Filipinos slaves have a chance for freedomBy Ted Laguatan
All Filipinos are slaves including the well to do. We are slaves to the all-pervading institutionalized corruption in the Philippine government that permeates all facets of our lives. Even Filipinos working and living abroad are slaves. They bear the burden and shame of coming from a country with a reputation of being poor, weak and corrupt.
And like the hard earned money of their fellow Filipinos in the homeland, a significant amount of the billions of dollars they send to their relatives back home – will find their way to the pockets of corrupt dishonest officials and other personnel in all branches and all levels of the Philippine government: bureaucracy clerks; traffic policemen; palengke kubradors; tax collectors; customs people; restaurant inspectors; immigration officials: court personnel; authorities involved in the licensing or registration of vehicles, businesses, land titles, etc ; and super greedy Senators, Congressmen and judges.
Filipinos have continually been slaves to government corruption for so long now. The terrible resultant effects of this slavery are seen everywhere in the Philippines: Children digging into smelly garbage cans for scraps of pagpag food; One third of our people going to bed hungry at night; Sick people dying because of not having medicines; Children with educations stopping at grade six because of limited funds; Millions living in subhuman squalid slums; Substandard eroding roads, dangerous bridges and other infrastructures; Inferior government services…
Thousands of our people are separated from their children and spouses, going to distant extremely cold or hot lands with strange cultures – braving loneliness and all kinds of unknown dangers – to work in difficult jobs in order to support their families. Widespread government corruption indirectly causes this phenomenon.
Like many, I cry when I see so many of these terrible sufferings. I cry especially for those innocent talented children condemned to lives without decent futures who could have contributed so much to humanity in the arts, sciences, philosophy and the humanities. Those thieving politicians and officials cannot escape from their responsibility in contributing to these sufferings and wastage of human potential. Woe unto you. May God have mercy on your dark souls.
If we have an honest efficient government, we could develop various industries that would provide good paying jobs so that our people do not have to leave. A progressive economically vibrant Philippines will result from the elimination of widespread cultural institutionalized government corruption.
A recent series of Inquirer articles exposed prominent Senators and other elected and appointed officials who were engaged in a systematic scheme of massively stealing billions of public tax money funds allocated to them under the so called Pork Barrel system. These funds were meant to benefit people.
The senators and other officials funneled these moneys back to their pockets using straw non-government organizations (NGOs) with bogus projects. The scheme was designed by a Janet Lim Napoles who structured the fake NGOs. She is now in custody and detained in jail awaiting prosecution.
The Senators named in the report have reputations of already being very rich: Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, Bongbong Marcos, Vic Sotto, Gringo Honasan, Lito Lapid. Revilla alone reportedly assigned one billion pesos (25 million dollars) to these fake NGOs. Marcos and Enrile each assigned over five hundred million. The others also assigned enormous sums.
Commission on Audit Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan indicated that other Senators and numerous Congressmen, mayors and other elected and appointed officials – were involved in the massive Pork Barrel scam engineered by Napoles. Tan outlined and gave details on how the scam worked. Conceivably, there might also be similar scams involving bogus NGOs formed by other Napoles-like scammers.
Understandably, Filipinos all over the world are furiously angry with these massive thefts of the people’s money. They held mass demonstrations in Manila and other places in the world demanding for the abolition of the Pork Barrel system.
President Benigno Simeon Aquino first declared that he did not support the call for abolition, citing the good intention behind the Pork Barrel system. He recanted when he perceived that the fast escalating intense anger of millions of Filipinos could translate to irreversible anger against him. Just before the massive rally in Luneta Park calling for the abolition of the Pork Barrel system, Aquino announced that he would accede to the people’s demands.
Understandably, people are asking: How did this happen under the watch of a President whose platform is based on anti-corruption?
I don’t think that neither Aquino nor his Budget Secretary Butch Abad is corrupt. But I believe that since both are intelligent and have extensive experience in Congress and wide exposure to government matters, they and others in the Aquino Administration had a sense or even knew exactly about the mechanics of the massive Pork Barrel corruption that was happening.
But I think that like so many, they also must have felt trapped in this culture of mass corruption – and thought that there was little or nothing that they could do about it. Institutionalized corruption in the Philippines is like being caught in powerful rotating swirling waters and no matter how hard one swims and tries to be free, it’s almost impossible to escape.
The culture of institutionalized corruption is well established in Philippine society and has been there for a relatively long time. The late greedy and oppressive dictator Ferdinand Marcos perfected the technology of government corruption and the model he established continues on and maybe even improved. Many frustrated Filipinos feel helpless about it and in their frustration have taken the attitude of “That’s just the way it is and no one can do anything about it, so we’ll just have to live with it.”
Can we ever escape from this prison of institutionalized corruption which enslaves all of us?
Here’s my take on this: God often does work in strange ways. Because of the extensive media revelations of the massive stealing of public funds by government officials, Filipinos all over the world now have a more intense awareness of the scale of wrongdoing involved. They are livid - furiously angry against these unconscionable elected and appointed officials who are clearly screwing them.
