A fetish for scandals

The following is my column for today, September 4, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

The raging scandal over the nursing board examinations has become a convoluted national soap opera with more than enough subplots to put our regular run-of-the-mill teleseryes to shame. It is another one of those things that boggles the mind and gets everyone worked up into a frenzy of blaming and counterblaming. In short, it brings to the surface our seeming fixation for scandals.

There is truly nothing quite riveting like a scandal, particularly one brimming with salacious and sordid details. There’s hysterics, masked faces, safe houses, musical chairs, a cameo role for the NBI and the senators. And I don’t know exactly how the question of sexual orientation became relevant in the melee, but it is suddenly just there. It is now, for all intents and purposes, a real scandal—it is outrageous, disgraceful, and a cause for shame.

What should have been a case of pinpointing who were responsible for a dastardly act, filing a case against them in court, and making sure that they are made to pay for the crime has now become a very complicated and delicate process similar to unraveling a spider’s web.

Naturally, the scandal has become heaven-sent opportunity for those who desperately need to make an imprint in the national consciousness to get into the fray. So what if the issues only get more tangled? Who cares if they do not contribute anything to resolve the mess? What does it matter if nothing actually gets resolved in the end? What is important is that those who are muddied in the process get to have their share of throwing mud at everyone else. What is important is that those who need media mileage have their share of the limelight. It doesn’t matter if there is no resolution of the problem as long as everyone is able to exercise his or her democratic right to speak out, be heard, and muddle the issue some more. What is important is the exercise of democracy.

So here we are again with the fact-finding investigations, the Senate hearings, the public washing of hands, the exchange of accusations and counteraccusations and the public relations stunts. Here come some citizens of supposed higher moral order taking turns at flagellating our collective psyche in the public eye. One board exams out of perhaps a hundred being held annually in our country, and it is being made as representative of our supposedly damaged culture. Suddenly, the little league baseball scandals and everything else are being surfaced to remind us of our supposed shameful character.

Thank you, guys, but I think there is no need to intellectualize and moralize. These things happen because there are perpetrators who think nothing of screwing hundreds to advance a personal vested interest. These things happen because the safeguards are not airtight, because punishing the guilty is not exactly one of our best suits as a people. There is no need to scold everyone.

I also do not wish for the issues to just be shoved under the rug. I think we need to ferret out the truth and punish the guilty. We need to craft better safeguards that these things do not recur. But there must be a better way to do all these other than through a screaming contest that magnifies the sordid details. Surely, there is a way to do these in a more honorable, professional manner.

Given the way scandals like these have turned out in the past, it does not take a genius to figure how all these will end. Been there, done that. When everyone’s throats have run dry, when all the juicy bits have been wrung out, when everyone’s patience has been worn thin, and when the issues have become hopelessly tangled —the whole convoluted mess will be dropped on some bureaucrat’s hands where it will lie dormant forever. And we shall move on to the next filth that can be stoked into becoming yet another scandal worthy of our collective preoccupation. After all, there’s always one just waiting for the right investigative reporter/politician/advocate to uncover and package as another earthshaking exposé.

A discreet test to validate the effectiveness of security measures at airports should have been just that. But no, we have to get everyone’s hysterical reactions. Oil spills, mass graves, etc.
It is a sad commentary of our times that our problems as a nation are first packaged as media exposés before they are brought up to the appropriate regulatory bodies for action or resolution.

When someone has a complaint to make, he or she runs off to some television shows, newspapers or some prominent rights advocate/elected official, who, understandably, put their own spin to the whole thing for the sake of ratings or similar considerations. It seems even scandals will become copyrighted in the near future.

I understand that this illustrates the role of certain institutions as fiscalizers, but it also feeds this unhealthy fascination, perhaps even fixation with scandals. When something is packaged as an exposé rather than as a problem that requires a solution, there is an automatic presumption—an accusation in fact—that certain people were up to no good, a sinister conspiracy was in the works, and that dishonoring certain people is inevitable collateral damage.

And we all know that when emotions and “honor” get into the picture, all the filters in communication go up. When this happens, any subsequent fact-finding or investigation is severely compromised because everyone has already been conditioned and primed to make a judgment and take sides. The whole focus then shifts from finding solutions and resolving problems into a free-for-all blamestorming.

There is actually a simple more dignified solution to problems like these. It so simple and maybe that is the reason people do not like it. Everyone—or their rightful representatives—should simply come together to collaborate on resolving the problems swiftly and impartially instead of having each one, i.e., media, regulatory bodies, the NBI, the Senate, the professional organizations, going their own separate ways. And while they are doing it, we should give these people the benefit of the doubt that they will do their job. And if we have suggestions to make, we submit them in an effort to improve the process and help these people get the task done rather than to point out just how intellectually superior we all are compared to them. If we have certain information, we submit it rather than use it as some currency, bargaining chip or ammunition to be released when it suits our purposes. We discuss and debate not to dispute or prove a particular position or stand wrong, but to help search for the right solution.

And when a solution is arrived at, we support it even if it does not meet our own desires because we recognize that no one in this country has a monopoly of brilliance or citizenship or good intentions.

Simply put, we focus on solving problems. It is very sad that in our country, problems become blown out scandals before they merit the kind of attention that they deserve. The problem is, when they have become so, they are usually beyond resolution.


vic said…
don't we have enough soap operas in our national t.v. networks that we need more? someday, somebody's bedroom habits will be the topic for next national scandal.
Taga-Iyam said…
Naku naman po.....totoo na namang lahat ang sinulat mo....and here I am again saying.....great Bong, you hit the right nail again.....! What really is so sad is, more people are for punishment thinking that punishment will solve the problem. Nakakahiya na tayo sa loob at labas nang bansa. I hope that someday we will be the solution rather than the problem.And look at the issue now about those nurses who are suing the employment agency for not giving them what they were told....kailangan bang lahat na lang na di natin ma-solve the whole world has to be involved with our internal issues? You are exactly correct.... let us start working together to find solutions......tama na ang pag hahanap kung paano tayo makakakuha nang mileage for "pogi points" sabi nga nang 2 year old grandson ko when I ask him....why do you comb your hair? He says...Lola, to get "pogi points" but, this is coming from an innocent child....!The "pogi points" that the adults are earning are actually abuse of democracy.
Keep it up Bong.....we have yet to disagreee!
BongA said…
vic and taga iyam:

thanks! appreciate your comments!


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