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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for August 25th, 2013

Rage against corruption 1

Posted on August 25, 2013 by jimparedes

Rage against corruption
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 25, 2013 – 12:00am

We all are aware that many of our public officials are corrupt. I have talked to quite a few people who even assume that perhaps all of them are. I must disagree since I personally know honest people in government. But even so, we have all heard about kickbacks, tong, grease money changing hands and the skullduggery that happens in politics. In every scandalous situation we read about, we assume what we hear is probably true or has a ring of truth to it since we think the worst of our public officials.

So why are we all so completely and totally enraged by the revelations about the scam and deception linking many of our officials to a certain Janet Napoles who allegedly was their conduit to their pork barrel? Didn’t we assume this kind of thievery was going on all along? Wasn’t that the practice? So why are we screaming bloody murder?

I guess it is one thing to imagine and suspect guilt and quite another to get confirmation that we were right all along. For many years, we have been talking and complaining about corruption to the point that we had grown tired and just accepted it as par for the course in politics. The system is indeed rotten and does not deliver justice because the corrupt run it. Proof of that is, very few corrupt people ever go to jail. Every time we vote, we simply choose the less corrupt among them.

But reading about the testimony of whistleblowers lately detailing the extent of the corruption, the lavish lifestyle of the Napoles family and our officials, and getting confirmation from COA regarding the veracity of the amounts misused, misrepresented, stolen outright was shockingly scandalous. All of a sudden, corruption had specific faces, and had documented histories and identities. What we had suspected to be true all along really happened. It wasn’t just our cynicism that led us to imagine it. It was and is real. And much, much bigger than we ever thought or imagined.

The P10 billion being mentioned is a huge sum of money. It is like stealing P100 from every Filipino. And there are 100 million Filipinos. And that amount is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Despite being brutally beaten up by weather disturbance Maring the past few days, the anger and focus of the people on the issue have not simmered. On the contrary, the rains have further brought to light the failure of government through the years to spend on meaningful infrastructure projects for flood control and anti-poverty programs that would have alleviated suffering. People see the ugly face of Janet Napoles and her cabal of corrupt politicians as the cause of uncontrolled flooding and all the suffering we are all going through.

What if the 10 billion that went to corruption had been spent on real programs that actually solved our perennial problems? Many surely are asking that as they suffer through high water, homelessness, hunger and life-threatening situations. They gnash their teeth knowing the money that could have helped them has gone to finance the bottomless greed that continues to feed the luxurious lifestyle of our corrupt political leaders.

And while many have been feeling quite upbeat about the reforms that are happening now under P-Noy, the extent and the gravity of the problem of corruption that has come to light is something that still shook a lot of people — enough for a great many to have a sinking feeling in the gut that things are still far from being okay. There is a lot of work that needs to be done.

And who is supposed to clean this up? A few good men against the majority in government who are mired in corruption? It is quite disheartening.

But on the other hand, I would like to think that the Janet Napoles scam unraveling daily may be one of the most providential things that could have happened. Why? Because it can be a tremendous impetus for the structural reforms we need to undertake. I have not seen reactions from people as visceral as this in a long time. People are outraged and want to punish the guilty. Meanwhile, the politicians, especially those who have been implicated, are deafeningly quiet perhaps in fear of fanning the dissent further with any utterance they make.

The line in the sand, the boundary that marks the threshold of tolerance, has been crossed and the polite, passive silence has been broken. The patience has dissipated. People are mad and dying to express their disgust in more aggressive ways and are demanding swift action.

The call for action on Aug. 26, called not by the usual street parliamentarians but by ordinary, regular, unknown people outside the political circle has spread virally through social media in so short a time. It has taken on a life of its own with people inviting other people to join. Normally apolitical people I know have expressed their desire to participate. And there is a common agreement among the motely group of organizers to not allow past and present politicians to give speeches. Nor are banners, placards expressing yellow, red or whatever sentiments welcome but partisans can join if they want. It is all about ordinary people — friends, neighbors, the ordinary Filipinos who are simply enraged and are demanding answers to where their hard earned taxes have gone. They want punishment for everyone who is guilty.

P-Noy, who had been inexplicably and excruciatingly silent at first, finally spoke last Monday to say that charges would be filed against the guilty. And while he has suspended the spending of PDAF, he has also said that he was not for abolishing it, but rather creating more stringent safeguards for its use. Since the demand of the organizers is for the abolition of pork barrel altogether, I am not sure how this will fly. Every single day, new revelations and developments are being added, like ingredients to the boiling pot of dissent.

So far, the majority of people I know in social media are going. I, too, will be there. To this veteran street protester, this call to Luneta feels refreshing because the program will be different. The people stepping up to the plate and assuming responsibility for the organizing, logistics and other stuff are all new faces. Even the official statement is informally written and does not read like the usual manifesto.

To me, all this is exciting. Something new is happening. Clearly, the ordinary, regular people want to speak in their own, honest voices. Let us be there to listen and support them.

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