Thursday, June 25, 2009

The great disconnect

I have read several poll opinion surveys done in the past year or so, as well as focused group discussion (FGD) results done at the behest of various candidates for national office.

Unless the trends are reversed, the future of this country could be very depressing indeed. Electoral choices have become a function of “kababawan”. The average voter from the lower C, D and E income levels have very few sources of adequate information to make a reasoned and reasonable choice on the kind of leaders who would run this country at these crossroads of our collective destiny.

Despite reams and reams of printed space denouncing corruption in the country, and equivalent air time exposing instances thereof, and despite Senate investigations of unending scandals, the lower C, D and E income levels who altogether comprise 90% of the electorate, do not seem to understand the connection between levels of corruption and the poverty that has kept them in unending bondage.

Corruption ought to be one of the most understandable issues. It has hounded us since after the Pacific War, beginning with scandals in the handling of surplus goods left behind by the Americans. Leaders of the then reigning and newly-formed Liberal Party had been accused of making money in vehicles, steel sheets, war materiel, even liquor. When layer upon layer of abuse of power and privilege got exposed, no less than Senate President Jose Avelino, also the president of the LP, justified it all by saying “What are we in power for?” in a Malacanang caucus. That infamous statement scandalized the nation, along with charges on the Senate floor where a neophyte senator, Lorenzo Tanada Sr. showed photocopies of cancelled checks payable to Avelino or his wife. That eventually led to his fall from power.

President Elpidio Quirino was an honest president, with a string of pioneering infrastructure projects that laid the foundation for our future economic growth, but he was victim of a propaganda hoax about a golden orinola and a 5,000 peso bed. The orinola (bedpan) turned out to be stainless steel and the bed a simple brass headboard, but in those times, people believed the worst. President Magsaysay died from a plane crash before any scandal touched him, and President Carlos P. Garcia was likewise charged by his opponent, Vice-Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, with alleged sins of corruption. At the end of his reign, all Garcia had was a new home, described as palatial, but actually nothing more than a comfortable abode in what is now Bohol Avenue beside the ABS-CBN compound. Garcia’s only offspring, Linda led an extremely simple life with husband Nanding Campos until her death a decade ago. Macapagal was charged with corruption likewise, his brother Angel, later a congressman of their Pampanga district, tarred as his bagman. The former president eventually retired to a Forbes Park home, yet in fairness, did not show any ostentation after his term.

It was Ferdinand Marcos who, having ruled for two decades, became the cynosure of corruption issues, side by side with the extravagant lifestyle of his first lady, Imelda. To this day, Marcos. whom history will perhaps judge in better light like Quirino, is still touted as the most corrupt. Until Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her first gentleman came along to compete. Of course, Joseph Estrada was ousted after two and a half years, also because of charges of corruption.

In fine, Filipinos have lived with corrupt leaders, or those perceived to be corrupt since the end of the Second World War six decades ago. But they still continue electing corrupt people. There is a great disconnect here. Everybody and his mother rants against corruption, but the corrupt continue to fool the people about their “clean and honest” intentions. They take the people for a ride, and for as long as the people get free joyrides every now and then, they are content.

Is it because of poverty? Is it because the daily grind for survival has become so desperate that the poor are unable to be more lofty and more discerning in their demands upon the character and integrity of their public servants?

In survey after survey, the single most important asset of a would-be leader is “matulungin sa mahihirap”. In previous climes, people would at least inquire about the provenance of the “tulong”. These days it would seem, basta’t matulungin, ayos, and never mind if the provenance is dubious. Never mind if it came from the public till, provided the leader “shares”. And never mind as well if the sharing is so egregiously unfair, as in all the poor get are scraps and leavings from the tables of the greedy.

People take it as a matter of course, when the wives, kabits and children of their corrupt leaders openly flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. Jaded they have become, no longer scandalized by such open display of extravagance. Even bishops of various churches suck up to the powerful.

And these show in the surveys of those who present themselves as “presidentiables”. In recently-held FGD’s, a presidentiable who has been charged with using his high office to re-align a road so that he and his family corporations would profit immensely has used the airwaves to bombard the public with a non-sequitur --- “Dahil galing sa mahirap, tumutulong sa mahirap”. And it would seem that people believe him and his alleged generosity. Of course it is early days, as the full story of his self-dealing and abuse of power has yet to effectively unravel, the Senate being in recess until the last week of July this year. But right now, he has been using hundreds of millions, perhaps almost a billion by now, in glitzy and expensive commercials to perhaps insulate himself from the oncoming dirty truth.

A president convicted of plunder and pardoned immediately thereafter goes around throwing candies to the children of the lumpen, and adoring crowds still believe that he is their saviour from poverty. Even if his wanton lifestyle had been uncovered in full monty just about nine years back. People never learn.

Or is it because a succession of failed presidencies, all charged with corruption, their own or their kin’s, has fortified the belief that “pare-pareho lang silang lahat”, and the better attitude is simply to partake of the leavings? Have we become a country obsessed with “balato”? Kay babaw naman ng kaligayahan.

A senator who abjured his 200 million pork barrel allocation is not appreciated except by a few decent souls in academe and civil society. Politicians shun him because “wala namang pakinabang diyan”. And the ordinary man-on-the-street chides him --- “sana kinuha na lang niya at itinulong sa mahihirap”. A nation of mendicants unable to discern right from wrong, it seems, is what we have degenerated into.

The question is --- in the eleven months prior to the 2010 elections, if at all they are held, will people be able to connect the dots, between corruption and their miserable state? Will they be able to discern character and competence beyond thirty-second commercials and two-minute scripted interviews of Boy Abunda that cost hundreds of millions, soon billions? Will they yet see through “para sa mahirap” pledges repeated ad nauseam? Will our politics ever mature?

I hold no candle for the 2010 elections. If Norberto Gonzales’ oft-repeated pining for a “transition council” would only be “reformist” with revolutionary zeal, and not a mask of maggots, even I would support.

But until such an ideal presents itself, and until the same is able to cut the Gordian knot of abuse of power that has bedevilled this benighted land for decades on end, then we just have to muddle through and hope that the next leader, if he is able to mount the political stage despite Gloria and her coven, is the “least evil” among the lot.


Anonymous said...

hello po..

i'm irene, a 4th year high school student..

where can i find your blog related to former pres. estrada and ben diocno?

God bless you po..