Wang-Wang Two

by Juan L. Mercado

“Is this Wang-Wang Two?”, some  people ask.  The  query  masks  deeper  concerns that  anchor Department of the Interior and Local Government  Secretary Jesse Robredo’s   most recent memo-circular.

Don’t  plaster  your names  —  or mug shots —  on Government’s Conditional  Cash Transfer projects, Robredo  reminded  local government officials. Otherwise known as  the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program, CCT  provides direct  help to the poorest.

In 2012, President  Benigno Aquino  proposes to pump  P49.2 billion into this center piece program.  Cash transfer are made directly to poorest families. In return, the families commit to keep children in school and undertake health checks.

Do we really  grasp the desperate straits of the country’s  poor?  We  know the “stats” by rote. 

Poverty incidence exceeds 33 percent,  we say. Thus, only six out of 10 kids tip the scales for  normal weight-for-age standards. Over 162 mothers die in every 100,000 live births. Only 70 percent  of students, who enroll in Grade 1, make it to Grade 6. And one in five kids, between 6  11 years  of age,  are not in school.

Thus,  the country lags  in meeting  2015 Millennium Development Goal  targets. The gaps are  in key areas:  universal primary education, maternal mortality, and access to reproductive health services.

Few of us really sense the pain in the cold data of men and women deprived. . “Who made him dead to rapture and despair?, Edwin Markham wrote.  “A thing that grieves not and that never hopes… Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

`Government sold the poor short.  In the twilight of the Arroyo regime,  “national government spending on social services was only 5.9% of gross domestic product”., Asian Development Bank notes  Spending on social protection dipped even lower to  only 1.2%”,

These crumbs were  “further compromised by weak targeting systems to identify beneficiaries and high leakages to the non-poor.”  Escalating food prices whittled down by over  9 percent  average standard of living . Severity of poverty  doubled in the absence of appropriate safety nets…

Both World Bank and Asian Development Bank support  President Aquino’ CCT program, now in it’s second year. Robredo has moved to insulate this   program further   from deeply-engrained self-aggrandizement practices of politicians..

“It  was  sickening”, wrote  Rolly Espina of Visayan Daily Star.  “Earthquake victims   in Guihulngan, Jimalalud, Tayasan, and La Libertad lined for  relief items bearing the slogan of Governor Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental… President Aquino Vice President Jejomar Binay and  Red Cross  Governor Migz Zubiri appeal ed to politicians not to fight for the credit …”

Scores of poiticians posters still dot Zamboanga del Norte or  Davao del Sur, among others. Reform is the last thing in many politicians’ minds.

Senate Bill 1967, filed by  of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago if approved, would become an  “Anti-Epal Law”. These provide penal sanctions for horn-tooting by  politicians. Until then,”we cannot sanction them,”  Robredo said. “ But we can rip the streamers that have their names and photos.”

President Aquino set  the pattern on Day One of his administration..  “Enroute to take his oath,  as the Republic’s 15th president, Benigno Aquino III yanked the plug on his car’s wang-wang,  this column noted in “Contrast Tutorials” (Sept 27,2010,) . “That silenced car sirens of politicians elsewhere.

“Convoys of  Ampatuan  warlords   would “wang-wang” citizens aside when they barreled through Maguindanao’s rutted streets. They’ve stopped. “Example moves the world more than doctrine”, says author Henry Miller.

In his first  State of the Nation message, Aquino deployed  the  wang-wang as symbol for a mindset of privilege. “Utak  wang wang”, he said   gouges a people  of  wealth — and worse of values. .

That theme resonates today in the impeachment of  Supreme  Court chief Justice Renato Corona. “ We’ve  had hints as to the Chief Justice’s character, “Inquirer’s Rina Jimenez David wrote.

One is his penchant for special treatment, whether it be a doctoral degree “summa cum laude” without putting in the requisite academic work or  appointment as Chief Justice even it  fractured  the Constitution.

Will  we find out later about his using power to sway  decisions of high court colleagues?, Jimenez David  wonders.  For now,  we have  stories about his use of  power to prevail over  his wife’s family members —   what P-Noy calls the “wang-wang mentality”.

Political theorist Hannah Arendt calls normalizing of the unthinkable  the “banality of evil.” Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann ensured that “cobblestones, which paved the path to Auschwitz’s gas chambers,where  six million died,  were perfectly scrubbed.” And are Mr Corona’s  Statement of  Assets and Liabilities equally polished?


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