Monday, October 23, 2006

just the usual corrupt scheme

The following is my column today, October 24, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Since Milenyo struck, the house has been without cable television. I figured that Destiny was having such a difficult time sorting out all those tangled connections so I was willing to cut them some slack. Besides, to be honest about it, I kind of learned to relish the solitude that I have come to acquire in my own room. Switching on the television was a terrible habit that had become part of my routine every time I entered my room— yes, even when I had no intentions of watching it. Television was my ever-reliable company.

But since Milenyo reduced the cable connections in our neighborhood into leftover spaghetti, I have learned to live a more quiet existence. So in the last few weeks, I have been blissfully isolated from the shenanigans of politicians, investigative reporters and broadcast journalists. I do not know what has been going on in the world of Super Inggo or Atlantika, or even in the lives of Bakekang or whatever names the characters of John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo go by nowadays. I haven’t watched Philippine Idol for three weeks now and whatever I know about Ryan Cayabyab’s latest diatribe about the futility of making intelligent comments on the musical performance of that show’s contestants, I learned from reading newspapers, which is a completely different thing altogether, from say, actually watching him being livid live.

I reckoned we could live without television for a few more weeks.

But last Saturday, the bill collector from Destiny knocked. He actually expressed surprise that the cable connections were still not fixed. So we filed another report and hoped that someone would come to finally fix the connection.

Someone did come. In fact, two batches of people came. And what do you know, both offered to fix the darn connections for a fee. Nothing wrong with that, you would say. Except that they were offering an illegal lifetime connection for free in exchange for a handsome amount. And they were making the offer with a straight face. I humored them and asked what if the connection was discovered. They said there was no chance of that happening because the collectors and line men in the field on one hand, and the administration people in the office on the other hand, are different entities.

Askance, I asked what if there was trouble with the connection, say when another strong typhoon comes around and the wiring get detached or something. No problem, we could call them personally and they would come to fix it. Part of the deal. In fact, they pointed out that even the rich in posh villages are into the scheme.

Whoa. I know that illegal connections —whether electricity, water, or cable— are common in Metro Manila. But I could not believe the extent of the scam. Of course I refused. And they looked at me as if some screws on my brain needed tightening or something.

I talked about it in passing with some neighbors who must have gotten wind of the indecent proposal. The reactions were embarrassing so let us not go into those.

And just when I thought things have already reached Twilight Zone proportions, some enterprising electricians in the neighborhood came over and hinted that they could have done the reconnecting themselves. No need to call in those thieves from the cable company since the expertise was readily available in the neighborhood. From where we sat, since the cable companies where taking their own sweet time, they have taken it upon themselves to do fixing themselves. Besides, according to their own twisted reasoning, the cable companies are already making a killing anyway, so what harm could a few more illegal connections do?

This got me thinking about how terribly low we have sunk in the morals department.
I know that some people consider all these seemingly innocuous corrupt schemes as just another proof of how enterprising we could all be. The reasoning “where’s the harm, it’s not as if we are taking something away from ordinary Filipinos” seems to be so common. But we do take away something from someone else when we get into these things. Sure, the utility companies rob us wholesale with whatever creative new wrinkle they could come up with to pad our bills. But illegal connections do increase surcharges so the bill is actually spread over. In the end, we all pay.

I can already hear my critics sharpening their knives, ready to slap me with that line about the country’s no. 1 crook in that white house by the river Pasig. So lest anyone starts hyperventilating I will say it on record again: Yes, by all means, let’s go after all crooks in this country, big or small, tall or short, with or without moles in the face. But I really find it immature when certain people hold up the grievous sins of others as justification for their own corrupt actions.

Corruption is truly widespread in our country and it is not limited to those who walk the halls of power in this country. The problem is so pervasive I think it is truly time to address it strategically. Oh no, please, not another legislation and another government body created for the purpose. These things only give people a false sense of comfort that something is being done somewhere; that the problem is external and does not involve us. In reality, these things do not work because we are the problem.

What we need is for more people to come to the table not to find faults or look for scapegoats or for someone to blame. We need to begin by admitting that we are all party to the whole scheme— perhaps in varying degrees of guilt, some directly, some indirectly—but with the recognition that if we want changes in this country, we must be part of the changes.

Unfortunately, this is really easier said than done as most of us would rather get stuck in the middle of a monstrous traffic jam rather than give way. It seems things have reached the point when good guys really finish last.

But not all the time. So I sit here waiting for the legitimate people from Destiny to finally fix our cable TV at home. In the meantime, I am prepared for a few more days of existence without cable television. I think it is a small price to pay for principle.

2 comments:

siu said...

I am honestly happy to know there are still people like you who put premium on principle. As you have said, what you did was too small a price to pay for a principle. Unfortunately, many don't see it that way anymore. In this country, it seems too much pragmatism is already embedded in the people's psyche which perhaps replaced their sense of morality. Have we become so jaded that people who do what you did are even thought of as obtuse for not doing the "right" thing - meaning the practical thing?

Ka Roger said...

Out of topic bonga, I'm really amazed as to how some people could still not let go of that one statement you declared months ago. I know you can defend your self on your own with such civility unlike those backbiters from the other blog threads. Heck if they still have some axe to grind against you, then have the decency to tell it in your face right? I guess thats how low and immature some Filipinos can be.