Following the milestone ruling by the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) yesterday deeming the controversial presidential slush fund known as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) illegal on most counts, the reckoning has started. Several courses of action are being considered which may be undertaken in any number of combinations. The three standout items include:
(1) Impeaching President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III;
(2) Clawing back the more than one billion pesos in DAP funds that had been released to 20 Philippine senators over the period August 2012 through to February 2013; and,
(3) Auditing and investigating all involved in the chain of command and control associated with the management of these funds and prosecuting those found to have violated the law.
Obviously the best approach is to do all of the above. Laws have clearly been broken, funds were evidently lost or stolen, and political agendas likely took precedence over the larger collective interests of the Filipino public. The real challenge is around how to mount a serious enough and deliberate enough program of activities to make these happen. The roadblocks that make up this challenge are formidable…
(1) Political will
The biggest hurdle is marshalling the political clout to mount such an offensive, and no less than Philippine Congress itself, the body of “representatives” regarded by a rapidly increasing number of Filipinos to be the biggest benefactors — and sponsors — of this unprecedented and vast act of national thievery, is standing in the way. It is, after all, Congress alone that wields the power to impeach a sitting President. But with the thieves themselves presiding in judgment over their own trial, the future, in this regard, does not look bright.
(2) Popular will
The short of it: Don’t hold your breath.
The tired old cliché that the “voice” of the people independent of their institutions speaks of what is best for the general public has long been discredited in the Philippines. Time and again it has been proven that the Filipino “vote” and notions of a “will” manifested in street antics, indignation campaigns, traditional activism, petition campaigns, and other mass actions do not necessarily translate to the right arguments winning the national “debate”.
The nuances of the new-found illegality of the DAP and perhaps the concept of the DAP itself including the details around the way it was used and wielded for political ends are likely lost in the bigger Filipino public, the ignorant masses — the bulwarks of most politicians’ “mandate” to govern and represent the Filipino “people”. As such, President BS Aquino and all his henchmen need only keep their mouths shut on the issue and direct all their lackeys in the media and clique of social media “activists” to undertake a massive Change-of-Subject Campaign to suck the life out of any movement to take them to court.
There will be no mass indignation this time to count on. No million-strong rallies and boycotts. No celebrity-endorsed “movements”. The project to nail all the crooks to the wall will have to be done by the book, within the framework of the law, and via institutional procedure. There will need to be a focused task force, possibly managed and funded privately, possibly with a good smattering of pro-bono services from the country’s best attack lawyers. Any effort to organise such an initiative will require the most innovative organisational management minds to pool their brains and come up with a new way to push reform from up the grassroots.
(3) Will to think
Filipinos are not renowned for their ability to think things through systematically. What the Philippines is today is a testament to that fact. But that does not mean that that sad situation cannot be changed. We just need to find better and different ways to make that change come about.
The mosquito presses and alternative media (you know who you are) running rings around the Big Three Media Corporates (you know who they are) will need to shape up, step up, and lead the Philippine intelligentsia down the right course of thinking. There is no counting on mood-obssessed self-proclaimed “thought leaders”, only intelligent and modern critical thinking.
* * *
A monumental challenge to say the least. But you know what they say about truly great countries:
Great countries achieve great things.
Perhaps the Philippines will never put a man on the moon or win a bloody war against a Goliathan global power. But it is in the hands of ordinary Filipinos to change the course of a massive ship that for so long has been steered by so few. It is no longer about the numbers brought to bear. It is about the smarts applied.
As Albert Einstein, one of humanity’s greatest minds say:
You cannot solve a problem using the same thinking that created it.
The Filipino can — but only if she thinks.
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