Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In The Name of the Truth

(The following is my column for today, July 12, 2006 at the op-ed section of The Manila Standard Today).

THE “truth” is the new catchword in town, and it’s been hanging from every politician’s mouth the last few days.

“In search of the truth,” they say, and it is truly a blessing that many of our politicians and civic leaders are hams in the acting department. Otherwise, we would not only have to put up with trite dramatic dialogues but awful melodramatic renditions of the phrase as well. (Imagine the great actors in the Senate looking straight at the camera with misty eyes and quivering lips intoning, “sa ngalan ng katotohanan!” and see if you don’t want to run screaming out of the room). If alarm bells were rung every single time someone invoked “the truth” in the last two days, we would all be deaf by now.

If people truly believe that “the truth shall set us free” and want to embark on a major quest to find it, who in his right mind would think of beginning the search in the halls of Congress?
I am not accusing our senators and congressmen of being such big frauds although the idea is really tempting. Even if truth were written in upper case neon letters 20 feet high right where the huge Philippine flag is displayed at the main hall of Congress, I doubt very much if all our honorable congressmen will see it. Or at least see it as such, as they will probably debate on the question of whether words constitute essence, or whether what they are seeing is objective reality or an interpretation of reality, or something just as nonsensical. This is not to say that they all need glasses or brain transplants, although these sound like good excuses too; just that people do not see things that they do not want to see, period.

And to be fair, it’s really not just in Congress where this phenomenon called selective perception is prevalent. Wasn’t it just a few years back when many respected journalists wrote passionate essays about truth being subjective—that it must side with the causes of the oppressed and the marginalized? Didn’t civic groups led by you-know-who (I can’t say her name without going into a laughing fit; it is a long story which involves community singing of “If We Hold On Together”) bend the truth in their favor when they justified that ill-fated CODE-NGO project a few years back? Don’t businessmen hire public relations experts to twist the truth a little to suit their purposes? The point is, we are all guilty of twisting the truth in our favor.

Therefore, if anyone wants to embark on a quest for the truth, I suggest they begin the search in the most logical starting point, which is within their selves (yes, Rep. Francis Escudero, that’s where you should begin). And I guess this is the message of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines that sadly got lost in political translation. In effect, what the bishops are saying is, “you cannot accuse someone of being immoral if you yourself are doing something immoral.” (I have been saying the same thing and more in my blog in the last five months and I didn’t have to go through a weekend retreat to do that).

It is shameless and hypocritical the way some people invoke the “truth” as absolute justification for their political agenda. They say that all they want is to know the truth about whether the President cheated in the last elections. Duh. We already know the truth— everyone cheats during elections in this country and I dare any politician to come forward to claim that he or she is clean. All candidates, and I do mean ALL candidates, violate election laws— from the printing and posting of posters, to the distribution of sample ballots, to vote-buying, etc. So instead of asking the obvious, how about asking a more sincere and proactive question: since we all cheat during elections, how do we make sure that cheating is eradicated from our system? But I guess that question requires real work for our legislators and civic leaders. It is just so much easier to just blame someone than to be responsible for the solutions.

I can go on and on, but let’s cut through all this BS and call a spade a dirty shovel. What they really mean when they say they want to find the truth is to dig political mud, dirt and sleaze enough to shame the President into resigning from office, or enough to galvanize people into supporting their cause. In the process, the country can burn and we may lose all semblance of respect and dignity as a people. It is also possible that everyone gets implicated and the bloodbath will run 10 feet deep. But who cares as long as some people emerge as heroes and heroines and we can all live under a new dispensation of new tyrants and more of the same corrupt officials. I know some people who live in ivory towers and can therefore afford to romanticize all these, but tell it to someone who actually lives through the hardships of everyday living and see if you don’t get cursed.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me restate my position. I truly believe that under normal circumstances, impeachment is a valid and legal option. I also believe in my heart of hearts that this President has to go sooner or later—both for her sake and for the country’s. But the problems of this country are bigger and larger than whether GMA should be retained or given the boot. We need to go beyond demonizing the President or looking for someone to blame and instead focus on proactive solutions. In the words of the bishops, focus on “the common good.” And along the way, yes, let us make sure she is made accountable for her grievous mistakes.

Unfortunately, some people who dare to call themselves patriots still refuse to read the writing on the wall. To them, it is still all about GMA. And everything else, including progress and listening to the real needs of the people, is secondary.

