Jose Ma. Montelibano
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?
We are in between worlds, established superpower America of the West and emerging superpower China of the East. It is a contrast territorially and ideologically. The contrast of sunrise and sunset had carried with it much conflict historically. When the West discovered the East, expansionism by conquest and/or trade was the order of the day. For several centuries, relationships were defined by violence and greed.
The West mastered expansion by conquest. Although it had its Renaissance and awed the world with its creativity and artistry, the West was primarily about the use of power to establish control. From within its boundaries, member states waged so many wars against each other that, including those between Christians and Muslims, there were more wars than years.
Sometimes, we need a foreigner to articulate a truth so we can confront it. Dan Brown, author of the bestseller, “Inferno”, a fiction and sequel to previous books like “Da Vinci Code” and “The Lost Symbol”, mentions Manila in ways not so flattering. In fact, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino reacted quite sharply to Brown’s choice of Manila and his choice of words to describe the city – or metropolis.
I have been monitoring the hunger incidence statistics of the Philippines as reported quarterly by SWS for over ten years, as long as I have been involved with the Gawad Kalinga movement. Because I was a late-comer in anti-poverty work at that time, I remained observant but quiet. I thought I could not speak up when I was just like most people I knew then—uninterested, uninvolved and concerned with a million other things.
Along the way, I grew more intimate with poverty from consistent presence in areas where the poor were, getting to know them better, deeper involvement with community organizing, working with volunteers and partners, and helping design community programs. All the time, I always remained watchful about hunger. And when I knew the terrain much better, I began to write about it.
I really like what Sen. Serge Osmeña said about the recently concluded senatorial elections, “P-Noy won but Binay did not lose.”
In my view, the 9-3 score is an affirmation of the President’s popularity. I do not believe that voters elected the senators because P-Noy said so, or (Vice President Jejomar) Binay said so. That P-Noy or Binay said so may have affirmed the choices of the people and strengthened their resolve to vote accordingly, but certainly the people chose.
Why, then, did P-Noy win if the choice was of the people? Simple. The most winnable candidates chose to be with P-Noy. That is why P-Noy won – because the most winnable believed they could increase their already good chances of winning by allying themselves with the most popular P-Noy.
It’s that time again when traditional sources roll out their unsolicited advice. Vote wisely, vote responsibly, don’t sell your vote, etc. Now that the Internet affords more opportunity for any user to join the chorus from traditional media, including posters on Church walls, the volume of unsolicited advice has increased.
I have been listening to or reading the same unsolicited advice for more than fifty years. It puzzles me why it doesn’t stop. It sure has done from little to nothing in pushing the objective of the unsolicited advice. Why do the givers of unsolicited advice continue to do what has failed their cause for decades?
Poverty in the Philippines cannot be effectively and substantially resolved. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot raise at least 5 million Filipino families out of poverty, not for as long as they do not change the way they look at the poor.
The poor are not the problem, we are. The poor are the victims, not the cause, of poverty. If government wants to effectively and substantially address the cancer we call poverty, then government has to look at itself as the primary culprit. After it, the next culprit is the Church and the elite that have long been in bed with government.
It may be that there is less malice among the culprits than a historical amnesia, and greed, of course. Government shamefully forgets our very history, especially the fact that we were never an impoverished people until we were conquered, abused and exploited by our colonizers. Because poverty was not a natural state of the natives of our islands until we were baptized “Filipinos” by Spain, there is an easy way to trace our poverty.