January 11, 2010 [updated]
The year that went was one most critical for the world. The world has gone through a global economic recession that started earlier. The Philippines has weathered the crisis quite well, or so it seems. For lots of Filipinos, I guess it was just another year of re-adjusting to a seemingly endless and tightening pinch of poverty, characteristic of a “developing” country. Yeah, people will always survive, whatever way, but…
Ending the Year That Was
Metro Manila has its worst natural calamity, as far as people can ever remember – flash-flood caused by typhoon Ondoy, two and three storey-high in parts of the city, which affected some 4 million people. Moreover, while the nation was coping, another typhoon, Pepeng came, leaving the northern breadbasket a total wreck. Right now, the country is under threat by another round of food-price increase with another rice crisis looming beyond. The nation is still reeling from the impacts of the two typhoons. Expect more of them in the time to come. Meantime, before the new monsoon season comes, expect also early, longer and drier summer this year for the Philippines. It happens to be El Niño year. A swing from extreme to extreme is what it has been becoming.
A most gruesome, seen as election related massacre happened in Maguindanao province. Total casualty can only be approximated, perhaps never will be known, over the 57 bodies that were recovered. In places where there are people who have only grinned wryly at such losses, or simply took the law into their hands, it must have taken the greatest strength for Ismael Toto Mangudadato to say that they will abide by the law in their quest for justice, and to stick to that promise, too. He will deserve world commendations for doing all that. Their legal battle against the Ampatuan clan, the alleged perpetrators, has only begun.
Two inter-island ferries sank the day, both in the darkness of night actually, before Christmas all in the waters of Cavite and Batangas. MV Catalyn B, collided with a trawl ship. The ferry reportedly sank instantly like dead stone. The second ferry, MV Baleno 9, simply took in water and slid fast, bow first into the deep. Like I said, going into the whys and wherefores of sea tragedies have become boring this side of the world. Notable, however, is government preparedness or readiness to cope with such disasters. While Philippine Navy was saying in TV interview that they are not properly equipped to send divers down to the depth of the wrecks, an American diver, apparently a diver-tourist in his individual capacity, was saying that he was down there and saw the shipwreck! Coastguard finally sent divers down for retrieval of dead bodies since this week. One of them, PO3 Arman Bonifacio, died of “cardiac arrest” during a dive Friday, January 8.
I remember in the case of the sunken MV Princess of the Stars government had to send DNA samples of retrieved decomposed bodies over to Europe for identification. No wonder why Filipinos are indignant at “grandeur” or “lavish” spending by government. Indeed when there is simple, must-have necessities that government has missed or neglected, then some spending by government have become quite absurd.
By the way, I think from there stemmed one so-called “Cory magic”. Austerity compared with all other Philippine Presidents marked her from the rest.
The New Year for Filipinos
Since I have mentioned about the Presidency, we have a Presidential election six months away scheduled on 10th of May. The nation is entering into its era of automated elections in the country. Counting of votes and transmission of election returns will no longer be done manually that took longer time. People hope that automation will speed up the whole exercise next time. And, hopefully, national elections that took Filipinos months to determine winners will be a thing of the past! Yeah, surely, automated elections will be faster
[Protest over counting of votes while counting is in progress made most delays, and not the manual counting, actually]
People hope that automated elections will also be cleaner. It’s all hope because Automation has no guarantee of fraudulent-free elections. When COMELEC says, hear ye here is the result of the election, then that will be it. When a candidate says that the figures are false and the other side cheated, the answer is file a protest, submit all evidences. The hard reality is that electoral protests took 4 to 6 years to be resolved. That is how long electoral protests have to be resolved in this part of the world. In many cases, declared rightful winners were not able to see a day of their supposed term in office. So you see, folks, there will never be any guarantee against election cheats other than totally eradicating the culture of dishonesty. Until then, the probability of electoral fraud always hangs where that social virus exists. The long years of deciding election complaints have encouraged cheats
And since we are touching about a system that hardly works, one thing good with former President Erap, which I think Chief Justice Puno very well agrees with, is when Erap said that the war against corruption should be zeroed in at “Crooks in Cloaks”, meaning corrupt justices. At the surface of it, law enforcement apprehends crooks. Court frees suspects. Enforcement blames justice for setting crooks free. Side of justice blames back enforcement for failures of prosecution.
