To Do The Right Thing

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

To be partisan as a political season season approaches is the easy thing to do.  In fact, partisanship is a perennial temptation for Filipinos no matter what the issue. An elderly and gentleman, Prof. Manoling Yap, whom I regard with great admiration for his integrity and keen in mind, often say that Filipinos are condition to fight over anything. Perhaps, having been subdued by not just superior force but a divide-and-rule strategy for 300 years, it is not easy to recognize and accept that we are not yet truly captains of our souls but creatures of habit. With a president who has been quite unpopular for many years, it is natural for her political opponents to keep pointing out her sins to an aggrieved citizenry. Public opinion does not wait for the slow grind of our formal justice system. Filipinos at home and abroad are quickly agitated by continued reports and rumours, or by the recollection of scandals and controversies, attributed to Gloria and Mike Arroyo. Their rivals have not been able to resist every chance presented to point to new anomalies or speculations of such.

Lost in the continuing drama of a divided people being fed by issues that divide them further is the cry of the poor, the corruption of idealism among the young, and the degradation of a collective moral standard. Bombarded by good governance advocacies, the badly governed struggle with the confusion why such campaigns are directed at them and not at politicians and government bureaucrats. It is not only ironic but somewhat deceptive to imply that good overnance means the people choosing some candidates overothers. How is that good governance?

The poor, the young and the weak are being told that good governance is up to their choice of candidates when, instead, public officials should be told that it is their obligation and accountability to govern well. As electionsapproach, the supposed best minds and hearts of the country rush to media and, now, also  o the Internet, to deliver to as many as they can reach thatcitizens must come together for good governance. I can understand that they cannot do the same to public officials because these officials may not be listening at all, but to shift the messaging to the wrong audience is comic, or quite suspect.

True, good governance can be extracted from public officials if the citizenry demand the same with anger and threats of removal, by election or by revolution. But that is a last resort, not the first option. Are our top legislators that dirty that they cannot enact laws which bear heavily and quickly on erring officials? Or our top minds cannot suggest policies and procedures for the same purpose? Are the elite comprised of the wealthy, the powerful and the learned so bereft of love for people that the people themselves have to take matters into their own hands? If so, then calls for a revolution must be made at once and to target the elimination of an elite that is exploitative, or inutile at the least.

It is becoming more clear to me that a history which, in fact, did have an elite, foreign and local, aggressively exploit people and natural resources managed to maim not just the material well-being of Filipinos but forced the development of a coping mechanism of submission, resignation and the loss of dreams and aspirations. If those who claim they love the people truly wish to help, then there is no other path but the strengthening and empowerment of the enslaved towards their freedom.

Empowerment is capacity-building. In an environment where the powerful abuse their very wards, where the advantaged exploit every opportunity to get ahead even at the expense of the majority, there can be no other cause but empowerment of victims. The victims are the poor who comprise the majority of Filipinos, and the young whose idealism is raped in their tender years. Why roll out a good governance crusade at them every time elections are smelled? Why not roll our empowerment programs every day instead?

It may be that the well-meaning among the non-poor in the country themselves feel desperate and helpless against what they describe as a culture of corruption among those who govern. They may realize that their voices have no value to those who loot and rape in ways smooth and legal. The purity of
their intentions, the sincerity of their actions, must now be grossly inadequate in efficacy against the cancer of corruption of traitors in government. In their despair, they turn to the people to seek their active cooperation in good governance crusades.

But the victims of poverty and corruption are themselves the most crippled, and have been so for centuries. They can hardly stand, and yet they are asked to fight. What else but to fight is being asked of them? How can the weak and the hungry pressure in any other way those who are powerful but abusive? In one brave moment, another EDSA is being called for by calls for good governance as the audience being called have nothing but their lives to offer at this point.

Is this what is truly needed? Is this what is truly the right thing to do?

Can not all of us who can take the path of holding the hands of those who cannot stand, who those who are confused, of those who are afraid, and lead them towards their own strength and power? Can we not, for the people and for the nation that is yet to be, turn our backs on thieves and liars and turn towards the poor and the young, lend them our wisdom, lend them our courage, and if needed, lend them our lives?

Can we not stay focused and seek instead the empowerment of the poor and the young, pursue what is productive and show only disdain to the traditional exploitative ways of those who govern our bodies and our souls? The empowerment of the people mean the empowerment of a citizenry, and the only game in town among patriots is to promote good citizenship. But to do that, to do the right thing, we must turn to our own nobility, to our sense of history, to thoughts of sacrifice and legacy, to dreams of a future full of hope.

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