GMA is a problem, but there are bigger and larger problems that we need to focus on. We are also part of the problem. Unfortunately, this is the truth that some people cannot handle.

18 comments:

benign0 said...

One of the challenges of our society is to find a set of guiding principles to rally the population towards. Unfortunately, all we have at the moment are political slogans, various "movements" like One Voice, and, of course, the characters behind the earlier two. Because these are all driven by promotional stunts, they are as fluid as the wind and not anchored on any robust social foundation.

As a contributor of mine observed even way back in 2002:

We need to have something that would prove that the Philippine society is just more than an historical or fortuitous accident in order to justify its continued existence. We have to formulate some deeper ideology shared by all filipinos that would inspire personal or moral conviction beyond mere emotionalism or sentimentalism. Patriotism could only be sustained if it's rooted on more timeless principles and yet peculiar only to the filipino people. Anything else, would be fleeting.

Even our concept of "nationalism" and "patriotism" had already been hijacked by self-styled "cause-oriented" groups.

So-called "cause-oriented groups" (COGs) at present seem to have a monopoly over the label "nationalist" or "patriot". They claim to be the only true nationalists simply by virtue of their willingness to invoke chaos on our streets and to express themselves in a form of Tagalog that makes generous use of six-syllable words that most ordinary Filipinos hardly ever come across; all in the name of the Filipino masses, so they claim.

A more sensible approach of course is to think of the Philippine Nation as one that needs to earn its people's pride. And its people, in turn, need to recognise that they have to work at building a nation that they could be objectively proud of. We need to re-visit the true essence of nationalism -- the desire to build a just, safe, and prosperous country that can earn the pride of its people.

Let's return the concept of nationalism to its rightful owners -- the ordinary Filipino citizens who earn a productive living doing their job properly. No one Filipino -- or organisation of Filipinos -- has an exclusive claim to the titles nationalist or patriot or makabayan, whether he or she be a CEO of a multinational corporation or a rice farmer.

Jego said...

GMA is a symptom of a larger problem. GMA was a result of a whole lot of our people voting for Erap and FPJ. And they did that because they felt that the other candidates were not looking out for them. The 'patriots' need to ask themselves why. Why dont the people trust them? Why would somebody like GMA, an economist of impeccable credentials, have to resort to looting government funds, have to resort to a tainted COMELEC, to beat a movie actor who barely got out of high school and no experience in public administration? The heart of what ails us lies in the answers to those questions.

I chided Helga of B&W once in their website. I told her I thought B&W was spending an inordinate amount of energy on GMA when she's just a symptom. To her credit, she acknowledged it and said B&W's advocacy was about GMA but that doesnt mean the members are not doing anything to address the deeper problems. Im quite sure that B&W member individuals and organizations are doing all they can, too, to address these.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bong!
Got this piece in my e-mail just now, mainit pa. Tamang-tama sa subject matter mo: politicians. Laughed so hard when I read this and I thought of sharing it with you. Gusto kita patawanin sandali. Here goes...

"Four surgeons are discussing who has the best patients to operate on.
The first surgeon says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."
The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is color coded."
The third surgeon says, "No, I
really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."

But the fourth surgeon shut them all up when he observed: "You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There are no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains and no spine, and the head and the ass are interchangeable."

Actually we could add more to the last sentence but it will take lots of space and our hearts might burst from laughing so hard. Needless to say, I hold a lot of our politicians to the highest ridicule.
Good afternoon, Bong!
MommyJo

Anonymous said...

Hey Bong, I must warn you not to dare these politicians to come forward and claim that they are clean, because all of them will say they are clean, cheats and all. So there's no point really. Twisting the truth seems to be a disease that these congresspeople acquire once they set foot in congress, they should probably install a foot bath of strong disinfectant there(full strength nitric acid maybe?).
In this revived impeachment case, I was wondering how many will sign this time. I haven't noticed lately that young ineloquent congresswoman (Antonino-Custodio? She doesn't seem bright to me.) who was in charge of their secretariat last year. One more thing that did not escape me last year was that many of these political families seemed to be namamangka sa dalawang ilog. You know,one sides with GMA while a relative was for impeaching her. That Antonino and her uncle is one example. Then for all of the noise created by the male Cayetano, why was his sis in the senate discreetly quiet? O di ba? There were more, I just couldn't recall right now, maybe you have noticed them too. So why on earth would they expect me to take them seriously when they are so blatantly only interested in their or their families' political hides? Creeps!
MommyJo

BongA said...

