o finally the cat is out of the
bag, so to speak. But we Pinoys should not be surprised at all. We all
know how corrupt our country is. Even before former president Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of electoral sabotage and the misuse of public
funds in 2011; even before Joseph “Erap” Estrada—an earlier president was
convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007; even before Ferdinand
Marcos, a president-turned-dictator, was booted out of the country along
with his family and cronies twenty-eight years ago; we Pinoys knew
they were corrupt. We also knew our Senators, congressmen, governors,
mayors, Barangay chairmen, BIR and Customs officials, and our next-door
neighbors were never totally on the up-and-up. And how did we know this? We knew
it because we ourselves are as corrupt as all of them.
The sad truth is that we
Filipinos are just as flawed and just as weak of character as the
politicians we elect into office. We are not very forthright, we lie and
cheat…and take the easy way out whenever we can. We choose to make money
the fast, and “sleazy way,” rather than the slow and honest way. We
even hold in the highest esteem people who are wealthy and ostentatious…never-mind if
we know they're
So how can we Pinoys appear surprised that our lawmakers are
now accused of receiving
kickbacks from Janet Lim-Napoles and her criminal organization? Truth be
told, if you pressed any “Juan-on-the-street” they would likely tell you
that as far as they're concerned, all our politicians are corrupt. A few are
better at hiding their nefarious deeds than others.
Thus all the protestations by
Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce-Enrile, even Miriam
Defensor Santiago, Chiz Escudero, et.al., blend into a cacophony of white
noise that we Pinoys over the years have learned to simply tune out.
And then we have the Aquino
administration that is content to simply spin its wheels until the 2016
election rolls around. They're happy basking in the glory of pretending to go
after big-time crooks in government. But the stark reality is that in the
end, they will
likely achieve next to nothing except pass on already “cold” cases to the next
administration—cases that will likely end in acquittals. So, nothing really changes.
President Benigno Aquino III is simply raising the hopes of Pollyannaish
Filipinos who think that real change might actually
happen in their lifetimes.
We saw something similar after
the EDSA revolution when Filipinos were euphoric at having booted-out Marcos
and his cronies, only to wake up to the sad reality that today the Marcoses
and their cronies are all back and as rich and as powerful as ever. Filipinos
just have to accept the fact that in the Philippines, the more things
change, the more they stay the same. And the Philippines will
remain in this sad constant forever.
For those who have been following the Janet Lim-Napoles PDAF/NGO* scandal these past months, it is easy to get caught up in all the rhetoric—the words and phrases repeated day after day. Words like "ten billion" or "fifteen billion" have turned into something akin to "gray" background noise. Words devoid of any real meaning or significance. So let us try to put back some meaning into those trite and often-repeated phrases in order to better understand some of the far-reaching ramifications of Napoles' actions.
With Senator Bong Revilla already in police custody in Camp Crame and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile set to join him any day now, people need to start asking tough questions going forward. The privilege speeches of the senators along with the histrionics that accompanied them are thankfully now over so we can all address this issue more objectively.
The Self-Perpetuating Elite of the Philippines
In an essay published in the July 1968 issue of the American magazine Foreign Affairs, a novice Philippine senator described his country as “a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. . . . a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy… a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite…a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.”
PHL Legislators Implicated in the Napoles PDAF Scam Face Definite Jail Time...Maybe
In the United States former four-star General and until recently Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced to resign as head of the VA by the ongoing healthcare scandal that has enveloped that agency. While one can safely assume that Shinseki was not involved in the actually transgressions being investigated, the fact that he headed the agency meant he had command responsibility over its entire staff. And their wrongful acts, whether he knew about them or not, cost him his job. That is the way things work in properly functioning democracies. In the Philippines however, things tend to get a little unusual.
Why All the Fuss? We Knew They were Corrupt Anyway!
So finally the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. But we Pinoys should not be surprised at all. We all know how corrupt our country is. Even before former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of electoral sabotage and the misuse of public funds in 2011; even before Joseph “Erap” Estrada—an earlier president was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007; even before Ferdinand Marcos, a president-turned-dictator, was booted out of the country along with his family and cronies twenty-eight years ago; we Pinoys knew they were corrupt.
The Case of Denise Cornejo and Cedric Lee, a Litmus Test for Pnoy and Philippine Justice
Now that the star attraction in the alleged Vhong Navarro rape incident is in police custody, the upcoming trial will be a litmus test for the Aquino administration as well as the Courts. The almost universal perception is that Philippine justice is broken and does not work. Laws are applied inequitably with the wealthy and powerful living almost above the law, while the common "tao" finds himself at the losing end of cases that usually drag on for years.
Obama's Visit a Shot in the Arm for a Struggling Ally
After essentially showing the American Military the door in the early '90s, Filipinos have of late come to the realization that they need their "Uncle Sam" more than they thought they did. And back then the United States was also more than happy to oblige as their Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission had been closing down hundreds of military installations all across the USA.
We Treasure Our Sierra Madre
In the1948 John Houston movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, three destitute Americans working as gold prospectors mining the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico are confronted by bandits posing as mounted police (“Federales”). When they are asked to produce their badges, the chief bandit's response is classic: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”