Generation Fissures

by Juan L. Mercado

You’re a fool,” former Evening News desk editor Carmen Hernandez- snapped over a Palo Alto restaurant dinner. “You’re“returning to all  that corruption and double-dealing back home”?  The wife and I gave up “our U.S. “green cards”, we told “Mameng”.

To break free of Ferdinand Marcos’ “New Society”, we joined United Nations.  But after People  Power, we opted to return.  There were over 300 in the queue, seeking visas. We were the only ones signing INS form I-407: “Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence Status.”  That skewed pattern hasn’t changed since.  

An average of 3,568  Filipinos leave daily today.  They work in over 180 countries. Given half the chance, 19 out of every 100 would go for good, earlier Pulse Asia surveys state. The “backlog”  for immigrant  visas is huge. Applications filed in the late 1990s are only being processed now.

“In my experience, many first generation immigrants —  homesick elderly or established professionals, tend to return,”  the consul said, after processing our request. “All your children are U.S. citizens. Visit them, now and then,” he added. ”Pick up your visas tomorrow.”

Did we regret, in the lady editor’s words, “returning that all that?.”  Yes and no, we told “Mameng at later  Palo Alto dinners.  There were occasions, in-the in-between years, we fretted:  “Why should anybody want to stay?”

One was when Eduardo Cojuangco’s “Brat Pack” tried to impeach  Chief Justice Hilario Davide for leading the Supreme Court  to crack down on the notorious  coconut levy.  The shady  accused the unblemished, to cheers of hacks, in Congress and  the press.

This was perversion. But does this depravity persist across generations? And do we have a monopoly?

The  Arroyo Supreme Court anointed  Cojuangco’s  pocketing  of 16.2 million  SMC shares. These were funded by levies, wrung from small farmers.  But the tribunal decision steamrollered smallholders. It’s the “biggest joke to hit the century”, then  ustice, now Ombudsman,  Conchita Carpio Morales wrote. 

To reclaim the 27 percent Coconut Industry Investment Fund for small farmers, House Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada filed. House Bill 5070.  CIIF SMC shares are worth P56 billion.   Now, watch  today’ predators chomp into yesteryear’s loot.

Dagdag-bawas entered our vocabulary in the mid-90s.  Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. saw his votes shaved as Juan Ponce Enrile’s tallies ballooned. Years later,  Pimentel’s son  Aquilino Martin waged  this battle again,  to claim the remaining 23 months of a senate term.  Nene’s grandchildren  watched  “Koko”sworn in.  They  underscore an injustice that spanned almost a full senatorial  term.

Imelda and family flew the dictator’s embalmed body from  Hawaii straight to Laoag International Airport 18 years ago. President Fidel Ramos approved return, on condition  of a  Sept. 10  burial. That pledge  was not kept.   Instead, construction of a masoluem at the Libingnan Ng Mga Bayani started.  House Bill 1135, bearing signature of 214 congressmen  surfaced  prodding President Benigno Aquino III to authorize Libingan interment of  Marcos. Two families, separated by a generation, are deadlocked on historical revision.

Since his rise from PMA Class ’71 to national police and senate,  in over a generation, charges dogged  Panfilo Lacson:   Dacer-Corbito murder, Kuratong Baleleng  massacre, rub out of  Red Scorpion gang relatives, a 20 year old woman and an eight-year-old girl-dumped from a helicopter off Corregidor, etc.etc. Senator Jinggoy Estrada worked all that into Senate records.

Lacson surfaced after 14 months on the lam. He is now abrasive Senate prober, not fugitive with a fake passport.  He pledges no  harm on  Mary “Rosebud” Ong, who asked for continued Witness Protection  Program sanctuary. She ’linked Lacson to drug deals. All in a generation.

In a year, six plunder charges were lodged against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and husband.  Accusations are still piling up. Will a new record be set for future generations?

Bad governance is just one, albeit a  major factor that spurs migration. Poverty and cramped economic space also do. Indigents today exceed  27.6 million, Asian Development Bank estimates. The income  of the richest 10% of Filipino households was 19 times that of the poorest 10%.  

“Metro Manila finds itself between Lebanon and Peru,”  Philippine Human Development Report adds.. “Benguet is roughly equivalent to that of Armenia while Cebu is equal to that of the Palestenian Territories. Davao, Abra and Bohol lie between Nicaragua and Uzbekistan.”

Penury interlocks with ill health and shabby education. “Poverty webs”  truncate  life spans across generations    “asserts a UP School of Economics study,   Life expectancy  in  Tawi-Tawi  and Sulu, for example, is short of  55 years — like that of  Ethiopia in Africa.   In La Union, life spans now exceed  74 years —comparable to Slovakia, but short of Singapore’s 80. For Japanese, it’s almost 82.

Infant mortality rates here  dropped” from 60 per 100,000 births in 1970 to about 25 today.. But far more can be done. Infant deaths are down to 17 in Sri Lanka.  Also, too many women —  approximately  162 out of every 100,000 births —   still die during labor or shortly thereafter.   

“Should I migrate or not?”, the young reporter with two kids asked . We  replied: “Bloom wherever you’re planted.”

( Email: juanlmercado@gmail.com )

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