Benigno: mismo! couldn't agree more. the problem is that there are people who think that just because they can mouth what they think as intelligent discourse they are of a higher moral and patriotic order. ang baba na ng tingin sa mga taong iba ang opinyon sa kanila. pag perceived ka to be pro-gloria or pro-administration, or kahit pag silent ka lang, kung ano ano na sinasabi tungkol sa yo, as if they have the monopoly of what is right.

bong

BongA said...

Jego:

i believe that the basic premise of situating things at the extremes of only one continuum is dangerous. in one tv show, i caught enteng romano debating with the likes of chit pedrosa and that lambino guy. he only had one position - kahit ano at kahit sino pwede, basta patalsikin lang si gloria muna. huh?

Bong austero

BongA said...

mommy jo:

don't be surprised if the very same people pushing for impeachment runs under the administration party in the may 2007 elections.

thanks for the joke. i will use it in this blog.

bong

cvj said...

Bong, you are creating a false dilemma. We can look for the truth within ourselves without sacrificing looking for the truth in the public sphere. Both can be done. In fact, they can even be complementary. Our level of tolerance to Arroyo's transgression also says something about who we are.

For what it's worth, i'm also interested in your answer to Manuel Buencamino's questions from the last post.

chris said...

looking for the truth within ourselves is dangerous because of personal biases.

And for people like enteng romano, there is only one truth - that is the "truth" they believes in. They won't accept any more truths from other people, truth commission or impeachment. If any of these yield findings which are against their idea, he won't accept it.

The previous post's title maybe is the answer you are looking for cvj: Here we go again. Eh?

Answering Manuel Buencamino's post would have us going around in circles. Just what I think. I won't put words in bong's mouth.

cheers ^^

chris said...

"in one tv show, i caught enteng romano debating with the likes of chit pedrosa and that lambino guy. he only had one position - kahit ano at kahit sino pwede, basta patalsikin lang si gloria muna. huh?"

bat di na lang nya sabihing kahit sya pwede rin. hehe

john marzan said...

testing

BongA said...

cvj, you may be right or wrong or both - but let's keep in mind that at the end of the day, we are just dealing with personal opinions, not absolute facts. yes, both can be done, why not. but it is my personal conviction that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others. i just refuse to ally myself with people i detest and be blind to the fallacies they are peddling just because we seem to have a common enemy and refuse to see their vested interest.

that is why i actually agree with the bishops - searching for the truth in polluted waters is a futile exercise and gives people false hopes.

cvj, tolerance is one thing, critical thinking is another thing. contrary to the seeming moral point of view, just because people like me appear to be allowing mrs arroyo some slack now does not mean we are not seething underneath nor taking note of all the transgressions one by one.

the reason why i did not answer manuel buencamino's questions is because i don't see the point - he has made up his mind about what kind of a person i am and has already made judgments about me in many blogs. whatever i say will not make a difference. in fact in MLQ's blog today, he makes allusions about people like me being "nakalublub sa putik."

bong a

abuyognon said...

bong, hay naku, tama ka. parang "in aid of legislation" din yan - kunwari for the common good, pero actually, ginagamit lang ng mga pulitiko para papogi. wala din namang nangyayari kasi sigurado may masasabit na kasamahan nila. ano na nga ba nangyari sa mga committee hearing reports nila, eh di wala kasi kanya kanyang protektahan lang.

para lang tayong ginigisa sa sariling mantika. yang si dinky soliman na yan, naku, tatakbo lang yan sa elections kaya pilit ume-epal. pinagtatawanan naman.

kaya ka pinupuna ng mga yan kasi alam nila madami nagbabasa sa yo at madami panig sa yo, di lang nagsasalita. pero kung tutuusin, lahat naman ng sinabi mo dati, sinasabi na nila ngayon. o di ba, yung dati na sabi mo na "the problems of this country are bigger than GMA" di ba ginamit ng OneVoice. saka yung "it is time to take the solutions out of the hands of politicians and directly into the hands of the people" o di ba yan din ang sabi ng OneVoice ngayon. dati kinukutya ka, pero ngayon, yung mga tumatambay sa blog ni mlq puro papuri sa position paper ng OneVoice.

gaya mo, di din ako kampi kay president gloria. pero sa ginagawa ng mga yan, lalo lang nagiging mas okay pa si gloria. kasi si gloria nagtratrabaho di gaya ng mga yan na wala nang ginawa kung hindi gumawa ng gulo. kaya lalo lang tayo nagkakaleche leche. punyetang mga nagmamarunong na yan.

