With news that dozens of Philippine public servants have been pocketing public funds for years through what is dubbed the pork barrel scam consistently dominating the headlines of major publications around the country since 2013, one wonders why the majority of the Filipino public still haven’t stormed the office of the President or Congress to demand for the heads of those involved yet.
Not that I condone it but in some parts of the world, public servants involved in crimes against humanity would have been lynched by the mob or held in custody as soon as news of the controversy got out. Not on this side of the globe though. Despite dozens of lawmakers being implicated by a list from alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, the Department of Justice has been dragging its feet in investigating the allegations. It’s either they lack the resources or they are too incompetent to do it or even worse, they might not even be doing anything about it. Either way, it just proves that it’s more fun for thieves and scammers in the Philippines.
The callous thievery by government officials will not likely stop any time soon since the perpetrators are confident that the general public is indifferent and uncaring of the issues anyway. Recent protests rallies on the streets of Manila indicate that only a handful of Filipinos cared enough to go out and express their disgust over the incompetence of the government in prosecuting the perpetrators. It is also a sad indication of the Filipino people’s misplaced priorities and lack of foresight.
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What is quite disturbing is the majority’s tolerance for President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s selective justice. The President only demonizes a select few in the media while declaring his allies implicated in the scam as innocent. It is a move that is tantamount to saying that investigating his allies is not his priority.
Allegations that no less than the President’s own Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad is included in the lists (there are several versions of the lists) of those who personally benefited from the pork scam has been dismissed as mere black propaganda. Never mind that one of the lists came from someone who is already in custody and cannot communicate with any of the President’s political enemies.
It has always baffled me why Filipinos in general are too patient with the incompetence and mediocrity around them. One classic example of this phenomenon is the Filipino people’s tolerance for the squalid conditions in Manila’s international airport. Millions of Filipino OFWs and their families go through that airport on a regular basis but despite consistently being voted as the worst airport in the world for consecutive years, there is hardly enough demand for action to be taken to improve it. In fact in every election, Filipinos put the same types of bozos back into office. It’s no surprise that the cycle of thievery, incompetence and mediocrity continues. You can be forgiven for thinking that Filipinos actually love the status quo and don’t want to change anything at all. If they did, they would have done something different to make it happen.
Years of writing about Philippine culture and politics have left me wondering what it would take for Filipinos to finally say, “Enough is enough!” and do something — anything — about the wretched conditions in the Philippines. Now I have come up with several possible explanations as to why:(1) Filipinos are really satisfied with the status quo. Because of the culture of patronage politics or what is called the padrino system in the local vernacular, some Filipinos who have relatives and friends in government benefit a lot from the situation and would not want to rock the boat. They tend to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans even when they know it is wrong. Under the table deals are tolerated to facilitate the processing of transactions.
It’s the same with Filipinos who have relatives and friends who own companies that are engaged in illegal activities. Why would they rat on their relatives if their very lifestyle depends on keeping their mouth shut? This is precisely why pork barrel scam “whistleblower” Benhur Luy took years before he broke his silence about scams his relative Janet Lim Napoles was into. Luy was enjoying a “comfortable” lifestyle as a result of keeping his mouth shut while working for Napoles. Some people actually think that he wouldn’t even speak up against the crime if there had been no falling out between him and Napoles.(2) Filipinos are afraid of change. Proof of this is when the voters keep putting the same type of politicians in office on election day. Most Filipinos are also afraid of the unknown. They won’t put their trust on an unpopular candidate even if the said candidate has better credentials and the wisdom to lead the nation compared to the others. Filipinos always think that a familiar name is the lesser evil. This is why there are a lot of politicians in the Philippines who come from the same family. Their performance is also the same no matter how long their family has been serving in government – mediocre.
(3) Filipinos are still waiting for someone to be their hero. Whoever it is the Filipinos are waiting for, it’s not going to come from the upper classes. As explained in Item Number One, there are Filipinos who are happy with the status quo and most of them are from the upper classes. They are also preoccupied with their latest gadgets like the latest iPhone and MacBook pros.
Most Filipinos from the upper class would rather spend their spare time partying or watching shows on local and cable television than go out to rally on the streets under the heat of the sun. Their wealth and resources keep them preoccupied. This makes us wonder what the Filipinos from the lower classes preoccupy themselves with in their spare time.
[Photo courtesy PinoyExchange.com.]
If members of the lower classes don’t have access to the same resources that people from the upper class have, they should be frustrated enough by now to clamor for equality. One can imagine them storming the gated communities after a series of unfortunate events in the country but fortunately for the members of the upper classes, this hasn’t happened yet.
It seems most Filipinos from the lower class have come to accept their wretched fate and are just waiting for someone to save them. It doesn’t help that television shows often portray Filipinos from the lower classes as saints. Religion also plays a role in making some Filipinos believe that being poor is next to godliness just like what the Bible say “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth .The dole out from the government probably helps to keep them “happy” too.(4) Filipinos are very timid and submissive in general. Because of these traits, tyrants can easily subdue Filipinos. Hundreds of years of being ruled by their Western colonizers have probably taken a toll on the Filipino psyche. It seems questioning their public servants doesn’t come naturally to the average Filipino. Most Filipinos see government officials as someone who has authority over them instead of someone who should be working for the welfare of the people.
Those are just some of theories I have come up with in trying to understand why years of abuse has not moved majority of Filipinos into fighting back their aggressors. I have to admit that sometimes I wonder too if the science of phrenology is true in the case of Filipinos. In the film Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, the racist Calvin Candie, explained the theory in a scene:
“Why don’t they kill us?” asks Calvin Candie, the southern slave owner in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. He wants to know why the African slaves he brutalises do not rise up and take revenge. Before long, he has the skull of a recently deceased slave on the dinner table. “The science of phrenology,” he announces, “is crucial to understanding the separation of our two species.” He hacks away at the back of the skull with a saw, removing a section of the cranium and pointing to an allegedly enlarged area. In African slaves, Candie claims, this bump is found in the region of the brain associated with “submissiveness”.
It would be interesting to know if the average Filipino skull really does have a bump associated with submissiveness and to prove if the science of Phrenology is true. But of course some people would accuse me of patronizing a debunked science that only helped to justified slavery in the 1800s. It is remarkable how even slave owners back then were baffled why their slaves didn’t fight back despite the abuse they cop.
Slavery still exists today in subtle ways especially in the Philippines. Filipinos can claim to be free from their foreign colonizers but they cannot claim to be free from the tyranny from within.
In life, things are not always what they seem.