Voice of the South is not just a voice. It is action too. It is, in fact, a movement, with a vision that is clear, bold, and noble. Combining vision with action, Voice of the South, is partnering with organizations and individuals with the same advocacy, thinking out-of-the-box and promoting innovative ways to end corruption, reduce poverty, and empower the citizenry in the provinces south of Manila. For in this fast-developing region where the movement was born, hope lies for a kind of progress more meaningful than was ever demonstrated before.
Just as a large tree begins as a tiny seed, great endeavors usually develop from small beginnings. Ten years ago, Voice of the South began as a newsletter distributed in villages, commercial areas, and gas stations south of Manila. It has now evolved into something much, much, bigger.
Aside from tripling its circulation which started at 10,000 copies, there is now an email edition, sent to more than 20,000 recipients monthly. It also now provides news online at www.voiceofthesouth.org
A More Intelligent Urbanization
Way back 2002, Voice of the South publisher Jo Chanco already saw how Metro-Manila was becoming overly congested, the quality of living rapidly degrading, with inevitable water shortages, worsening pollution, hellish traffic and increasing vulnerability to all sorts of disasters—from floods to fires and landslides, due to bad urbanization. But he saw that there might be hope.
A good start, he thought, would be to decongest Metro Manila and decentralize the populace. With new communities flourishing particularly in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Aurora and Quezon) area, we have new opportunities to design and build another megalopolis many times better than what is now a disheveled Metro-Manila. Clearly, here in the south, we have a chance to, not just create a better community, but a new paradigm for Philippine society, one that is cleaner, with better water resource management, well-designed sewage systems, thoroughly-planned streets and commuting facilities, land zoning, and smart power generation and distribution systems, in an ecologically sound and resource efficient region that possesses all the elements for sustainability. In short, we have a chance for a smarter urbanization this time around.
It is not impossible. As a matter of fact, it is a very viable vision. Recent advances in technology are making it easier for us to shape our social, cultural, political, and ecological facets as a progressive nation. With a little push towards intelligent progress, this possibility becomes a high probability. Combined with an unwavering commitment, and political will in the case of our leadership, it can become a reality.
Bad urbanization is a result of government ineptness. Urban planning, zone allocation, pollution control, traffic regulation, energy and water resources management, waste disposal and recycling facilities are all included in the sphere of governance. What has happened therefore to Metro Manila is a product of terrible, terrible leadership.
Institutionalized corruption, patronage politics, nepotism, and a poorly informed electorate–due to the failure of the national educational system and a weakened and compromised mainstream media–have all contributed to bad development. It is this chorus of self-perpetuating negative elements that Voice of the South aims to find remedies for.
Through different administrations, Voice of the South has been fearless in criticizing the government, especially when it comes to the obsolete-style of governance which traditional politicians stubbornly adhere to, and the treasonous state policies that not only cripple the citizenry, but also abase the diginity of Filipinos by glorifying the interests of foreigners and big business above all.
Together with its partners and sponsors, Voice of the South, affirms that meaningful change and genuine progress can indeed be accomplished and sustained, if the regressive and wasteful components of the Philippine leadership are aptly addressed and competently resolved.
When there seems to be no end to the corruption scandals, when all government institutions are consistently being inept, when progress is always deferred for some lame reason, while most Filipinos struggle with odds always against their favor, and the poorest citizens left to fend for themselves--as if there was no government at all--then something is very wrong, and definitely needs to be corrected.
When the Filipino middle-class are crunching under the pressure of oppressive tax policies, while the government still cannot give the public clear answers to questions on numerous, and seemingly endless scams perpetrated by public officials, involving gazillions of missing funds, the system has be changed, and quite radically.
Voice of the South is a voice calling for that change.
Governance for a Changed World
Whether or not the government chooses to advance our society, we cannot deny that the whole world is currently experiencing great transformation. The global climate is changing; the dwindling of the earth’s resources is changing the relationship of nations; and technology is changing the way we do things.
Be they good or bad, the old social and political systems we used to depend on are quickly being rendered obsolete. One of them is the concept of representation politics.
This information age is showing us how new communications technologies have virtually made our politicians useless. Citizens actually do not need representation anymore, as they can simply express what they wish and broadcast their message in an instant. We already have the means to exercise direct democracy, in its purest sense. Furthermore, we have the capabilities now to effect transparency in government and monitor closely where taxpayers’ money are actually spent.
We can, therefore, already do away with the Congress and Senate, and the controversial lump sum disbursements (like the pork barrel) to the legislators commonly used for bribery and institutionalized corruption. And perhaps, we should, given that the substance of representation politics--that politicians bear the people's mandate, and so have the prerogative to decide how to best spend public funds--is fading into a false notion.
Veritably, a new, better-governed Philippines can arise and be sustained if the citizenry is empowered enough. Banking on this hope, Voice of the South strongly advocates that citizens take full control of the government, instead of being apathetic or afraid; and that government, in both essence and practice, be the people. Such is a true democracy, not the trapo controlled one which is currently in place and gripped by dynasties, permeating nothing but corruption and the degradation of our nation.
A new, more dynamic democracy is what Voice of the South proposes, and it is doing this by encouraging another kind of people power, one that optimizes our freedom by utilizing the powerful new technologies currently on hand.
It’s become evident that so many years of misgovernance have resulted in the degeneration of our country–from the national level, to the urban centers, and the countryside localites. Much of the development that should have occured decades ago remain shackled in many areas. There’s lack of social services everywhere. Government assistance, even in times of disaster, is almost non-existent, especially in the provinces.
Voice of the South heralds this time, as a call for Filipino citizens to be more pro-active in countering the evil that besets our leadership, but also in healing our beleaguered society from the grassroots level.
Voice of the South is embodying this action, not just by disseminating information and commissioning writers, citizen witnesses and digital reporters, but also by engaging in charity work and outreach programs; promoting digital literacy and new ways to education; appreciating and supporting local arts and culture; providing platforms for microenterprises; and connecting communities, through sports, trade and cultural events.
As witnessed by the many lives it has touched, Voice of the South is definitely also action…but action with a statement, calling for the true reparation of society, starting at the roots of community. By networking and bartering, and also by simply reporting the charitable acts of others— from free haircuts to rice donations to erecting classrooms—by barangays, corporations, and individuals, we, as citizens, are able to generate all this positive energy, which is then multiplied exponentially, as it becomes a contagious force, inspiring many more–to organize free workshops, soup kitchens, and weekend markets; lectures on alternative living, renewable energy, and recycling; contests for arts, invention, and writing.
As long as it has the support of those who believe in a better Philippines, much better than the misguided and neglected one that an inept government is conditioning us with, Voice of the South shall continue to rouse citizens to follow their conscientious duty to materialize our noble vision of a truly progressive nation. And if you listen to your soul, you will find yourself agreeing. It is, after all, also your voice.