Madness and Accountability

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

For the first time in Philippine history, a politician was drafted by the people in a manner so powerful that he accepted the challenge even if he had no ambition for the office. In the ensuing campaign, his vision for governance and very competence to govern were questioned, like his mother before him, but his honesty, sincerity and credibility overshadowed all attempts to stop a phenomenal march to the presidency. And when he won on the back of volunteers more than politicians, he called the people his “boss” and affirmed it with his classic, leveling-the-playing-field “no wang-wang” pronouncement.

Noynoy Aquino then pursued the anti-corruption stance he used as his main campaign promise and created the Truth Commission despite the howl from those who could not raise a protest against all the abuses of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He questioned and is moving against a horrible midnight appointment craze by his predecessor in honor, not only of legal and moral principles, a people’s angst for propriety in the use of power. He opens a can of worms in the exploitation of salaries, bonuses and perks in government agencies and corporations – and then suspends their continued use and abuse.

By his example, P-Noy is challenging a culture of corruption that has gone beyond the corridors of power and spread to the daily lives and experiences of a people. He has chosen to fight the dragons who are fighting back furiously, albeit surreptitiously for now. Meanwhile, he has to deal with all the greed and hidden agenda of traditional politicians and businessmen. He has to reward loyalty even as he is beginning to see that much of the help he received during the campaign was sacrifice not only for a noble cause but an investment for a future appointment as well.

After two presidents, one who made it to the ugly world of super thieves and another who will most surely make it there as well, where meritocracy has been exchanged for a willingness to follow the dark ways of leadership, P-Noy has to accept the deteriorated level of both morality and efficiency. He has to appoint thousands of people to positions where most of its occupants are using all means to cling to, yet does not personally know most of those he will appoint. And he sees the coffers of government and shakes his head at the way the previous administration had tried to leave him with nothing except midnight appointees.

Then, in one unfortunate incident where malice or greed was not the cause of its failure, a whole people are hostage by the bitter fruits of neglect and apathy of past leaderships for proud and effective public service. Medicine overpriced denied the poor health care they cannot afford. Books overpriced denied the young the quality of education they need to properly fend for themselves. Roads and buildings overpriced to cater to a kickback system draining hundreds of billions annually denied a whole country of its chance to progress. In one incident, all that we have become, a pitifully abused and exploited people, subservient and tolerant to the smart and corrupt, are forced to accept another humiliating experience which shamed us before the eyes of the world.

As if by karmic manipulation, an incident that has caused less lives than the daily existence of hunger and poverty, of rebellion and secession, brings to the light of national and international consciousness how unprepared our bureaucracy is to handle emergencies. It is not the first time. Disaster after disaster, kidnapping after kidnapping, election after election, our unpreparedness for challenging situations, or our tolerance to grand theft of money and votes, are effectively highlighted. But because P-Noy is the president of hope, the president looked upon to deliver change, he will be blamed much more than presidents whom nothing much in terms of honesty or propriety was expected.

To whom much is given, much is asked. Even though he has inherited a bureaucracy that was corrupted in body and soul, he has only a short time to finger-point. It is not that the past leaderships were not guilty of more than treason, not guilty of robbing the Filipino people of their dignity and honor. It is simply because P-Noy has the awesome challenge to move forward even as he tries to cleanse the bureaucracy of its evil ways and agents. Along the way, he will find serious resistance from those who fear that justice will catch up with them. Along the way, too, he will be sabotaged by the greed and lust for power of political allies masquerading as sympathetic to his reform agenda. In the end, the enemy within is most dangerous.

The police bungled only at a certain point. Sadly, it had to be at the end and lives were lost. More lives were saved, though, and the attempt to rescue was not a total failure. Those on the ground did their best as products of a system more powerful than them, a system of corruption, leaderships who stole and lied and killed, most of whom remain in place.

The more serious tragedy was the projection of P-Noy, or his non-projection. Those who were so aggressive in demanding not only ranks they did not deserve but the right to show their face as P-Noy’s mouthpieces and the right to craft his messages suddenly wilted in the line of fire. Some will say it was their inexperience, but I suspect it was their lack of instinctual guts and preparation to take the bullet for their president. They hustled for their position because they wanted the glory, not the gory. Their failure was more horrible than the failure of the police.

Meanwhile, as P-Noy publicly accepts the responsibility of a failed scenario, he has to remain vigilant because the barnacles still cling to him, the greedy and ambitious still ride on his authority and influence, and the people still hostaged by a culture of corruption and abuse. P-Noy only has the people to run to, the same people who made him run, who made him win, who believe in him. He must rescue them. And only they can rescue him.

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