The optimism of the people are high, riding on a fresh administration, affirming that integrity and decency in governance was more what people needed than geniuses to wield power. I surmise it is because of the reputation that Ferdinand Marcos had been known for much of his life, as a brilliant lawyer and astute politician. Yet, he oppressed the people with the same intelligence and political expertise. Talent, indeed, does not hold water to integrity and honesty.
Gloria also had her own reputation as someone who was hard-working and an economist. These virtues, in the hands of the wrong person, become tools of plunder and instruments of evil.
It is true that the poverty of tens of millions of people deserve the most talented and decisive in the economic field. Yet, it had never been the lack of economic expertise that produced the poverty; rather, it was the exploitation of power for personal gain, the extraction of the country’s natural resources and the manipulation of the majority poor, that forced a rich land and gifted people to become marginalized.
I wonder who understands how native intelligence and a sensitive, creative culture can degenerate into uncontrollable divisiveness and a survivalist mindset. It is a classical breakdown of what is noble to what is animalistic, the damaged culture that scientists talk about. It used to be a universal pattern when colonization dominated the rest of the world. Many delude themselves into believing that a mental construct of centuries can quickly deconstruct itself when native rulers replace foreign masters. In fact, it does not most of the time. In fact, it becomes worse often enough.
The mindset of governance has always been elitist, even before Spanish colonization. The datu system could not have been less authoritarian. However, being home-grown in a culture that was very much family-oriented, it is more than probable that most datus were paternalistic more tan dictatorial. After all, the datu and his people were not enemies, just as the kings and their people belonged to one another.
Democracy, then, has upset the applecart of both tradition and human history. Democracy is dismantling a leadership mindset that has always been top down by introducing the process of a ground up participative governance. Much of the world today mouths democratic wishes. Some even claim adherence. The fact remains that democracy is struggling to survive its infancy stage in human evolution.
The need for respect is primordial in a democracy. The rule of the majority is not theoretical, not in a democracy. It must be a felt value by the people. While most decisions cannot be directly representative of what people want or don’t want, the sense that the common good prevails is a necessary belief of the people.
A credible justice system is designed to act like a guidepost. The rule of law is a foundation of all societies, but it is most crucial in a democracy. The rule of law and the application of meritocracy as the major moorings of society can make democracy work. Without them, the rule of force propping structured authority often co-opts a disturbed country. In the Philippines, the justice system is suspect, the highest judges perceived as partisan, lacking in integrity and objectivity, drawn to partisanship and loyalty to appointing powers.
We stand today inside a moment when great change is possible from the higher aspirations of a people under a new government. The key orientation then is change, a change from one point moving towards another. The starting point of change is corruption and the poverty it has spawned. Those who do not stand on the value of change do not deserve to lead the country because they will guarantee that no change will happen.
Change is not easy. Confronting corruption and its tentacles in every nook and corner of governance, with great help from a private sector who tolerated, even abetted it, requires a courage that belongs to heroes. Even poverty will be used as an excuse to compromise, as though to help the poor makes it necessary to dirty one’s soul. President Noy had heroes for parents. Maybe, he realizes today why destiny played it that way.
Many in the official family of national and local governance will relent to a reduction of corruption because they will be afraid that simple integrity and honesty will prevent them from receiving resources they need. The President can bend to Congress and the Senate, the mayors and governors to the President, the innocent to corrupt judges and justices, candidates to Comelec officials, and down the long line.
Those who compromise will tell themselves that they have to sell their souls in order to help their people. Little do they know, or try as they might not to know, people are enslaved in a national web and culture dominated by corruption. In a corrupt environment, the people are the victims, especially the poor. The people are not saved by compromise, they are punished and condemned by it.
That was why I thought that the Truth Commission was such a necessary instrument to battle corruption with. That is why I continue to believe that a Truth Commission is the only way to hit several birds with one stone. Aside from thieves and plunderers possibly getting imprisoned, the culture of honesty is once again being highlighted as non-negotiable. When the Supreme Court said that the Truth Commission was unconstitutional, I thought President Noy would bring the case to the people and establish Truth Forums everywhere.
But fate is a more masterful and brave player in life. A lowly auditor who is convinced of the guilt of plunder suspect General Carlos Garcia and the support that he receives from other personalities of power, Heidi Mendoza is saying she is on a truth mission. She is showing extraordinary courage for an ordinary Filipino. She is affirming that heroism is not the exclusive virtue of personages in high places, but that it can be the result of fighting those in power and with great wealth.
Filipino. Pilipinas natin. Our country demands from us, from all of us, a personal contribution to nationhood. Corruption prevents a sense of unity, keeps people and sectors apart, exploiter here, victim there. Governance is not just about them up there; it is truly more about you and me here.
“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” — Albert Camus