On social issues and current events

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At the wake of the very controversial pork barrel scam, there have been a flood of reactions and exposes that can be found in different websites and blogs (I’m taking the liberty to direct you to a blog that is filled with very engaging comments about this issue.  Click here).

On a somewhat different note away from the activism being thrown all around, I was left thinking about this issue: how can people stomach practicing downright avarice, greed, and lust for money amidst the existence of world’s pressing social problems?  Is the concept of conscience dead already?

One thought that keeps on reoccurring in my mind is the glorification of a king’s lifestyle, from way back the time when monarchy and slavery were the dominant system of this planet.

Looking at this vantage view, who would not want to be kings and queens?  Who would not want living an extravagant life?  Who would not want to live in a world where you’re the protagonist and all the other persons’ sole purpose is to make your life greater at their expense?

This can be seen by the continuous patronage of media to the lifestyle of stars, “living the life”, as they would show.  At this point, I am not anymore certain whether it is the fault of the viewers for wanting to view programs featuring lavish lifestyles; or the fault of media for continuously feeding this to the masses.

Perhaps, our society has been glorifying the lavish lifestyle of kings too much.

But is it not time to rethink our purpose?

Should we imitate and emulate a lifestyle of kings, why not trying to live the life of the Christian King?  No, I am not talking about living a life of religious hypocrisy; I am talking about what the Christian faith stands for in essence – servant leadership.

Maybe all these are happening so that people may begin to go back to what is really more important.  Yes, money is power.  Yes, money can almost buy every material thing in life.

But money can never be an enough price to pay for fulfilling a benevolent dream capable of self-actualization.

Money alone cannot realize our Personal Legends.

And most of all, the kings we remember are not the ones who were the richest in money.  We remember those who made our lives richer through lessons and leadership by example.

Please, let us stop glorifying the lavish lifestyle of Kings of the Material.  What we should glorify is the humble lifestyle of the King who made a positive, memorable difference to our world.

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There has been news from Senator Bam Aquino’s Facebook account that he has ” filed seven bills that aim to empower the poor through jobs and livelihood opportunities”.

Disclaimer: I am not proclaiming this to advertise Sen. Aquino’s initiatives and endeavors – this is merely to give insights, reactions, and comments on what he endeavors to do.  After all, these are the advocacies that are indeed close to my heart as an aspiring entrepreneur, educator, and as a current researcher on the said field.

I know that as a fresh graduate from DLSU, I still have much to learn when it comes to CSR, social entrepreneurship, and the policies that may or may not help these movements achieve their intended benefit: progress and solving society’s most pressing problems.

Although some people in the web and even in media doubt Sen. Aquino’s intentions for running in office as Senator (some stating that this may just be a ploy to extend the “Aquino dynasty”), I support Bam because of his track record as a practitioner of social entrepreneurship.  This is why seeing news from Facebook that he has filed pro-poor bills instigated somewhat a kind of relief in me; that this man perhaps indeed has a plan to bring the synthesis of his social entrepreneurial experience into influencing policy-making.

I am hopeful that this is not just a ningas-kugon attempt; only time will tell.  Let time be the one to test Sen. Bam’s resolve in influencing social entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation through policies.

Onto my humble insights.

I want to zero in on two  particular bills that Sen. Bam filed below:

2.     The Fair Competition Bill, which aims to “protect consumer welfare, advance domestic and international trade and sustained economic development by… regulating monopolies, anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant power, and anti-competitive measures.” It also establishes the Philippine Fair Competition Commission;

7.     An expansion of the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship Bill (PRESENT), filed in the 15th Congress, which supports the creation of social enterprises and offers incentives and benefits to business that genuinely help the poor.


First, let me acknowledge my practical limitations as I admit that I still have a lack of experience in terms of doing actual social entrepreneurship work.  However, I am an avid learner of the field and have read researches and books that may perhaps arm me with enough tidbits to utilize in making comments or insights.  Should readers agree or disagree, feel free to discuss via the comments section below this post.

First bill

Personally I believe that the two bills are benevolent in spirit.  On the first bill, I would just like to raise Muhammad Yunus’s insights on social entrepreneurship, which he wrote in his book “Building Social Business” (2010).  Yunus propagates that since social enterprises are true businesses, then ideally, there should be minimal incentives or support from policy – social enterprises should let market forces or the “invisible hand” of competition determine whether a social business idea is viable or not.

I have two conflicting opinions on this one.  On one vantage point, Yunus’s claims are meritorious; a social business enterprise must be viable and should not have to rely on incentives to be truly viable.  If a social business enterprise needs to rely on incentives, then what happens if the law is changed for whatever reasons?  What if political factors crush the incentives?  Then the social business enterprise loses its crutch… then becomes crippled?  These are indeed valid points of view and my recommendation to Sen. Bam is to not “baby” social business enterprises too much that should a law be ramified or lose its implementation, the business would invariably suffer and need to close.  This view emphasizes the need of true sustainability, meaning the capacity of a business to be at an on-going concern without the need to rely on policies as crutches.

On another vantage point, since social enterprises chase not one but two bottomlines (even three, if they pursue financial profits, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability), it is only fitting that there should be separate incentives that can aid their growth.  Social business enterprises can be different species if compared to traditional corporations; and perhaps different rules and policies must govern these enterprises.

