Jose Ma. Montelibano
If we did not want change, then things would have remained as they were – and grown worse in the same direction. But many of us wanted change and began to pray for it to happen. Some even demanded it.
It puzzles me, then, why the same people who wanted, prayed for, and demanded change are now shocked by the predicates that will lead to change. Without the scandals and exposure of grave abuse, there will be no impetus for change. It seems that people asked for change without understanding what they wanted to change.
For decades, and more so when the excesses and abuses of martial law finally found light after the Ninoy assassination and the Edsa people-powered revolution, the cancer called “corruption” had been a favorite target of people’s criticism. Because the advocacy against corruption had been a favorite topic of not only media but people in the streets as well, I had assumed that the mechanics and details of that corruption were familiar experience of the complaining lot.
The nature of change, once the tempo picks up, is that one drama follows another until several can be happening at the same time. It was not happening that fast in 2009 when a few personalities were making their plans to run for president the year after. One senator was clearly ahead of the game, and he was ready to spend amounts that any of his rivals could not.
But August 1, 2009, changed everything. Corazon Aquino who had been battling cancer finally lost the fight but triggered a much bigger one, affecting not one human life but the life of a nation. From her death, the Tita Cory of the Philippines opened an unexpected door for her son, the door to the presidency in 2010.
These are exciting and wild times, the kind I had been anticipating. For years, I had written about great shifts that will challenge our nation, frustrations that would bring about catharsis, aspirations that would find fresh expressions among our younger generations. I wrote consistently about these times of great change because the signs were clear to me. What kept me wondering was when it would happen in the obvious, and in what ways would change manifest itself.
It was the youth that first alerted me about the imminence of change, the youth of the Philippines and the youth elsewhere. Evolution always places idealism in the younger generations, but the tempo of evolution itself sometimes intensifies in specific generations. That is very true for the youth now, for the tempo today. In the Philippines, there is a quiet passion among our youth, a surprising determination to be more involved in making a better world. This spirit of positivism tempers the anger that defines most moments of great change.
The big mistake is to be awed by the numbers of the million people march. It did not hit one million, maybe not even one half. It is a bigger mistake to not to be awed by the event last Monday because it deserves all the credit it claims.
Having several hundreds of thousands in the Luneta when there was clear organizer is a feat. In different major cities, they had their version of the Luneta gathering as well. The numbers were not overwhelming, but those same numbers are not static. Even today, the numbers grow because the spirit of million people march remains agitated.
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.