Monday, February 11, 2008

Missing the point again

This is my column today.

“O tapos?” And then what?

My friend kept on interrupting our conversation with this question, uttered in a rather acerbic and sarcastic way, which indicated he wasn’t as interested in what really happened next, but on something bigger, something more earthshaking, which unfortunately, wasn’t forthcoming.

Most of us work drones didn’t have access to television last Friday although thanks to cellular phones with built-in radios some of us did manage to catch snippets of the lugubrious event at the Senate. But I did keep myself glued to the television set and trawled the net until the wee hours of Saturday in an effort to keep track of what was asked and said at that hearing. I ended up repeating and saying to no one in particular my friend’s question. “O tapos?”

Don’t get me wrong. I think Jun Lozada is a very credible witness. I think that what he had to say is important and that he deserves to be heard. I also think that what he was made to go through by the handlers of Malacañang was simply unthinkable and had ineptitude and arrogance written all over it. I don’t mean to cast aspersion and belittle the man or his testimony.

He’s already been through hell and back and we must commend the poor guy for his courage even if we all know that he is doing so now mostly because his back is already against the wall. As most of us already know, he didn’t want to testify and reveal everything he knew until Friday night when it became evident that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s lieutenants were not only intent on forcing him to keep his peace. Horror of horrors, they wanted him to spin tall tales as well, simply because the madam was already hurting.

But still, after all that has been said and done, one can’t help wondering: What next? How will the Senate and everyone else who had a hand in getting the man to reveal what he knew do justice to the man’s courage?

Let’s be honest about it, Lozada’s testimony damned former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos and made mincemeat out of the government’s procurement system. Lozada provided concrete evidence and validated what we all know in our hearts: The whole government procurement system stinks, kickbacks and commissions have become the norm, and worse, the level of greed of the many functionaries of this current administration has become nauseatingly abominable.

The thing is, we already know these things. Thus, it was quite amusing to note how our senators feigned shock and surprise that such things exist. Oh please, let’s cut this crap about how our senators are innocent about how these things work because we all know most, if not all of them, skim money from their pork barrel funds in this way. That’s how senators, congressmen, Cabinet officials, local executives, and everyone else with access to government contracts and funds make a living. Obviously, their salaries are not enough to sustain their lifestyles.
In the first hearing on this blasted ZTE scandal, Miriam Defensor Santiago even stated matter-of-factly that a certain percentage (10 percent if memory serves me right) commission or kickbacks on government deals is the current standard. We suspect that it is higher than 10 percent of course. Lozada’s testimony last Friday revealed that in this particular instance, Abalos wanted almost 100 percent of the original contract price.

So if there was anything that was outrageous, it was the validation of the fact that the level of greed of the people in this administration has become so unrestrained.

No wonder former National Economic Development Administration Secretary Romulo Neri balked and ordered Lozada to “moderate their greed.” I have a thing to say about that new catchphrase, particularly about how many people seem unfamiliar with the verb form of the word moderate like when it is used in academic parlance, but that’s another column.

But so far, and I know a number of people will put me to task for saying this, Lozada has not produced incriminating evidence enough to nail the President. It is possible, as the scuttlebutt claims, that the man is still holding back certain information, but it is also entirely possible that, as he said, there’s nothing else further he can add to what he already said last Friday.

What he had revealed puts the First Gentleman right smack in the middle of the whole stinking mess, but exactly what nefarious role the President’s husband played and how much he stood to gain from the whole atrocity remains hearsay. I am not discounting the very obvious fact of course that the whole sordid revelations further buried the Arroyos in the moral ascendancy department. What Lozada revealed in that Senate hearing is bound to harm the President and her family in terms of public perception about the kind of people they really are.

For sure, people will punish Gloria Macapagal Arroyo once again in the next round of surveys. I can already see the headlines: GMA most unpopular President ever. Unfortunately, this President has shown that she is impervious to popularity ratings. She knows that most Filipinos are already content calling her unsavory names and attaching all kinds of unspeakable labels to her person rather than remove her as President. The reason for this is still obvious and it was laid bare in all those hearings conducted. But as usual, our senators and most of the people and groups supporting those hearings are still missing the point.

Lozada spewed quite a mouthful in terms of what ails our country other than Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the bunch of nincompoops that surround her. Our system sucks, corruption attends each and every government transaction from the major to the mundane, what we need are integrated, comprehensive, strategic solutions which should cover everything. That’s where legislation is needed. Unfortunately, we’re missing the forest for the trees by insisting that all these is simply about kicking this administration out of Malacañang.

Let me get this clear: This administration is hopelessly corrupt beyond redemption and the sooner we get rid of these people, the better. But it’s not just these people. And removing this administration, and mainly by embarrassing and ridiculing it—which, also harms business and ourselves—should not be the only goal. A major reason why this administration is still in power is because most think that the people who are itching to replace this administration are doing so mainly for personal political gain. That may not be entirely true, but that’s the message people are getting. A taxi driver I talked to said it well: Better the thief that has been unmasked and has seemingly no pretensions of being moral than the people who claim to be imbued with stronger moral fiber.

So I have one suggestion to the senators and everyone else. Rather than making all these hearings simply about removing this administration, how about putting a wider, more comprehensive, more encompassing context to them? If you want everyone to care, don’t just make it about yourselves and your political agenda. Like Lozada said, it shouldn’t be partisan.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

o siya, siya. let's move on na lang ulit. ganun ba?

ay, under moderation greed pala 'tong comment box na ito.

Pipe said...

I'd sincerely like to think that not "everyone" who has access to government contracts and funds resorts to "skimming off the top" (or as has been shown to sometimes be the case, "emptying the whole bottle") to make a living. Not everyone I've met from the government who I thought to be a decent person can have actually been a fraud.

Still, you're right in saying that the problem is institutional and systemic. Applying pressure to the President is not something likely to succeed (barring another resort to extrajudicial means which are, frankly, getting not only old but dangerous) and may not in any case be the best use of one's energy.

What might be more beneficial to the nation in the long run is to urge a top down examination of the system of bids, allocations and procurements by an independent body. If efforts were focused on that instead of on the far-fetched goal of a GMA resignation, we might get somewhere since (a) the administration might "cooperate" to an extent, out of sheer relief; (b) our elected officials might "cooperate" because of popular sentiment in favor of it.

I use "cooperate" in quotes of course, because I'm sure any guilty parties will only do so to the extent that they can cover their tracks - but those can be subject of regular investigations/ prosecutions. If we have a chance to re-examine this flawed system and correct it, we'll see benefits down the road I think.

Bong C. Austero said...

anonymous,

you obviously missed the point again. i am not surprised.

but in case you were just in a hurry to pontificate and to bash other people whom you perceive to have a contrary opinion, and couldnt be bothered to actually understand what i wrote, my point is not "to move on."

my point is: if you guys want to get more people to want to get involved - make it about something bigger, make it about changing the whole system - and yes, including Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

and oh, read pipe's comments; unlike you, he actually bothered to think about what i wrote.

Bong

Bong C. Austero said...

Pipe,
exactly! thanks for the sensible comment.

bong

Anonymous said...

I recently came across the website below regarding Mr. Jun Lozada and I thought I should share it with you:

patriots4truth.blogspot.com

The soundtrack it provides might help us discern the truth better about the man.