Jose Ma. Montelibano
What a week! A Napoles storm, a pork barrel storm, and a storm called Maring. If ever there was a perfect moment to be upset, it is this week. The boat has been rocked, apathy greatly disturbed, and once again, nature shows the stupidity of urban development.
The Napoles drama is one for the books. If we give credence to the still unfolding story of the P10 billion scam by a pair of whistleblowers, then a slap in the face just woke us up. The scam was a crime waiting to be committed. It was not born from greed alone, it was a fruit of arrogance, the same arrogance and sense of entitlement that, on Day One of his presidency, P-Noy called Utak Wang-Wang.
It is not as though our politicians invented power that has no moral moorings. The principle of might over right, the same principle which justified powerful nations to conquer, enslave and plunder innocent people and lands across the world, is the parent of Utak Wang-Wang. Without Utak Wang-Wang, and without an impoverished people pliant enough to accept it, the alleged Napoles way of robbing the treasury with accomplices from almost all sectors simply could not have happened.
It is almost amusing to monitor all the ranting and raving about the reported P10-billion pork barrel fund scam. The information being downloaded by the whistle-blowers are all so juicy, real or not. It makes for a good teleserye, actually. Now, another chapter is adding itself to the drama – the warrants of arrest just issued against Janet Lim-Napoles and her brother. As of this hour, I do not know if Napoles has already been arrested.
Assuming that the allegations are true instead of assuming innocence until proven guilty, there is more than enough reported wrongdoing to justify public outrage. What I find amusing is that the justification for public outrage has been there for a long time, except that the public was not outraged. After all, the whistle-blowers’ story starts from the late 90’s and established the scam formula throughout the whole Gloria and Mike Arroyo regime.
I saw this YouTube video entitled “Disco” which asked “When was the last time you visited a cemetery?” (gk1world.com/discohopes) Strange name, strange question.
Actually, Disco is short for Dioscoro C. Pancho, a cemetery dweller in Lorega San Miguel, Cebu City, head of one of hundreds of families who have lived there for more than 30 years. The cemetery has since been condemned and those buried there relocated. In just more than two minutes, Disco relates how they lived in the cemetery but could never use it as an address because postmen do not deliver mail to cemeteries.
I feel like it is EDSA people power again. The first and second EDSA revolutions were against presidents who were seen as unfit to continue in office. Their sins to the people were many, and grave enough to trigger massive protests and defections of the military. The dictator Marcos, of course, was blamed for more crimes than Estrada. After all, he was dictator for 14 years and a regular president for 7, and dictatorships everywhere were characterized with summary killings aside from massive looting.
And looting appears to be a common crime against those who sit as president or dictators of their respective countries. In the records of Transparency International, as of 2007, Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada were listed as among the top ten presidents-turned-thieves of the world. Again, Marcos was listed as stealing more, presumably because he had more years to do so.
There are many voices cluttering the thought waves. Technology, driven by increased human demand for freedom of expression and transparency in everything, allows every Juan, Jose and Pedro to give his piece in every form of media available. And we have to count all the Marias, too, for women are a formidable force in Philippine media and global cyberspace.
Every quarter, more or less, the President is graded. We have SWS and Pulse Asia leading the pack of polls and research institutions who make it a point to assess people’s sentiments towards their highest leaders in government. Aside from these are international agencies who regularly evaluate political, financial and investment performance and prospects of countries.
Every fourth Monday of July, too, there is the President’s SONA timed with the opening of Congress – and it is an event that naturally invites the public to comment and serves like an important quiz on a most important subject.
It is not P10 billion, it is way beyond that. The P10 billion are an amount related to one supplier, not the national budget. The Filipino people are now going to get a lesson about the meaning of pork barrel.
Innocent until proven guilty. I grant that. I have seen innocent individuals pilloried by publicity based on unsubstantiated claims. I have seen reputations destroyed on false accusations. Truly, the effort to stay close to facts, to the truth, must be sustained to save the innocent.
The challenge, however, is how to call the really guilty as guilty before they are proven so. What the law can prove through investigations and trials does not change the fact that the guilty are guilty, proven or not. Guilt has a way of exuding a foul smell, a dirty look when exposed. It is like farting; you smell it but cannot see it.
I read very recently a report on how the Philippines improved a little in the corruption index from Transparency International. I also read how 35 percent of Filipinos believe there has been less corruption while 30 percent believed corruption has remained at the same level.
Sixty-four (64) percent of those surveyed by Transparency International believed that public officials and civil servants were affected by corruption, and 58 percent held the same view about political parties. Just as bad is that 56 percent believed the judiciary was corrupt, even after the impeachment and conviction of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Bobo is now a popular word. It is derogatory in meaning, of course, a cross between simpleton and stupid. There are nuances to ignorance and lack of capability for intelligence. The bobo is a living defiance of Creation’s plan.
The sad thing about calling people bobo, less as individuals but more as a class, is that the ones calling others bobo may be more bobo than their intended victims. Perched from a pedestal of superiority, largely self-claimed from a conclusion that they are 1) more powerful, or 2) wealthier, or 3) more educated, or 3) more holy, or 4) more connected to those who are from 1, 2, 3 and 4, the bobo callers reveal their arrogance or holier-than-thou attitude.
Visibly, the world is not equal in its exteriority. There is basis for some to be more than others, in looks, in talents, in wealth, in color and in many other ways. That is why the more refined societies insist on the virtue of respect. Respect alone levels the playing field like no other, and no society can transcend to development or maturity without it. And this is why the ones who think of, or call, others bobo show their own bobo character.
The rains are here, and so are the floods. There are reasons why many believe that climate change is causing such a disruption in our weather patterns. It matters less if these are really new patterns or a natural part of an old pattern that we just never knew before. What is important is that at least three generations of living Filipinos know there are dramatic changes in our weather today versus remembered yesteryears.
Who is right and who is wrong among scientific views does not make it less miserable for Filipinos deeply affected by the emerging climate changes. And I am not talking about the inconvenienced by heavy traffic in flooded streets, I am talking about life-and-death circumstances for millions. I am talking about poor Filipinos, the poorest 5 million families and presumably another 2 or 3 million almost as poor families. Yes, let’s talk about them.
Our Independence Day stirred intense patriotic feelings in me, and I am sure in many others as well. Even though I did not participate in memorial celebrations, I tried to catch as many of them on television. And in my own way in cyber space, I tried to share thoughts and images of freedom and our flag.
Because I chose to spend a quiet Independence Day watching over a grandson, I could not help reflections of independence and freedom from frequently crisscrossing my mind. I realized that I was born after World War II and became part of a transitional generation that was tasting political independence for the first time in almost 400 years. Even then, independence was more a paper term but not yet a lived reality.
Today then, June 2013, 67 years from the time America let us go, so to speak, how are we in terms of independence? More fundamental, how are we in terms of our freedom?