Think about it
By Raïssa Robles
kudos to your well researched and deep opinionated reports…
but im confused……
from time of prez aguinaldo to present day P-noy…..
they “look like” the same…..
so who will lead our pilipinas?
does it just solidify that we are really FAILED STATE?
how do we go from here?
maraming comments /marami matalinong pilipino / maraming mangmang / pero………..
dapat bang tangapin na lang nang karaniwang pilipino na ang mamuhay sa pilipinas ay “ganito lamang”
this is the “standard” of living here…
so ang tanong ko madam raissa……..
niloloko lang tayo ng mga leader at maraming nagpapaloko….maraming lumalaban…
pero nagbabayad ako ng tax na pinapasahod sa kanila…do FLIP-PINO deserve this?
No you don’t. We don’t.
This is a question that has bedeviled our nation since the 1986 peaceful uprising.
It’s like a curse.
Filipinos seem to be condemned as a people to experience the same slide to greed and state corruption over and over again.
An American political science professor named John T. Sidel put the finger on the problem in his book Capital, Coercion and Crime Bossism in the Philippines published by the University of Stanford. Prof. Sidel described the Philippine state as a:
“complex set of predatory mechanisms for private exploitation and accumulation of the archipelago’s human, natural, and monetary resources [making the state] essentially a multi-tiered racket.”
In 1986, we Filipinos threw out a president, Ferdinand Marcos, in a peaceful uprising known the world over as Edsa People Power. In 2001, we overthrew another one, Joseph Estrada. Between 2005 and 2010, we again tried to unseat a third, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – for corruption.
Marcos escaped conviction by dying. But the Swiss Federal Court has issued a decision stating that his secret Swiss bank deposits – hidden with the connivance of his wife and children – were ill-gotten loot.
The Swiss high court thus ordered the money returned to the Philippine government. (see my earlier story entitled Senator Bongbong Marcos confirmed he had a direct hand in trying to withdraw US$213M from a Swiss bank in 1986).
Estrada was subsequently convicted of amassing ill-gotten wealth for embezzling tobacco tax funds and running an illegal gambling protection racket.
Today Mrs Arroyo stands accused of electoral sabotage. She and her husband are being investigated as well for other high crimes.
Throughout our history as a Republic, corruption scandals have played a role in bringing down governments and in unseating public officials from political office. State coffers have been robbed of billions of dollars by corrupt officials.
And yet, wonder of wonders. Not one high official has gone to jail – and I mean REAL JAIL as in Muntinlupa or National Bilibid or Manila city jail – for corruption. And in how many other countries do you find someone accused of a high crime asking for a three-day pass from jail in order to go home and visit a relative’s wake?
The game Filipino politicians play
I think it’s because politics in the Philippines is mainly a political game to its players. It’s a political game I’ve watched in fascination. Politicians compile dossiers of scandals on each other. When the right time comes, BOOM. These are leaked to media.
I say this from experience. I have, in the past, been a recipient of such leaks.
The targeted politician is thus humiliated into resigning or losing an election.
But no one ever pushes for a closure and a conviction, immediately followed by an actual jail sentence. Except for the case of Estrada, there is no follow-through of the charges. Unlike elsewhere such as South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.
Nowadays, we’re being played again by our high government officials. Last year, some of them asked that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo be allowed to go abroad allegedly for “emergency” medical treatment. Although they knew fully well this would place her beyond the Philippine justice system which she had succeeded in evading since 2005.
Lately, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Chiz Escudero and Senator Edgardo Angara – to name a few – asked that Mrs Arroyo be allowed to stay under “hospital arrest” to give due respect to her previous office as President.
There is nothing in our Constitution and in our laws that says a former president accused of having committed serious crimes is entitled to hospital arrest while awaiting trial. NOTHING.
The crime, if proven, is rendered even more despicable by the fact that Mrs Arroyo once swore on the death anniversary of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal that she would not run for president and she would work for clean and honest elections as her legacy to the nation.
Come to think of it, this may well be her legacy if she is convicted of electoral sabotage. She would stand as a shining symbol of a negative reinforcement for poll cheaters.
Her fellow politicians wanted her initially to get away and failing that, they now want her to enjoy soft treatment. The fact that they are willing to give her favored treatment has been an unwritten rule in our politicians’ game.
The game has this underlying assumption: if caught, they may lose the office or the elections but they never go to jail. NEVER.
This is all part of the political game they play. And we, the Filipino people including the Philippine media, let them play.
