The past events have shown just how unstable a country the Philippines is. With most unstable systems, even a slight relaxing of vital control functions results in a rapid unraveling or degeneration of its structure. In the last several months, the relatively robust administrative regime of MalacaÃ±ang under former President Gloria Arroyo had become the stuff of legend — made into a stark contrast to the way things are being run today under the the Second Aquino Administration. Everything from the frequency with which key MalacaÃ±ang forums and councils are convened to the way vital lines of communication and chains of command are invoked to both anticipate, deter, and respond to crises form the bases of a sad comparison between Arroyo’s government and the present one under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Commenting on the recent bombing of an EDSA bus near Makati that resulted in the deaths of five people, Inquirer.net columnist Rigoberto Tiglao summed it up really well in the title of his piece “No body in charge”
MalacaÃ±ang insiders say there is now confusion over which body should be convened following the bus bombing the other day which killed five innocent commuters: the Anti-Terrorism Council headed by the executive secretary or the national security cluster headed by [Interior Secretary Jesse] Robredo. The staff of the National Intelligence Coordinating Authority who make up the secretariat of the council joke that they have been unemployed since June.
The effect of a transition from the tightly-run governance machinery of Arroyo to the “amateurish ‘student council’ government” (Sen. Joker Arroyo’s words) of Aquino can be likened to what happens to a living organism whose vital bodily control mechanisms suddenly go haywire.
A complex life form like an animal is an unstable and fragile structure. Disruption of just a handful of key physiological functions like blood circulation, brain activity, and respiration will immediately result in visible degradation in its vitality and resilience. The organism becomes lethargic, easily fatigued, and suffers loss of appetite. Its fur or hair becomes wilted, unattractive and progressively matted. Its skin colour loses its healthy blush and smooth luster and turns bluish-gray, mottled, and shriveled.
The animal quickly becomes vulnerable to attacks from pathogens and increased activity of maleveolent elements within it.
The example of a dying animal has striking parallels to what is happening in the Philippines today.
Many of us awoke one fine Wednesday morning to suddenly find, the country eating itself alive from within. We face no immediate external threats, and our prosperous neighbours in the region are thumbing their noses at the spectre of financial collapse supposedly rippling from the 2008 “Global Financial Crisis”. There simply is no excuse for failure. Yet within the span of a mere six months, Filipinos’ collective self respect had been severely deflated as their government stumbled from one internationally-televised gaffe to another, and newly-emboldened crooks and bandits openly defied the nation’s security forces and gave its intelligence services the slip.
Philippine society’s institutionalised criminal infrastructure which had for so long maintained an uneasy coexistence with “civil society” is wiping off its lipstick. Snatched mobile phones and carjacking are just the tip of the iceberg — the harvesting activities of what is a vast underground trade in contraband and stolen goods that spans the Philippine archipelago. Indeed, “underground” is a misleading word here, as most of these goods are retailed in broad daylight. Patrons of these goods are, in fact, likely to be the same people we hobnob with in “polite” society in the sterilised “cafes” of Makati everyday.
We live our comfy lives in the midst of mansions built by criminal activity and share the road with cars souped up with chop-chopped parts bought in Quezon City. Did we really think this pit bull we’ve hidden away in our basement would not one day set itself upon us?
And the terrorism threat we’ve always pretended did not exist is coming up with an equal hunger for vengeance. If the October 2010 bombing of a bus in “faraway” North Cotabato failed to move Imperial Manila and stir up some chatter amongst its Starbucks-sipping “intelligentsia”, this recent one which snuffed out half the number of lives destroyed in Mindanao that time certainly made headlines. Perhaps, Noynoy’s childish defense of his original reaction to the unfavourable travel advisories slapped by a handful of governments against the Philippines could be excused. After all, he merely reflects his own constituents’ capacity to party on in Rome even as barbarians nip at the fringes of their enclaved lives.
Compare the Philippines of today with the Philippines of, say, just one or two years ago. We have a country today hobbling around in a stooped posture, hood pulled over a face that is rapidly losing colour, its markedly dimmed eyes constantly shifting gaze to avoid eye contact lest it be trapped in small talk loaded with hard questions about what exactly had happened over the last six months. The Philippines is not the sort of country that will simply keep ticking along left to its own devices. To be President of such a country does not give one time to unwind in a Porsche.
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