Saturday, November 29, 2008


Last Thursday morning, on the occasion of the 76th birthday of my good friend and political initiator, Ninoy Aquino of heroic memory, my car radio was tuned in on Korina and Ted’s program over DZMM. They were eliciting reactions from Jun Lozada about the just-thrashed impeachment complaint against Romy Neri’s resident “evil” in Malacanang.

In pained, nay, anguished tone, Jun came up with a statement that struck me for its simple truth. “Our people must realize”, he said, that “democracy does not lead to prosperity. It is prosperity that leads to democracy”.

Yes, the people who have been protesting daily at Bangkok’s airports, and before that the Government House in the old city, are doing so because they have tasted enough prosperity that they do not want it robbed from them by corrupt politicians, and they are firmly exercising their democratic rights to fight off a political system corrupted by their elite robbers.

In Cambridge during the summer of 1981, Ninoy Aquino had two visitors from the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii. I was with Ninoy then in his small and sparse office at Harvard. Ninoy pensively asked his visitors: “What to your mind is Marcos’ greatest sin, both to the people and to history?”

The visitors both agreed that it was Marcos “trampling of the constitutional rights of our people”. Ninoy then turned to me, and asked, “Ikaw, Lito, ano sa palagay mo?”

My reply was this: “The institutionalization of corruption as a way of life, that is Marcos’ greatest sin”. I explained further --- “Halos lahat corrupted na, the military, the justice system, the governors and mayors, even the business sector”.

“Tama kayo pareho”, Ninoy reacted. “Beyond Marcos, we must fashion a system where government is truly responsive to the needs of the people, not by mere laws, but in actual practice. It is a system that must be harsh against corruption, because that is the issue our people understand most. Pera nila iyon --- pinaghirapan, tapos ninanakaw lamang”.

When Ninoy’s Cory assumed the presidency after the People Power Revolt of 1986, unfortunately, her obsession to re-install “democracy” merely led in time to the resurrection of the politics of old. Feudalism bandied about as the new democracy slowly began to take hold over the carcass of authoritarianism. And during her reign, and every reign thereafter, the traditional politicians and their cohorts in both government and business merely went their merry ways about, at the expense of the people’s money.
As Ping Lacson observed in a speech before the International College of Surgeons, Philippine Chapter, which I read for him last Saturday because he had just lain his father to eternal rest: “Public office has long ceased to be public service. Public office has become a business endeavour, an opportunity to misuse and abuse public funds for personal gain.”

Thus has the pernicious continuum of corruption debased the democracy we call, the democracy our forefathers in their time claimed our country to be cradle of. Sadly in our time, we have been robbed of that same democracy, by an electoral system that proclaims a cheat to the highest office, where she presides over an entire machinery of lying and stealing.

Bishop Soc Villegas, who has suffered in patience through these years, seeing that the government and the leader he once supported has become the antithesis of all that our Holy Mother Church taught us, fulminated thus:

“To steal is wrong. It is a crime. It is a sin. When stealing is done by those high up in power and authority, it carries a greater culpability. The corruption of the best is the worst. The social problem of graft and corruption in public life in our country has reached abominable and embarrassing proportions…Graft and corruption in our country (has become) systemic. It is rewarding. It hurts the poor the most.

“Graft and corruption is systemic and structural. It is not only individual or isolated persons who corrupt and get corrupted. The present system—the elected and the electors, the employers and the employees, the appointed and the appointing powers—has become so corrupt that what we do need is a radical, systemic, interior change. Changing personages through the electoral process or even through legal processes like impeachment and court suits will not necessarily result in reform unless there is a willingness to change from the heart and soul. Pinning our hopes on legal processes unaccompanied by conversion from within will lead us to nowhere but deeper frustrations.

“Graft and corruption is rewarding and rewarded. It is hardly punished. The politicization of the judiciary and the perennial rumours about rogues in robes are problems we need to address urgently. Vigilance is lacking. Political will is weak. Prosecution plays favourites. The penal system is flawed. Pardon and clemency is cheap. Among our people, there is an increasing level of tolerance for corrupt officials. Corruption does not seem to anger many of us anymore. We are not outraged enough by graft and corruption. Widespread graft has sadly numbed our morals.

