CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 13 May) – It’s perplexing how we tolerate perverse political behavior, letting corrupt practices contaminate the bureaucracy and the community.
Not a day passes but that there’s news of grievous violations of the law, man-made or divine. But violators get away with corruption because we let them wriggle away with impunity.
They raid the treasury and use public funds as if it’s theirs; but we let them off lightly, even re-elect them. Perverse.
Would anyone let a butcher operate on his brain, a carpenter manage a hospital, a high school dropout head a university, or a street sweeper pilot a plane? But in politics, anything goes!
In selecting who should be in office, we have no sense of relevance. We base our election choices on standards that have no relevance or connection to public service.
Take Manny Pacquiao. Sure, he’s a great boxer, but a lawmaker? As a result, he now lusts after the senate… and thinks of running for president after that. Weird. He doesn’t even show up for sessions. He deprives his district of representation.
It’s obvious that public service isn’t one of his priorities. But we dignify him with an exalted public service title—which he leaves idle like a trophy or a championship belt on a shelf.
Then there’s Ms. Jinkee: elected vice governor just for being married to him. I suppose they’ll be electing Mommy Dionisia as well soon or later.
You have to give it to the South Cotabato voters in whose 1st District (which includes General Santos City) Manny first ran for congress.
He reportedly spent P120 million during the elections of 2007 to knock out Darlene Antonino-Custodio. Still, he lost. GenSan voters weren’t so corrupt or naïve.
That loss sent him shopping in another district where his money and fame could get him elected. He moved to the neighboring province of Sarangani, and got his win in 2010. I won’t even guess how much he invested in that campaign.
No doubt that Manny is vastly popular at home and abroad. But how does popularity qualify him to serve and secure the welfare of all the people of Sarangani province?
The voters who made him a congressman showed a terrible misunderstanding of the nature of government and the responsibility of public servants. They made him a lawgiver because he possesses a deadly fist! Did it make sense? Perverse!
In doing so, they discredited their own intelligence, as if there are no wise men or women in Sarangani with a sense of responsibility and enough education. It projected the people of Sarangani as without standards or sense of propriety.
Of course, this behavior isn’t just in Sarangani, for it’s found everywhere else in our archipelago. Thus, if it’s not a Jojo Binay for president or a Lito Lapid for senator or an action star with a fake name for president or mayor, it’s someone else equally ludicrous. How silly people can get.
Then there are all those shameless dynasties with their plundering members. They’re in power because voters support candidates who cheat, buy votes, or bend elections to their will, bastardizing our democratic processes. Perverse.
And look at their supporters and sycophants, people who thrive on patronage. Such political parasites discredit the nation, belittle citizen sovereignty, and undermine our self-respect. They encourage the rise of family syndicates that loot the public treasury and transform public service into a clan enterprise.
Perpetrating notorious practices that should have no place in a civilized society, they drive propriety and morality away from politics. But we tolerate them, let them get away with it.
So we make corruption and dishonestly appear perfectly normal. No wonder no one is surprised or mortified at how mired our system is in venality and bad governance. Part of our culture already!
It should worry us that the widespread occurrence of corruption is numbing our moral sense, in effect “immunizing” our society against being good—a situation that favors power greedy trapos.
With trapos in control, sensible elements are marginalized, outgunned, unable to match the forces of greed and opportunism.
It can’t be mere coincidence that the proliferation of political dynasties on all levels in all regions is occurring simultaneously with the reign of corruption, opportunism, and unfairness in our system.
Nor can it be mere coincidence that shamelessness in pursuing public office is matched by shameless indulgence in its privileges and a devil-may-care attitude about its adverse social and generational consequences.
As a result, normally decent people become tolerant of hypocrisy and venality. Aberrations become normal phenomena.
And sad to say, the one sector in our society that has pretensions to nobility is the one firing up the bastardization of our social and political values and institutions.
They used to be called ILLUSTRADOS—meaning, learned people, noble and worth emulating. But not anymore.
Their indulgent behavior and their excesses have made meaningless what the French call noblesse oblige—i.e., noble people are supposed to act nobly, with utter delicacy, because they are supposed to be role models and paragons of probity and righteousness in the eyes of the community and society at large.
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at Development Academy of Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. Author of books on governance, he is national chairman/convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org ]