asset is our people…We must invest in our people.”

This is one of the principles of the Citizens Reform Agenda 2010, which was publicly launched last September 2 by over a hundred citizens organizations. Many of our people suffer from hunger, homelessness and unemployment. To enable them to lift themselves out of poverty requires greater investment in quality education and health services.

The National Book Development Board firmly believes that the promotion of lifelong learning through readership leads to both national poverty reduction and book industry development in the medium to long terms. Thus, the agency completed the National Book Development Plan 2005-2010, and pursued its priority strategies of developing and supporting local authorship, enhancing the competitiveness of the industry, and raising textbook quality.

To develop authorship and the creative sector, the NBDB initiated and guided the enactment into law of the 2009 National Book Development Trust Fund (R.A. 9521) to support Philippine authorship in science and technology and other learning areas through annual grants that shall be distributed equitably throughout the regions.

The NBDB helped organize the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society (FILCOLS), which has been accepted as a member of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations. The agency will support FILCOLS in its pursuit of fair remuneration and adequate protection for authors and publishers whose copyrighted works are reproduced and used mostly by educational institutions and their teachers and students.

Among its accomplishments to enhance industry competitiveness are the 2003 and 2007 NBDB Readership Surveys, which were conducted nationwide and which provided pioneering data to publishers, authors, and educators on the reading habits and preferences of Filipino adults and children. In 2008, the agency organized the Philippine Association of Scholarly and Academic Publishers (PASAP) to address the needs of university-based publishers and authors.

To enhance textbook quality in the private school system, the NBDB has offered its Textbook Review Service since 2006, and launched in 2008 the annual Quality Seal Awards initially for Mathematics and English basic education books.

These accomplishments and more have been made possible by the professionalization of the NBDB as an agency and its insulation from vested interests.

May the new President in 2010 appoint members of the Governing Board who will be as competent, active and responsible as the current members. In and beyond 2010, may the NBDB continue to provide the vision and leadership in book development and readership promotion through policy and industry research, market development interventions, and capability-building programs in support of lifelong learning among our citizenry and for the growth of Philippine book publishing into a globally competitive industry.