Going Beyond Senseless Talk

by 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.


Apparently not.  Apparently, the criticisms against corruption were not really deep because corruption in its various forms were not really understood. Many talked against corruption because there is something intrinsically objectionable about it, about this practice of official power being used to enrich or benefit the private interests of the official. But few had the capacity to imagine how corruption manifests itself in many ways.

When we called government corrupt, how was it so? What did government do to deserve the accusation, or condemnation? When we called Gloria Arroyo corrupt, how did we think she was, what did we think she did to deserve being called corrupt? Or did we call someone corrupt without imagining the kind of acts that made them corrupt?

Did we think corruption was just about kotong cops, or Customs people allowing smuggled goods to go through for a fee, or BIR officers offering to collect less for more under-the-table bribes? What about the traditional overpricing of everything, from roads and bridges to books and medicines – and kickbacks to government officials? Is that how we understood corruption to be?

Well, we were right, and we were naive to think that corruption in traditional ways would not find new ways to feed the aggressive nature of greed. The character of greed is such that it is never satisfied, that it will want more, and needs to find new formulas to avoid being discovered. In other words, the greedy in both government accomplices in the private sector will constantly upgrade their schemes.

On the other hand, those who criticized did not bother to upgrade their criticisms, or find new ways to neutralize corruption. For so long, it was enough for many to simply blow steam, to vent, as though letting out their resentments would solve problems. Many resort to griping, to being armchair generals, but did not cross the line between safety and comfort on one end and sacrifice and bravery on the others. Yet, the very government it constantly criticized and condemned to be corrupt was the same government they expected to solve corruption.

Because the truth is, many complained but few dared to match their words with action, or resources to those who dared. Talking and finger-pointing, making commentaries in group email and Facebook, and bashing our people and country seemed to be the mainstream strategy to fight corruption for the longest of times. The Million People March was the first tangible effort to put a little action behind the words – and even that became a convenient cover for manipulators with hidden agenda to mount protest segues – which failed, naturally.

What scandalizes, like the Napoles controversy and the story of the whistleblowers, is what is needed for us to go beyond criticism and senseless talk to constructive action. At a certain point, the justice system, from the Ombudsman to the Supreme Court, takes over. This system will not go by the pace of social media, it cannot. It will ultimately provide what is a fundamental framework for security and stability where society will be protected from both injustice and the justice of the mob.

Because we are greatly disturbed, we have shaken the present system of corruption. It is not the conviction of the guilty although that is such a grand beginning, but our resolve to be intolerant against corruption from now on. Corruption continues despite P-Noy declaring its dismantling as his personal crusade because P-Noy is not the Filipino people, only a leader of the people. It is only the people, and the laws that faithfully protect them, that can stop corruption.

It is only now that a shaken and corrupt system can finally be weakened, and may be dismantled. Never have we come so close to the change we asked for. It only needs for us to mean what we say, to give life to our words with good ideas and brave deeds.

What have we to be afraid of? Change is not only triggered by anger, it is also nourished with a dream for better life for all. It is also something that an older generation can begin and for their children and grandchildren to full blossom.

The worst is almost over. The dark forces are being exposed to the sun, and as always, truth prevails in the light. This is our moment, when the worst arrives, because we refuse to go back anymore and forces us to open the door to what we never knew before.

As we cleanse our soul from the pollution we had allowed to stain it, the pollution of corruption, apathy and fear, more monsters will reveal themselves. Expect them, and know they have to show themselves before they can self-destruct like the dreaded vampires. I read last week an essay written by a friend from San Diego describing the hopelessness he felt for our people because of the recent scandals. I like to tell him that it is not time for him to be desperate, that, in fact, now is his, and our, moment for great hope.

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