CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/30 June) — Between the pilfered pork barrel funds and the disbursement accelerated releases that are now in the hands of the traditional politicos—trapos—or salted away for ease of access or transfer, there are several hundred billions out there that can inundate reform efforts in our system.
Meanwhile, all eyes and ears are focused on the top floor of our republic where grand larcenies and unimaginable graft and corruption continue to churn and charm the political high rollers.
With the hairy hands of senators, congressmen, and cabinet members caught in the cookies jar, plunder is on trial and the moral fiber of the nation is being tested.
The citizenry’s attention is transfixed: will justice be done? Will the wily Tanda, ex-Martial Law Administrator, outfox the system again as he did the dictatorship and over again under several post-EDSA administrations? Abangan!
How about the two showbiz trapo senators? Will their song-and-dance act enable them to wriggle out and dance away from the grasp of Lady Justice?
Bong even contrives a song of thanks to—he hopes!—soften public fury and win the heart of a fickle electorate. Serenading them, shedding crocodile tears, he doth protest too much as he makes a bid to transform a plunder case into a presidential chase.
Those who are aghast, scandalized, incensed at the enormity of the plunder: RELAX NOT! For the billions out there can still demolish evidence or dissuade a callow witness or two—and tip the scales of justice.
Let us not underestimate the guile of foxes naive voters mindlessly allow to enter our chicken coop of a Congress. All the more as elections draw near: what can billions can do to polls, vote counts, and election commissioners!
And we’re only talking of the happenings at the top floors of the republic. How about the maneuvers at the ground floor, the grassroots, where money talks?
The action below is in the 42,078 barangays that are the nesting place of petty trapos and the home court of ward leaders and deft manipulators of neighborhood and squatter votes.
Unseemly happenings at this level, seemingly small and in retail doses, are even more insidious. The poor voters (who outnumber the elites) are legion, vulnerable and susceptible to manipulative cheats, are fair game for the trapos that hover over every precinct.
Civic-minded people should reconnoiter the political play in their own community even now. It’s early enough to build defenses against precinct-level and other barangay cheats, and time enough to consider what measures to take. It’s a good time to determine who can foil or replace the unfit in the next elections.
There are promising graduates and youth leaders yet untouched by corruption, young professionals in need of honorable careers, not-so-old retirees who may wish to invest what’s left of idealism to secure the common good, and well-educated housewives.
They are all needed and should be drafted into the service of democracy at the grassroots. Their mission: To restore honesty to the bureaucracy and honor to the political system starting from below.
Let’s emphasize that henceforth no one may betray public trust and confidence and escape justice or the long arm of the law. For these purposes, every community needs superior leadership and unquestioned integrity in its officials—from the barangay upwards, from bottom to top.
It is time to outgrow our fascination for what’s happening at the top floor of the Republic only. Let’s be mindful that reforms must start from below, in one’s own community, spiraling outwards and upward.
Mind that sovereignty emanates from the people below, aggregating in a social contract, then rising to the top as it envelops society and becomes the social order.
Note also that values are incubated in the family, thence to community and societal institutions till they infuse the nation’s culture. Out of fidelity to culture grows the nation’s pride and honor—and sense of community and social responsibility.
All leaders, high and low, emanate from the barangay. All voters live in the barangay and all precincts are right beside them.
The barangay community and its internal processes are the ultimate determinants of our Republic’s culture, politics, and national honor.
No longer can we afford to allow scammers to defile our sense of nationhood and self-respect. No longer must we abide power-greedy (mis)leaders who are into politics for what they can get for ego, for family, and for dynasty.
Let us now carefully screen out the weeds that have grown around our dysfunctional political system so it will mature and become a mighty Republic. And let us clearly draw the line between public service and self-service—and stigmatized the latter.
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government Peace Pan; and awardee, PPI-UNICEF most outstanding columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org