Tell The People The Whole Truth

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Between the hostage-taking incident and the jeuteng issue, it would seem that the first 100 days of President Noy are unable to shrug off the heavy baggage of the past. Of course, his detractors would prefer to gloss over the fact that our being third world is not P-Noy’s doing because they are intimately connected with that dark past. Third World is not just a cliche, it is a state of being. Being Third World is a status of a country which breeds weak police forces and rampant gambling. Or, it can become even much worse and deteriorate into endemic violence.

I watched with a mixture of amusement how  all sorts of investigators began where kibitzers from the general public left off. The Americans have a word that describes it best in the context of a popular national sport called American football – “Monday morning quarterbacking.” Monday morning quarterbacking refers to the process of passing judgment when one has hindsight.  And with hindsight, third world becomes first world.

Commentators, or investigators, look at a performance that conceivably could have been better and then judge from the most ideal standard that they themselves know are not applicable in their lives and in the society where they live. They look at the best of America, the best of Japan, the best of Europe, the best of China, and then compare there with the worst of the Philippines. They look at the consequences of bad and corrupt leadership, like a badly-equipped and trained police force, as though they were the cause, not the victims.

It is the most guilty who are the most adept in shifting attention, then blame, from themselves to everyone else. This maneuver can usually be easily and quickly exposed under the eye of an objective and intelligent public public, but the Filipino public is not the most astute either. In fact, it is the greatest victim of a leadership style that remains feudal, exploitative, and utterly bereft of patriotism and statesmanship. It is a leadership which thrives on poverty and its attendant mendicancy and ignorance.

The pattern of exploitation ensures that the elite – from the wealthy, the powerful, the holy, the knowledgeable, or the beautiful – remains in a superior position at all times. Competition is discouraged from the lower classes; in many instances, competition is crushed, violently or otherwise. It is part of that exploitative mindset to arrange everyone else to be weak, and then to point out the weaknesses when it is time for the blame game.

Imagine a Congress known for its pork and kickbacks but  perennially scrimping on making the national police force (among others as the AFP is also terribly in need of modernization) adequately equipped and well trained intermittently, after a scandal, then turn on the same badly-equipped and trained police force, lambast them publicly, and ask for heads to roll. They make people weak and then punish them for being so.

It is not only Congress though. An Executive Branch cannot be exempt from blame as the key cause of corruption. Just to remind ourselves, our international status as a corrupt nation, now at the top in our region, is not only about stealing people’s money, it is also robbing them of good services – like an honest, efficient police force. Add to this a justice system that cannot decide cases with speed and consistent fairness, it is not difficult to understand where poverty comes from, where poverty will not be eradicated, where bad governance is the norm, where personal gain is the greatest motivator in public service.

A police force which can bungle a delicate operation is not criminal – it is natural. A police force does not operate independently from the values and practices of its leadership, nor from the mores of the society it serves. The police force, in fact, is one of the most effective, for the good or for the bad, tools of leadership. The quality of our police force is reflective of the quality of its operating and political leadership.

Consequently, too, is jeuteng. Jeuteng does not feed the police force, it feeds the different leaderships of the government and society for as long as that leadership can influence the police force. Even bishops have been suspected, like Undersecretary Rico Puno, of accepting gambling money. This gambling money does not come only in the form of direct pay-offs, it can also come in the form of donations to charitable projects and their religious proponents. If a bishop can influence the appointment, or termination of a police officer like a senator, a congressman, a governor or a mayor, then he can be a target of bribes in many forms.

For a Justice Secretary like de Lima, or a long-time anti-jeuteng advocate like Bishop Cruz, they are fully aware, if they are not stupid, of the environment within which our police force operates. They should know the roots of the evil, who and why, and how government and church cannot be spared from direct blame for corruption or the inefficiency it breeds. For every high profile statements they make, and they excuse the most guilty for they pawns, they, too, perpetuate the hypocrisy that prevents Filipinos from knowing the truth.

It is not the few lives of Chinese tourists that have been sacrificed by the corruption of leadership, it has always been the whole Filipino people, especially the poor. Now is a new and unique moment for the truth to find light in President Noy’s watch. Let the wise and the brave in our society enlighten the people and encourage them to change the course of their history, to find the will to be in charge of their destiny.

Let Justice Secretary de Lima and retired Archbishop Cruz tell the people the whole truth.

“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” Albert Camus

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