basta kami dito sa atin, nasa likod mo. kaya wag mo pansinin ang mga yan, dami pa sinasabi na kung ano ano pero ang gusto lang naman palabasin magaling sila. eh kung talagang tama sila, bakit hanggang ngayon di nila makuha ang simpatiya ng mga tao? eh kasi puro lang salita wala naman talaga alam sa totoong buhay ng mga tao.

sana everyday ang column mo sa standard. bumibili na kami, pero mahirap hanapin, laging ubos.

mabuhay ka!

taga-abuyog

BongA said...

taga abuyog, whoa! thanks for the nice words. pakilala ka naman.

in fairness, even mlq did acknowledge before that he agreed with some of the things i said. it doesn't matter who said what first - what is important is that there is some consensus emerging even if it seems it is a fragile and together "coming together." i can empathize with what you are feeling - my mom always chides me for writing what i write - she thinks it is just not worth it when you look at the savagery i get from others.

i can't even squeeze in the time required to write two decent columns a week. writing for this blog is easier, i can always correct myself immediately. but once a column gets published, there is no turning back...your statements haunt you for the rest of your life and they are often taken out of context. with the 8-5 full time job in the bank and a teaching load in the evenings and on weekends, plus my responsibilities at the NGO i am part of, my nerves are already tested to the limits. so am afraid a daily column is out of the question, not that the paper will even consider it.

but thanks for taking the trouble to write your comments. pakilala ka, leave your name and email address in your next comment which i will not publish - comments are moderated so you are safe.

kumusta na lang sa mga taga abuyog.

bong a

john marzan said...

You say you don't trust the opposition, and your president, and the moralists, and the patroits etc etc.

that's good. OTOH, you've also supported and defended Arroyo's legitimacy claims. (not that there's anything wrong with that. you're entitled to your beliefs and opinions.)

I myself don't trust the "move on" people, the COMELEC operators, and Arroyo's military, and people who claim they're "independent" or "non-partisan"...

You know the only thing i trust at this point? The Manila Standard Today.

alden said...

"It is shameless and hypocritical the way some people invoke the “truth” as absolute justification for their political agenda. They say that all they want is to know the truth about whether the President cheated in the last elections. Duh. We already know the truth— everyone cheats during elections in this country and I dare any politician to come forward to claim that he or she is clean. All candidates, and I do mean ALL candidates, violate election laws— from the printing and posting of posters, to the distribution of sample ballots, to vote-buying, etc. So instead of asking the obvious, how about asking a more sincere and proactive question: since we all cheat during elections, how do we make sure that cheating is eradicated from our system? But I guess that question requires real work for our legislators and civic leaders. It is just so much easier to just blame someone than to be responsible for the solutions."

Bong,

Para sa akin, eto yung pinaka the best paragraph sa article mo ngayon. Eto rin ang pilit kung sinisigaw sa PCIJ at MLQ Blogs even before your famous letter came out. Nag sawa na lang ako and at minabuti pang hantayin na na magsawa ang kabilang panig sa kanilang paniniwala na dapat mag resign muna si Gloria. Yun, kailanagn pa talga nating mag hintay.........

Jego said...

that is why i actually agree with the bishops - searching for the truth in polluted waters is a futile exercise and gives people false hopes.

I feel that what the CBCP did was belittle the capability of ordinary citizens to present their case to their representatives in Congress; to convince their reps to vote for impeachment. It only needs 70+ votes. It is winnable. But now with the CBCP's backing of the view that 'we can't win in Congress', they have only made it more difficult. I agree with you, bong, that we have to choose our battles, but I think that the impeachment battle is one we must try to fight. Winning in the impeachment battle is not a false hope.

BongA said...

john marzan, great, so you acknowledge that it is possible for people to respect other people's opinions even if they are or are PERCEIVED to be contrary to our own.

in your blog, for example, you lifted a whole paragraph of my column (incidentally the same paragraph which alden says he likes the most) and held it up as the essence of what constitutes my political beliefs (or by association, my value system). that is your opinion and as much as I find that objectionable, i respect your right to say anything you want to say in your blog, which is why i am not calling you names. however, that doesn't necessarily mean your intepretation is correct. there is room for everyone's opinion in the this whole political hellhole.

Bong a