A wise man once said that politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often and for the same reason. The wise man’s words should be applied today especially with Philippine politicians. I mean, why do Filipinos have to wait until the next election before getting rid of blundering politicians? It’s like a prolonged agony knowing that not much will change even after they finish their terms. The law-abiding citizens of the country who try to keep some kind of order don’t deserve the mediocre performance they get from these so-called “public servants”.
Take the case of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino and some of the current members of Congress who were implicated in the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund scam. Do we have to wait until their term ends before we can hope for real progress in Philippine society? In some countries, public servants who feel shame immediately resign on their own when they become embroiled in scandals or if they have not fulfilled their duties to the people who voted them into office.
Sure, BS Aquino was “voted” into office by 15 million voters out of 51 million registered voters. Now that is not even what one would call a landslide particularly if one would bother to deduct those who were just bribed and bullied into voting for him. Frankly, a lot of those who voted for him have since admitted that they made a mistake specially after realizing that BS Aquino is not only incompetent and surrounded by incompetent staff members, he is also unwilling to deal with corruption in the most effective manner.
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Furthermore, there are still certain sectors in society who still doubt the legitimacy of his election win and say they have proof that some of the machines used in the first automated election were rigged just like it was rigged again (allegedly) in the recent midterm election held in May 2013 to favor “Team PNoy”. Unfortunately, their calls for further investigation have been falling on deaf ears. But I digress…Those who support BS Aquino argue that the country already tried intelligent individuals in the past and it didn’t work, which is why they were drawn to the son of beloved and trusted figures Cory and Ninoy. Although they did not directly acknowledge that they do realize that the then candidate Noynoy was not the brightest bulb among the rest of the candidates, it was definitely implied. Unfortunately, their irrational decision has turned into a very costly and embarrassing mistake that affects the rest of Philippine society.
Six years is a long term, indeed for a leader to stay in power particularly when he does not even want to heed the demands of the people – his “bosses”. Some even say that if the Philippines only had a parliamentary system of government, it would have been easier to get rid of an incompetent leader like BS Aquino. In such a system, a leader who has become unpopular with the voters would have no choice but to step down and allow another member of his party to continue the leadership. If the new leader still doesn’t satisfy the voters, their party could lose in the next election. That is assuming that the voters actually use their faculties for critical analysis, of course. This brings us to the real problem in Philippine society.
The real problem in Philippine society is not corruption in government but the people who allow it to persist. First, we have members of government agencies like the Commission on Audit CoA which apparently haven’t been doing their jobs for decades. Had they been doing their jobs, the scams involving the PDAF or pork barrel funds would not have gone “unnoticed” for such a long, long time. Had they been doing their jobs auditing the expenses of the public servants, there wouldn’t be a need to rely on whistle-blowers whose motives for speaking out are questionable considering that they have been conniving with the head scammers for decades. What made them decide to come out now? Did they get a bad deal out of a recent transaction? Or did someone offer them a better deal? It’s hard to tell, really.
Second, most Filipinos are still beholden to such figures as Ninoy and Cory Aquino who have been dead for years. The worse thing about Filipinos being beholden to Ninoy and Cory is that they assume that the younger Aquinos – the children — would finish what their parents’ started.
The question is what did Ninoy and Cory start in the first place? They were both politicians who had their own personal agendas: one had political ambition and one seemed to want revenge for the death of her husband with political ambitions. If you think about it, Ninoy never had a chance to become the President of the Philippines. So we will never know whether or not he will have turned out just like any other politician — someone who can’t walk the talk. Like a dirty diaper, the people would have wanted to change him eventually because power corrupts even those with good intentions if their actions remain unchecked. And actions remain unchecked when the people put the individual on a pedestal to idolize.
All we have left as a reminder of Ninoy anyway are a bunch of speeches we can access on YouTube that were not even as inspiring as John F Kennedy’s inaugural address or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”. As a Senator, Ninoy never crafted any policies that we can say still benefit the country today. As for Cory, she is not the people power icon that the media keeps harping about. She did not initiate the EDSA revolution for the simple reason that she wasn’t even there to begin with when the people rallied for three days. She just took the credit for it after Marcos left.
The point is, the Philippines is not just poor because of corrupt politicians; it is poor because Filipinos are beholden to public servants they vote into office. In other words, they idolise BS Aquino and the members of Congress and see them as celebrities instead of people who need to work for them. This is the simple reason why Filipinos hesitate or do not want to criticize them. A lot of these public servants are just after their own interests. Why else would they be against the abolition of the pork barrel funds or any funds allocate for them? It’s quite baffling to think how Filipinos can go on idolising the same characters in government for decades despite their appalling track records in government.
If you ask an Aquino supporter why he still thinks BS Aquino deserves the benefit of the doubt as if he is still in his honeymoon period, his likely answer would be, because he is an Aquino and he will not tarnish the Aquino name. The truth is BS Aquino tarnished the Aquino name the minute he agreed to run for the Presidency while lacking a clear vision for the country. He only agreed to run because some people asked him to when they realized they could take advantage of the voters who were too emotional to think clearly after the death of his well-loved mother.
Another proof that most Filipinos are still reluctant to criticize their public servants is when they focus too much on the alleged mastermind behind the pork barrel scam Janet Lim-Napoles. A keen observer will see that most Filipinos tend to highlight only her family’s extravagant lifestyle while completely ignoring the fact that a lot of the Filipino public servants who earn so little from their government salaries also lead extravagant lifestyles. Funnily enough, their blatant display of “wealth” seems to be acceptable to most Filipinos even when it is stated in the Constitution that public servants should lead modest lives. You hardly see an angry mob demanding a fair hanging of officials who rob the country’s resources.
So the problem really is that Filipinos put too much trust on personalities instead of their ideas. They put their trust on individuals who have famous names or associated with someone famous instead of their concrete plans for the future of the country. It’s quite ridiculous to simply trust a candidate who is running based on his family name.
The obvious solution is for voters to regard all those who are running for public office with a healthy dose of distrust. As another wise man once said, distrust and caution are the parents of security. After all, it is every citizen’s duty to guard our coffer’s guardians. This will help the public servants to stay grounded and remind them who they are working for. It is also part of every citizen’s duty to change public servants whenever they become dirty.
[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]
In life, things are not always what they seem.