05 March 2004

---Why Is Doing Bad Becoming The Norm?

"I ASKED one of President Arroyo's advisers if it's true that Malacañang paid Kris Aquino P25 million for her TV endorsement of GMA and he said, "No, it's P14 million. But it's part of a P42 million package that includes Boy Abunda and Ai-ai de las Alas."

The source said it was only Aquino's endorsement that Malacañang was initially interested in, but the popular TV host wanted her friends, Boy and Ai-ai, to also enjoy the blessings she is getting, so she insisted on a package deal, which was no problem with Malacañang. Money is no problem with GMA's camp. They are swimming in money."

This is part of Ellen Tordesillas' column today in Malaya. I can still recall that several weeks ago Raul Roco accused Biazon of receiving P30 million from President Arroyo so he can join her senatorial candidates' circle. Money, money, money, sooo much money playing in the hands of the wrong people.

The Philippine Daily Star carried a news story today that a recent survey of foreign business executives released yesterday ranked the Philippines as "the fourth most corrupt country in the [Asian] region."

The same report said that "the Philippines was the only country ranking near the bottom of the list where the problem of corruption is seen to have intensified in the past year," with Manila’s score noted to have worsened by 0.66 points. The survey conducted by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) showed that perceptions of corruption improved sharply in China and Thailand and slightly in several other countries compared to their last poll in 2003.

Other countries in the region have "improved sharply and slightly," while the Philippines worsened. Reactions from Filipinos? Nothing. They aren't even bothered. They just go on with their lives as if such news wasn't news at all. Ask any Filipino here and they will just give you a general air of nonchalance. It seems everyone has conceded that this is our fate.

Conrado De Quiros, my favorite Inquirer columnist, today reminisces of his brush with the late Bobbit Sanchez, the former Labor Secretary under the Cory administration:

"I REMEMBER again a story the late Bobbit Sanchez told me. It was the election campaign of 1992, he was plugging for Jovito Salonga for president and was stumping with him and his senatorial slate in various places. In one of those places, an impoverished rural community, their audience kept asking what they had to offer. The other candidates, the folk said, had offered a basketball court, an artesian well, and even money. What did they have to show for being there?

It seemed to him, Bobbit said, that he was in the middle of a transaction, the only thing that needed to be done was bargain for the price of the goods. He got a little pissed off, Bobbit said, and could not help but blurt out his resentment. The reason this country had corrupt officials, he lectured his audience, was that the people made them so -- no, forced them to become so. Here they were offering to be honest and clean, and there they were demanding they be not so. What could possibly come from a transaction like that? Could they trust someone who bought their votes for basketball courts, artesian wells and money? Someone who does that could only be trusted to steal avidly to make up for their expense.

"I doubt we got their votes from them after that," Bobbit laughed as he told the story.

It's the kind of laughter, however, that induces tears. Of course, as the documentary "Riles" [Railway] shows, it's another world entirely, the one the poor of this country inhabit. And we, quite apart from candidates, would do well to try to understand that world before lending blithe judgments about the suicidal tendencies of those who live in it. But it's tragic nonetheless, and truly, if unwittingly, suicidal.

It raises some serious questions about how much we ourselves contribute to making politics, especially electoral politics, the way it is. Easy to complain about the candidates being corrupt, cynical and incompetent, but are they so in spite of us or because of us? Are they foisting themselves on us or are we demanding to have them tyrannize us?"

As I type this, a friend calls on to say that she was surprised that a kilo of pork now sells at P160. Is there a shortage of pork now?

Amidst all these talk of rising pork prices, rumors of corruption, and the impending nationwide transport strike this coming Monday, Filipinos are simultaneously troubled and numb at the same time. They care within their personal circles but not around their community circles. Corruption is not news to them. Absence of corruption is.

De Quiros says, "We do deserve the candidates we get. We do deserve the winners we get. We do deserve the rulers we get. The power to make leaders lies in our hands, that is what the vote is for. We choose to be blind, we will get blind leaders. They may have eyes, they may spot form and color, but they won't see. Certainly, they won't see you."

And are we, just because we are so numbed by the pain of the corruption we wallow in everyday, going to just grin and bear it?

We should all wake up now. It may already be too late, yes, as my girlfriend (my devil's advocate) says but sitting down won't help us, either. In fact, we are sinking lower and lower even as you read these lines.

We should start choosing our leaders well. The coming elections this May remain our one last chance to change our miserable lives. And of course, we should all help out.

We should all help out.

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