We can positively channel the intense people power energy generated by this public awareness and justifiable outrage – towards forging a determined national will to now rid the Philippines of this terrible evil once and for all. I believe that with these recent developments, we now have a good opportunity to win our freedom and remove the enslaving shackles of institutionalized corruption from our people.
It’s time for us to aggressively end our slavery. More than ever, President Aquino must now prove to the Filipino people that he is sincere is his promise to fight against corruption and has the determination and courage to carry through. The Filipino people unquestionably will give him full support. Right now, he can have these greedy dishonest officials lined up and have them shot or hanged on the nearest tree – and I have no doubt that the people will cheer.
He need not do that. As President, he has in his control all the weapons for the mass destruction of widespread government corruption. He can push the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman’s Office to aggressively move towards the successful prosecution of corrupt government officials on all levels including and especially those in the judiciary. Without honest judges, we can’t have an effective fair justice system. He can intimidate and put in line crooked judges or cause their removal from office.
Aquino also has the NBI and the police forces under him. He is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. He can form teams of competent and honest investigators and prosecutors. What more does he need?
The people are virtually crying out to him: “Hang those thieves.”; “Arrest and jail the bastards.”
Some of these thieves and bastards are very wealthy and powerful. They were colleagues and some were even friends of the President when he was a Congressman and then a Senator.
Abraham Lincoln had the same problem when he was pushing for the very difficult task of getting legislation done that would free slaves. He had friends and colleagues who were opposed. But he knew that ultimately, he had to be true to his deepest sacred self and do what was morally right. In revealing his thoughts, he said:
“I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he is wrong.”
President Benigno Simeon Aquino, as a citizen and as your proclaimed supposed boss, I am respectfully addressing the following statements to you. I believe that what I say here is what millions of well-meaning Filipinos around the world would like to tell you.
I understand the gravity of the challenge and the monumental task that it is – for you to provide the leadership to rid our country of the institutionalized culture of corruption permanently. But you and all of us together – now have that rare opportunity – that once in a lifetime chance to be able to effect real changes that would surely lead to a better life for our people.
Mr. President, the national interest and the future of generations of Filipinos compel you to be a strong moral leader. Weak leaders accomplish little or even cause harm. As such, under the present facts, immediately arrest and jail all of these wrongdoers if you must. Include your friends and allies who may also be wrongdoers to prove your sincerity.
Unlike the bastard dictator Marcos who imprisoned his political enemies to retain his illegitimate power – your motive is pure. You will be doing this to truly serve your people. You have enough evidence and probable cause to legally justify your actions. Sequester their assets and properties. Force them to return their loot to the people. Assemble a team of idealistic brilliant lawyers to help you.
The Filipino people will be together with you in this sacred effort. We will be with you to the end as long as you do not betray us and crush our hopes to have a better life for our people and a better Philippines – by abandoning us and surrendering to the powerful evil forces of corruption.
Mr. President, you are a child of destiny whom fate destined to be President. Events before and after your birth over which you had no control mixed and combined which aligned your stars - and all of these forces channeled the path that led Benigno Simeon Aquino to be President of the Philippines.
Look back at some of the events that shaped your destiny: Your father Ninoy becoming a young popular reporter; marrying your mother Cory; becoming Mayor, governor and then Senator; Unjustly imprisoned and isolated by Marcos for eight years for his opposition to the dictatorship; Exiled and then assassinated and becoming a martyr; Cory your mother becomes president as a result; Cory dying just before the last elections where millions expressed their sympathy triggering the call for her neophyte Senator son Noynoy to run for President. You, Mr. President then became President.
Heaven destined you to be President. I hope you understand the significance and depth of your destiny. You were meant to be a blessing to the Filipino people and to make a difference in their lives. That time is now. You will not have another chance to fulfill your destiny. Your time as President is almost over. Throw caution to the wind, fear not, do what’s right – and leave the results to God.
Together with millions of Filipinos, I hope and pray, that like Abraham Lincoln who freed slaves in America, you will free our people from the terrible slavery of institutionalized corruption. You will need unwavering commitment, courage, inner strength and spirituality – to successfully carry out this mission.
You can have all of these qualities if you will it and pray hard. If you fail, you will only have yourself to blame. And instead of your star burning brighter and forever – it will burn out and you will be remembered as a weak leader who had all the chances to do good for his people but failed. So take courage, fight evil with everything you have and do good. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose if you do this – except maybe your own life.
I had the privilege of being with your father a few days before he returned to the Philippines and to martyrdom. I sensed from listening to him that he was a man who had become very deeply spiritual – a man completely committed to doing what is good and right. He could no longer be bought, intimidated or coerced in any way, manner or form. And so, like Lincoln, Jesus Christ and other martyrs – his enemies killed him.
Like other martyrs, your father’s sacrifices bore much fruit and blessings in the lives of others. You and us all honor him by being true to the ideals that he died for.
He truly believed that the Filipino is worth dying for.
San Francisco based Atty. Ted Laguatan is a human rights lawyer and is also officially certified by the State Bar of California as an expert on Immigration Law. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 650 991-1154
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