Jose Ma. Montelibano
The list is long, that thread of dark issues that plagued us in 2013. From the top of my head, I remember the Sabah controversy, the Zamboanga fiasco, the Napoles scandal, PDAF, DAP, the Bohol earthquake, Yolanda and its relief aftermath. Truly, this list is not only long, it is deadly.
But as I write this article, I do not have mixed feelings, I am upbeat beyond belief. It is not as though I have sidestepped the controversial and belligerent issues. When one is as wired to cyberspace as I am, and frequently on the ground with fellow Filipinos in the city, in the provinces and abroad, it is simply not possible to avoid the darker side of Philippine politics and society.
Supertyphoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ is like tropical storm ‘‘Ondoy’’ in a very special way. As natural calamities, Yolanda and Ondoy affected a wide area that both rich and poor – and all in between – were adversely affected. Yolanda hit several provinces while Ondoy flooded Metro Manila – and Metro Manila as the imperial metropolis of the Philippines, is equivalent to several provinces in importance.
Most other times, natural calamities are quite selective. They hit mostly the poor, or only the poor. Remember the Ormoc flood, or typhoon ‘‘Sendong’’ at Cagayan de Oro and Iligan? Thousands died, but again mostly poor, maybe upwards of 95 percent. Only if a calamity covers a wide area, like Yolanda in the Visayas and Ondoy in Metro Manila, will there be a more proportional damage between the poor and non-poor.
There are special times when serious topics become hot subjects at the same time, like now. It is almost impossible not to mention Typhoon “Yolanda”. I am now two weeks working online 20 hours a day, taking short breaks for some meals with my family and mass on Sundays. The intense participation of my favorite non-government organization, Gawad Kalinga (GK), in relief efforts has stretched the capacity of workers and regular volunteers, and my assignment is to be one of a few connecting global GK advocates to current realities on the ground.
I may not have the power and the speed of physical movement as a senior citizen, but I have the key relationships with GK people in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. And our brave workers and volunteers in the Visayas update our headquarters and me with photos, videos and short stories. The main theme always is heroism, the heroism of people who are battered but refuse to surrender, and the heroism of GK workers and volunteers who refuse to leave the victims by themselves.
Life swings violently at times, as is its pattern in moments of great change. The earth rocks, the floods surge, the slopes slide, and the winds howl. That is nature every so often. That is politics as well, when the time of cleansing and purging comes.
The 10-billion scam was the opening ante, so to speak, of the poker game called corruption. It is hard to say that , without the alleged kidnapping of Benhur Luy, the scam would have remained buried. Without speculation, though, with just the hard facts, an alleged kidnapping opened a closet door with skeletons tumbling out.
I wonder why many can lie outright, disguised in words that make the lie not entirely libelous, and then get shocked when confronted. Many P-Noy haters go coy and say, “No one ever accused P-Noy of being a thief.”
P-Noy came out front and center to say there are those who are trying to paint him as one when they, and not him, are the thieves. I wonder how people can say that P-Noy has not been called a thief when, in fact, many have. Insidiously, or in cowardice, they may use words like, “apparently,” “it seems,”, “it’s tantamount to,” or “according to an unnamed source,” to give legal cover to their calling him a thief. What do they think we are, stupid?
“Stop thinking of what could go wrong and start thinking of what could go right.”
I saw this quotation a few days ago while surfing in the Internet and it struck me so powerfully that I posted it in my blog. I could not even identify who the author is, but that just means that the message, and not the messenger, had great meaning for me.
The earthquake that hit Bohol and other provinces came to mind immediately. I recalled how the leadership of Gawad Kalinga (GK) quickly decided to mount a relief effort for Bohol. Since GK started with no funds but have experienced generosity from many in times of calamity, it set a target of 7,500 food packs for affected families. Just a day or two after the earthquake, the extent of the damage to people, homes and communities was not yet clear.
“Things are the way they should be.”
The present moment is not separate from its context. We are where we are because this is the continuing result of our life’s journey. This is not we wanted, I am sure, but this is what we managed to achieve, of that I am just as sure.
Our national life is a collective one, even as our individual lives are, to a controllable extent, quite distinct from it. Being distinct, however, does not mean separate. We may try to disassociate ourselves from our collective, national life, but we can never be totally apart from it.
If corruption is endemic and deeply embedded in both government and collaborators in the private sector, its cure can only be even more disturbing. A force that needs to be changed demands a greater counterforce. A people and nation long afflicted with corruption and abuse of power from the top must experience turbulence powerful enough to cleanse society.
The removal of dictators or authoritarian governments has often been easier than achieving the desired change that precipitated their removal. Disposing of unwanted leaders can happen fast, but building a new culture of governance grounded on the straight and narrow can take a long, long time. This is especially true when the change agents did not prepare themselves and the public to be led by a new set of values.
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.