Frustrations within law enforcement is one root cause for summary executions of suspects – persons whom in their eyes are without any doubt, walang kadudaduda, habitual hardened criminals that they think will be set free by the courts anyway. Now, that is taking the law into one’s hand. Same frustrations also caused some law enforcement to accept bribe and set suspects free, by them. Or, be on the take and look the other way, worst working for crime syndicates. Now, that is the virus of criminality that has spread.
That national order and discipline starts with sound Justice and Law enforcement systems is never been wrong.
But, whom will we have for President this 2010 to oversee all? I guess, if election is held today, we have the young Sen Noynoy Aquino the new President. Social weather surveys said that. Here is a case of one little heard while in the Senate except for being the son of heroic parents, the late martyr and Senator Benigno Ninoy Aquino and the late President Cory Aquino. I guess it is his parents’ magic that is working for him. Much like an un-opened can from a batch people take for good. Majority of the Filipino people seems to be comfortable with that, so far so good.
Lagging behind is former Senate President Manny Villar, a more seasoned legislator, but I guess “C5 double insertion”, or his resistance at moves to investigate the matter that implicated him, has dragged him down. Legal technicality works only in the courts of law but not in the bar of public opinion. A politician that cannot be investigated is simply a big question mark for many observers. Transparency could have made a greater him. [It was taking refuge in legal technicality on the face of an overwhelming interest of the public to know the truth hidden in the stumbled-on multi billion Jose Villarde Account that turned impeachment proceedings into a revolt against Erap, actually, and not the P200 Mn jueteng bribe money that Chavit Singson was talking about.]
And, yes, there he is former Pres Joseph E Estrada or Erap. Whether or not he can run again, under the one term clause stated in the Constitution has been thrown-in, but it seems nobody took serious bite of the issue. I think the question is, will Filipinos elect a former President who has been convicted of plunder. Presidential pardon saved him from serving time, but pardon does not reverse what Justice has ruled, which sticks unless reversed, again, only by the justice system. And he is past that point. So I guess his struggle is one on hope that the sad tales he has put up can negate hard facts.
Trailing far behind the lead is former Defense Secretary Gilbert C Theodoro who seems to have untainted, unquestionable credentials. Why, must be on his associations or perceived connections that, I guess, are weighing him down. For one, people associate him with the Administration that is doing poorly in trust and popularity ratings.
At the bottom is Sen Dick Gordon who claims something great at Subic. Bringing in foreign investors is not bad. However, that, by itself is very ordinary. Everyone is talking about doing that for the country, so there is no edge for him in that. Well, maybe he ought to have said something like bringing in Ethanol Plants to mushroom everywhere. No, not for themselves, but primarily for all the Filipino farmers that he swears shall have a great bounty, and who in turn must share their gain with the destitute farm workers. Those gains, to trickle all around, will make everybody happy. Whew, that would be very revolutionary. This is wishful thinking that is next to impossible under the present situation in the country, actually. And there goes away everything hard that everybody has been talking dreaming promising about ever since: foods for every Filipino, education for the young ones, cures when people get sick, modest roofs over their heads, etc. – direct and indirect jobs created, alleviation of poverty, social-political stability.
There are a few other names at the bottom if you’re the type who will go for a candidate, win or lose, and irregardless of realities. I think this is the way that people ought to vote. But that is idealism. And if that is the way that people vote, then the administration’s bets will win. Because opposition has smelled blood of the present administration and they cannot agree who among them should be the next President. There is a tendency of opposition votes to be fragmented.
The nation is not really unthinking like many politicians think it is. Generalizing, I think Filipino voters are maturing and it is the Filipino politicians who are not. I guess Filipino politicians are caught between baby-talking the masses and talking straight to the well-informed of the nation. I think there is under estimation of both by politicians.
Have you heard of friendly negative votes? I mean, people may like a particular candidate but they are voting another. For one reason, it is because their favorite is viewed as not winnable in the situation. It’s throwing weight in favor of the “lesser evil”, next. I know people who vote whom they don’t really like so the one they hated most wont make it. This is present-day reality and that is materialism.
Well, what we see is what we get. And what we get is what we deserve. We might not be seeing same thing exactly same way. Nevertheless, there they are, folks. None of them was born yesterday, so, I guess we already know each of them for a long time. Whatever, between now and El 2010 is a lot of time. People hope for a cleaner election, at least, for people to say that they deserve the kind of leaders.
The Filipino people is very fond of self-flagellation because they celebrate presidential elections as if they have anything to look forward to, and then after only six months they begin to make a death wish for the elected president. That is so Filipino.//Excerpt, Senator M.D. Santiago