As a Filipino, I believe it’s high time we say ENOUGH.
Let them play their political games. But when caught, MAKE THEM go to jail and stay there.
A history of self-entitlement
Those who say Philippine politics was cleaner and less corrupt before Martial Law or after World War II or during “pre-war” under the Americans have not read up on history.
Our politics has always been corrupt and making it less so starts with admitting that fact.
After Marcos was booted out in 1986 we all thought state corruption would go away. It did not because many of those we trusted to do right by us took advantage of their positions to enrich themselves and their families.
But this is no argument to say we were better off during Marcos’ time.
Edsa People Power failed to improve the lives of Filipinos because we let our guard down. Perhaps because we didn’t know any better or we trusted politicians too completely or we didn’t quite understand the problem of corruption.
One of the biggest problems we’ve had to face is that a basically good person – educated in the best Philippine and American schools, well versed in the Holy Bible and a regular mass goer – could be tempted to do evil not once, not twice but many times, even with the best intentions of doing good.
Education is no insulation from temptation. In fact, our experience has shown that the smarter a politician is, the bigger is the unexplained wealth.
Why is that kind of politician so prevalent in our history?
In the aftermath of the “Hello Garci” tapes scandal in 2005, I was asked to do a piece to place the scandal in the context of our history. I therefore talked to three people who could give me the long view. One of them was historian Serafin Quiazon. The two others were Manolo Quezon III, then a Philippine Daily Inquirer political columnist, and historical researcher Crispina Reyes.
I interviewed them for my newspaper South China Morning Post one week after Mrs Arroyo became the first Philippine head of state to admit committing a “lapse in judgment” and to say “I’m sorry”. Her apology was prompted by a leaked tape recording of her allegedly talking with election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano over a bugged mobile phone, asking him to make sure she would win by more than a million votes.
Quiazon told me that corruption and election scandals had long been part of our history. He said this arose from the attitude of self-entitlement that Filipino politicians have. This was molded by nearly 400 years of ‘multiple colonial experience’ under the Spanish, British, Americans and Japanese rule.
“Our leaders inherited and are still wearing the shoes of the old colonial masters,” said Professor Quiazon, a former chairman of the National Historical Institute. “Their object is not to serve but to dominate and exploit the poor masses,” he added.
That attitude of self-entitlement was personified and exemplified by no less than our revered Father of Philippine Independence, the late President Manuel Quezon. He did great to obtain our independence from the United States.
But a discussion on politics cannot be complete without a frank appraisal of what he bequeathed to Philippine politics. When Quezon said he would rather have a country “run like hell” by Filipinos than one “run like heaven” by the Americans, he was simply describing how he and his cohorts played the political game.
Filipino politicians were running the country like hell and Quezon was the role model. Politicians like Ferdinand Marcos who was then starting his political career learned a lot from him.
It was for this reason that I wanted to talk to Manolo Quezon III. I wanted to ask him a rather delicate thing. Was it true his grandfather wanted to build a bridge so he could easily visit a querida living across the Pasig River?
It was an archivist named Crispina Reyes who had told me this nugget from our history. She said: “A womanizer, he (Quezon) wanted a bridge built across a certain portion of [the] Pasig River because his paramour lived across the river’ from Malacañang Palace.” [To all those who know Cris, she needs your prayers. She is critically ill with cancer.]
Under our current laws, what Quezon thought of doing would amount to graft and corruption.
His grandson Quezon confirmed to me that this was the talk then.
He then told me a surprising thing. He said: “Estrada in many ways was very much like my grandfather except that he [Estrada] lacked the work ethic.”
A lot of nice and lofty things have been written about Quezon. As I said, he did a lot for Philippine independence.
But there was a dark side to him as well. He set the bar for political behavior which every Filipino politician then wanted to emulate. And it continues to this day.
One of President Quezon’s secretaries was Carlos P. Romulo who saw Quezon up close and personal. Romulo admired the man but also saw his faults, which he disclosed in a book published after his death by his widow Beth Day. The book is entitled “The Philippine Presidents: Memoirs of Carlos P. Romulo“.
This slim book is a treasure trove of gossip that Romulo had amassed in his years of public office.
Of Quezon, Romulo wrote:
One cannot evaluate the Quezon charisma or his effect upon people without taking into account his frank and unself-conscious pursuit of women. He was a congenital womanizer with nature on his side….his idea of relaxation after a long day of sessions in the Assembly was to go to the cabarets to flirt with the ‘bailarinas’ as we called them then.