“The public money that goes to graft is money stolen from the poor. Because of graft and corruption, schools buildings cannot be constructed and teachers are not paid; public hospitals cannot protect us from untimely death; soldiers are deprived of their just wages.”

In fine, when the five bishops led by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the CBCP president, said on October 28, that we need “change --- NOW”, they did not mean electoral change using the same corrupt system ran by crooked cheats, which would only mean “changing personages”, that “will lead us nowhere but deeper frustrations”. The “democracy” we have will not bring about any real level of prosperity to our people, except the corrupt, corrupted and corrupting few in the politico-economic elite. That “democracy” is nothing but an immoderately greedy feudal order obsessed with “tong-pats”.

Serendipitously, our friend Gerry Cunanan, an upright former bureaucrat during the time of Fidel V. Ramos, wrote in, as if to remind us all in these parlous times, various definitions of “democracy”.

First he quotes the preamble of the Philippine Constitution: “We, the sovereign people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution”.

Ponder over each and every word, each and every ideal, each and every purpose so stated. And ask yourselves if these exist in today’s system.

Gerry next quotes the Philippine Supreme Court in 1987, thus:” It is an inherent right of the people to cast out their rulers, change their policy, or effect radical reforms in their system of government…when the legal and constitutional methods of making change have proved inadequate or are so obstructed as to be available”.

Are the legal and constitutional methods of making change…”so obstructed as to be available”? In 2005, Romy Neri, then the DBM secretary, was beside GMA as she gave in to all the calls of congressmen for pork releases and more extra pork, just to ensure they will not vote for her removal. (Ask Romy, he had been telling everyone about his odious role as bookkeeper to the serial bribery where a hostaged cheat pulled all the stops just to remain in illegitimate power.) In 2006, the same rigmarole. In 2007, they elevated bribery to classy crass, right in the seat of power. They distributed bags filled with half a million pesos each in Malacanang. And just a few days back, an old man mercifully allowed to continue in existence by the Lord, perhaps so he will yet have time to repent for his family’s feudal ways in their politically-conquered feudal manor, likened his “queen” to the Lord himself before the Crucifixion. Judged, he intoned, by surveys, as the Christ was judged by the roar of the crowd. Surveys are numbers, and the same numbers are what his Congress used to throw out substance, not even listening to such, because substantive sums had been paid out, or promised. And in this case, even their re-incarnation of “Pontius Pilate”, a man named Defensor, whose son is their boss woman’s favourite, hastened to raise his hand along with the “crowd”, forgetting that a chair votes not, maybe with visions of a bigger bag of “substance” in mind.

Then let us quote the American Declaration of Independence, that written document by which democracy is most ubiquitously defined:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness --- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to Alter or Abolish it, and to institute New Government, laying its foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”.

For what is democracy, circa the reign of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but, in the definition of the present Congress, as described by my friend Gerry, “a system of government where the president and her favored allies and minions can commit any crime without having to face accountability, provided he/she shares his/her loot with the politicians and the leaders of so-called democratic institutions?

And cashiered Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, speaking his heart out for the soldiery of the Republic, who certainly in their heart of hearts salute him thus, states:

“GMA continues to inflict herself on our hapless people. In the process, scarce government resources are squandered to buy for her dubious loyalties, institutions are prostituted to project a sham imprimatur to an immoral governance, public service has evolved into a buffet of graft and corruption, and morals, values, accountability and responsibility have been reduced to mere flamboyant phrases. She destroyed the very concept of truth as the foundation of every act of government.”

“We find the country today in deep turmoil. Oppression, corruption and injustice rule the benighted land. Internecine struggles threaten to dismantle the Republic. Widespread poverty robs people of their dignity and drives many to prostitution and virtual slavery in foreign climes. Hunger incidence is at an all time high and the country’s human development index at an all time low. No wonder, an atmosphere of destitution pervades among our normally resilient and patient people. All of these were brought about by 8 years of unelected, hopelessly corrupt leadership and a slew of failed liberal economic and peace policies.

“Long starved of good governance, the Filipino people should now act to reclaim their dignity, remove the pretender from power, and steer the nation towards the path of greatness … (through) radical reforms and restructuring.”

Finally, quoting the Holy Bible, Corazon Aquino, despite a debilitating illness, called to all of us in this benighted land, “Be Not Afraid”.


Anonymous said...

System alwaysnote.