Seventh bill

I wholeheartedly support social enterprises as vehicles towards poverty and even environmental problems alleviation.  However, my only concern is the measurement of how a business “genuinely helps the poor”.  In light of the sickening pork barrel scam that used bogus NGOs as puppets of politicians’ puppets, there is indeed a concern on implementation.  What is the meaning of “genuinely helping the poor”?  Will it include multinational or traditional corporations with CSR programs?  Will philanthropy be considered?

I am coming from the point-of-view that there is no universal social entrepreneurship definition as of the moment.  Some entities may use this bill to put a facade of authentic social entrepreneurship wherein they’re indeed traditional profit-maximizing entities with social responsibility on the side.  I believe the spirit of this bill is not on traditional businesses, but more on actual for-profit social enterprises that have a hard time balancing financial and social objectives.

My recommendation to Sen. Bam is to develop transparent measures that will decipher whether an existing enterprise is truly a social enterprise.  We do not want incentives, funds, etc to go to greedy businesses that will utilize this bill and wear on superficial masks.  There must be a strict way of determining whether a social enterprise qualifies for benefits under this bill.

Final words

I hope my humble thoughts can help people recognize the value of social entrepreneurship and how policy can influence their existence.  This blog post is written in the spirit of pursuing the Common Good, in the name of practice, continuous learning and education, and research.

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Another corruption and graft related issue has surfaced in the Philippines.  According to Inquirer.net, there are officials who allegedly directed their pork barrel funds to bogus NGOs so as to pocket their assets.

This is a bit frustrating, especially since this gives NGOs more negative publicity.  Yes, perhaps there may be some organizations who are merely tax shields or are indeed “ghosts” that suck the funds out of the tax-funded pork barrels for the personal gain of those in power.  But the true NGOs suffer from this as well; those who pursue social good with integrity and sacrifice.  Perhaps social enterprises may suffer from these kinds of things as well as this may destroy reputations of organizations that pursue the common good.

On to the topic of this blog post, is it about the lack of policies or the lack of execution?

According to my professors in DLSU, the Philippines have good laws related to preventing corruption.  However, there is indeed a lack of implementation – a lack of execution.

I think it is time that the public be the one to execute the law through public demand, or public pressure.  If we can find a way to utilize, harness, organize or even systematize the People Power phenomenon, then we can be the watchdogs of corruption.  The dawn of this digital era amplified with smartphones capable of using social media, cameras and digital recorders can serve as the country’s CCTV in looking out for undesirable actions from those in power.

Perhaps there should be pressure for every organization to be transparent.  If we can harness the all-seeing eye of this becoming increasingly digital world, then we can demand transparency from all kinds of organizations.  This will make covering the tracks of corruption harder.  This will put pressure to those in power to really invest in projects that contribute to the common good.

Let the mass media news always show a regular update on transparency reports from officials.  Let social media news websites raise discussions and fora related to these kinds of issues.

For far too long we have been searching for the medium by which we can amplify our eyes.  We have wished for Superman-like x-ray vision to determine proofs of corruption looming behind those promises of those in power.  Let us use the power of our digital era and be the ones to execute our policies.

For context, please visit this article: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/04/10/12/felling-trees-sm-baguio-sparks-online-wrath

At what lengths should profit maximization be pursued?  Is our current model of capitalism so distorted that one must indulge into great ruthless lengths just to succeed?  Do we need to murder trees, against the will of the community, to transform it to a measly parking lot?

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For context, please visit this article: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/04/10/12/felling-trees-sm-baguio-sparks-online-wrath

At what lengths should profit maximization be pursued?  Is our current model of capitalism so distorted that one must indulge into great ruthless lengths just to succeed?  Do we need to murder trees, against the will of the community, to transform it to a measly parking lot?

Many Philippine celebrities and non-profit organizations are raising awareness via Twitter – aiming to spread a viral message against SM’s activities by trending #SaveBaguioPineTrees.  Kudos to Filipinos attempting to instigate a mini-people power through digital means.  But this time, the enemy is not a crooked president but a business activity with very questionable ethics.

I do not consider myself as the number one protector of the environment, unlike passionate environmentalists, but I know when something is just not right.  As a business student, the actions of SM bugs me.  If I were to become a rich businessman, should I really achieve profit at all costs?  Should profit generation be the only measurement of success?  Should I murder trees, judge what happens to nature’s children at my whim?

This is sickening.  What about pledges of conducting corporate social responsibility?  What about the essence of being sincere and authentic in pursuit of  the common good?

To people who would be reading this, please do reflect on the questions I ask and act according to what your morals dictate.  Let’s help in this revolution. It’s not just about this incident of saving the pine trees in Baguio, but showing the business world that we, the consumers, are powerful.  This is to show that we do not measure success just by profits, but we also place significant value on their “social profits”.

Spread the message via your Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you utilize. Keep #SaveBaguioPineTrees trending.  Let us be driven by our Filipino values and make Mother Nature proud.

Let’s put social responsibility into our own hands and freaking facepalm greedy business leaders with our values-driven message.

I’m not pine, thank you, how about you?