I knew this August would be an especially challenged month, not only because it is an August and supposed to be the middle of the rainy season, but also because there is precisely a lack of rain. It does not seem like an August but feels like an El Niño month. Is this climate change? Or is this change of a greater kind?
In two short weeks, we have had controversies that are embarrassing our society. And like the teleseryes that many Filipinos love, these controversies, ugly as they are, are exacerbated because all kinds of official investigations will guarantee that we stay tuned in to them. It amazes me how strong a penchant we have for bad news, and then how we can choose to wallow in it.
I am referring, of course, to the Bureau of Customs and Bautista couple scandals. I am not saying they are not important, that they should not be given so much attention, or that they should not be investigated. There are serious ramifications with the smuggling of drugs, and the accusations being levied by one another in the case of the Bautista couple, the husband being the Chairman of the COMELEC at that. At the same time, I cannot but help witness how distracting these controversies are in the course of our daily lives – and how depressed more than hopeful we become as a result.
The fight for total control of Marawi continues yet it does not capture anymore the kind of focus it deserves. It is as though the Filipino public has simply accepted that a battle rages in a major Philippine city for months by the fading public interest over Marawi. Yet, the situation is froth with danger beyond the moment, a looming disaster like a sword of Damocles over our societal life.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are forced to suffer with brutally disrupted lives. They cannot move forward because the situation does not allow them – and because new opportunities are not specially created for them to do so. They know terrorists among themselves caused this but blaming the terrorists, as they have done for months, does not work anymore. There will be one other party to the controversy that will be the one so much easier to blame today – and that is government.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees, and a substantial percentage of them children, become the next breeding ground of tomorrow’s terrorists. And this time, the recruitment is not one by one but in clusters of hundreds of thousands from a base of angry, scared and desperate refugees. I have read about grand plans to rehabilitate Marawi. Those grand plans, however, will start on a foundation of ill will because all of us, from government and the private sector, are not moving heaven and hell to show what is really in our hearts – sympathy and concern for the refugees of Marawi. Yet, we have time for all the shop talk about the controversies that have occupied our attention.
One day sooner than later, other controversies will compete for our eyes and ears, and the current BOC and Bautista scandals will take their place in the dustbins of forgotten interests. Unfortunately, many will not learn the lessons which are more important than the scandals themselves. After all, how many scandals have visited our lives in the not so distant past, how many smuggling cases, how many corruption issues, how many do we remember, and how many lessons have we learned?
So much bad news has made it to the front pages this August that I have a hard time recalling most of them. I remember we started the month still talking about the recent early morning raid on the Parojinog family in Ozamis and how several of them were killed. We are not talking much about it anymore. In Bulacan, 32 were killed in simultaneous raids against drug personalities and I am waiting to see how much controversy this will cause (not likely).
We even had another senator indicted for graft related to the alleged misuse of his PDAF funds. Another senator accused, files bail and we hardly noticed it with the onslaught of daily bad news. The appointment of Secretary Judy Tagiwalo, efficient, dedicated and simple she may have been, was rejected by the Commission on Appointments – there is the looming rejection of another yet unconfirmed Cabinet member. The Chief Justice, too, faces the threat of an impeachment move from Congress, which just saw the drama of the Ilocos 6 and the Marcos-Fariñas sideshow.
In Metro Manila, we are further aggravated, or entertained, by the ongoing LTFRB vs UBER conflict. Archaic laws cannot accommodate technology and convenience concerns, and modernity cannot accommodate archaic laws. I heard an official from LTFRB say that UBER cannot justify its violations using public convenience as a reason. If it is just convenience, she may be right. But if it is more public service than convenience, then she may have to ponder what and whom most laws are made for.
I can go on and on by just reviewing the front pages and social media posts in the last two weeks. But what for? Our outlook and attitude must remain fixed on survival, improvement through hard work, hopeful and with as much clarity as possible. We must look for solutions, if not from our leaders, then from ourselves. We must remember that democracy demands more from citizens than it does from officialdom – and being discouraged by bad examples is not an excuse for not making our individual contribution to the common good. The future must remain ours, not theirs.
We must also remember that our world is a global one, that there is North Korea threatening a holocaust, that there is China taking more territory we thought was ours, that racism and fascism is well and alive in America.
When I made a commitment to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, I did not realize I needed such depth of faith to sustain the struggle.