Romulo disclosed that he wrote Quezon’s love letters for him even when the latter was already married.
Once, Romulo said:
“We were all in New York when election returns were coming in from Manila and Quezon’s orders to me were: ‘When the cables come in, bring them to me, no matter what time it is.'”
“I arrived at his suite at The Waldorf towers at 5:00 am. and knocked.
“Come in, come in,” I heard an impatient voice.”
“I walked in, saluted smartly, then swallowed with embarrassment. They (Quezon and a Hollywood film star) were both nude and she was sitting on his lap, shaving him.”
“Go on, read the cables,” snapped the President.
“Blushing and uncomfortable, I did.”
Romulo also explained that Quezon adhered to a code “of never-ending reciprocation of favors” observed by Filipino politicians.
Quezon was not born rich, Romulo wrote:
“A product of relative poverty, he became extravagant when the means became available to him and unfortunately, set a pattern of personal unaccountability that was to haunt the Philippine presidency.”
And Philippine politics, too, to this day.
Politicians continue to believe that political office comes with certain perks, such as free Philippine Airline tickets. As former Senate President Ernesto Maceda recently told ABS-CBN News, PAL tickets are “a standard privilege” for senior government officials. Maceda, a former Senate President, said he himself had accepted free PAL tickets and such perks are quite common for legislators.
Maceda pooh-poohed the idea that such tickets were enough to make CJ Corona flip-flop on court decisions involving PAL.
Maybe not, but there’s Republic Act 6713 that put in place a Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for public officials and employees. This law states that public officials are barred from accepting or receiving gifts that are “neither nominal nor insignificant.” Maceda was a senator when Congress approved this law.
A plane ticket may be insignificant to the likes of the Chief Justice and ex-senators who have millions in their pockets. But not to most Filipinos.
Our ethical standards for “public servants” leave a lot to be desired
It is really up to the ordinary Filipinos to raise the bar and pressure politicians and other government officials to resign at the merest whiff of scandal – in the same manner that the German president Christian Wulff recently resigned after allegations surfaced that a film producer once paid for his vacation in a luxury hotel.
Unlike Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona who has refused to budge from office despite serious questions raised about his wealth, Wulff of Germany resigned voluntarily even though he said he had already repaid the filmmaker in cash.
Philippine officials have a sense of entitlement
I have personally observed many politicians, government officials and their relatives continue to exude a sense of entitlement to their office.
I know of one previous cabinet secretary who placed a domestic helper in his mansion on state payroll. I know of another cabinet secretary who insisted on staying at a luxury hotel while renegotiating the country’s massive foreign debt.
In 2005, then President Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel came under severe criticism when he stayed in a US$15,000-a-night MGM Grand suite in Las Vegas, while his wife back home was admonishing everyone to tighten their belts and pay more taxes.
The wealthy Mr Arroyo dismissed all criticisms by saying, “It was free, what’s the fuss all about? It was accommodation fitting a dignitary of my stature as husband of [the] president.”
Recently, allegations surfaced that the current state gaming chief Cristino “Bong” Naguiat had received expensive “gifts” from Japanese gambling tycoon Kazuo Okada. Naguiat has since denied receiving cash and a designer bag but conceded he was lavishly wined and dined.
Such perks open recipients to serious conflict of interest situations. In the case of Naguiat, he had the power to review and adjust existing state contracts with local and foreign gaming firms. He in fact adjusted the gaming contract with Resorts World Manila in the government’s favor. Which was probably why Okada gave him the royal treatment.
I would like to hear of a high government official turn down such generous “gifts” and demand instead more modest perks.
Temptations abound for high government officials. And many succumb.
I personally believe that one effective deterrent to their giving in to such sweet temptations is to see erring colleagues in jail, treated like the most ordinary suspect or criminal.
The deposed convicted president Estrada is fond of saying – “a hungry stomach knows no law.”
This is actually an insult to the millions of Filipinos who are poor and yet stay honest. True, the poor in the Philippines often commit what Singaporean authorities call “confrontational crimes” like robbery at knife-point or gunpoint. But oftentimes, they take only what they can physically run with.
In contrast, some of the most highly educated Filipinos have commited “white collar” crimes by stealing from government coffers in the millions and billions of pesos. Or they use their influence or position to enrich themselves.
Their crimes are much worse because they steal the very future of our nation and our children and cause many to lose hope and leave the country of their birth, perhaps forever.