Catch 22

This is my column today.

I have absolutely no doubt that the Arroyo administration is deliberately taking advantage of the rice crisis to deflect attention from the accusations of bribery and corruption that have bedeviled it in the last three years. It can be pointed out of course that the inordinate focus on the scandals is also on the wane as people have eventually gotten tired of waiting for the smoking gun that never came. Apparently there was… none, zilch, nada. Yet again. What an utter waste, indeed, to see that all that screaming and wailing in the Senate has yielded nothing again.

Nothing works better than a crisis to get people preoccupied. And if the crisis has to do with something as basic as staple food—and therefore survival—of course people are bound to forget everything else and focus on the crisis at hand. Naturally.

So of course, this whole rice crisis is a proverbial blessing in disguise for this administration. At the very least, the rice crisis provides opportunities to show the President in action and being in control. Last week, people once again saw the flash of the legendary temper as she put NBI operatives to task for—supposedly— misplaced priorities.

The problem is that the rice crisis is potentially bigger than any crisis we’ve had. It is a global problem that has sparked riots in other countries. True, unlike oil, which does not gush forth from this country’s bowels, we have the production capability to produce rice.

Unfortunately, rice takes a few months to grow. It requires water, lots and lots of water. In case people have missed it, we’re in the middle of a scorching summer. It will take some time before we are able to produce rice, and it remains doubtful if we can produce enough. The experts from the International Rice Research Institute have categorically asserted that the possibility of a steady supply and lower prices within the next 12 months is remote. Not unlike the possibility of another major scandal involving this administration being unearthed.

So the rice crisis may have given this administration some reprieve, but it is a short and temporary one. By thrusting it at center stage, this administration has unwittingly created a potentially unmanageable situation. We are already seeing a chain reaction involving the spiraling prices of other commodities, hoarding, and panic buying. And consequently, demand for higher wages, higher transportation fares, ad nauseum. It’s a formula for utter chaos.

Speaking of Catch 22 situations, I don’t know if anyone out there still listens to the gibberish that former President Joseph Estrada babbles about every time a microphone is shoved in his face. He was at it again last week and sadly, although I am not surprised at all that he and his handlers still fail to perceive something so very obvious, he continues to do the opposition a major disservice. All the man needs to do is open his mouth to blow the opposition’s much-vaunted invincibility into smithereens.

Estrada remains popular, particularly with the masses. But I doubt if anyone out there wants to vote for him again for President. By presenting himself as a unity candidate, he has ironically created the opportunity for disunity in the opposition. By attempting to buttress the ranks of the opposition, he has only succeeded in disaffecting many towards the cause of the opposition. What, after all that trouble we end up with Estrada again? No way.

Estrada last week scoffed at the rice crisis as simply another gimmick of this administration, although his spin on the issue was different. He smells the stink of corruption in the administration’s massive importation of rice and has directly accused the administration of engaging in a nefarious scheme to raise money for 2010. The possibility that something sinister is in the works is very likely. We do know that some people’s greed is beyond moderation. But Estrada as a prophet of virtue and incorruptibility? That’s sick.

And finally, the buzz over the weekend was Delfin Justiniano Montano’s coming out on public television purportedly to defend himself, his family and his friends from the hurricane of accusations that Australian Brian Gorrell has spewed in a blog. Montano’s act was a brave albeit methinks pointless attempt to salvage whatever little is left of his honor and reputation. Before his appearance on public television, his name was not even mentioned by media and the lurid accusations remained in the category of “gossip.” He has now opened the floodgates and has given Gorrell’s accusations some measure of legitimacy. He is no longer “he who must remain unnamed.”

Ironically, on the day Montano came out on public television, Gorrell’s blog recorded the highest number of hits— more than 120,000 all in one day. What Montano has failed to perceive is the power of blogs. A blog is on the net 24 hours a day readily accessible by anyone. He can’t match that with one solitary public appearance on television.

That act of defense has further crucified him in the bar of public opinion and has given Gorrell and his sympathizers more reasons to pillory him. As of this writing, Montano’s statements have been dissected and vivisected by so many in Gorrell’s blog, one even provided helpful links to neuro linguistics programming tips on reading non-verbal behaviors to detect when someone is telling brazen lies.

And to top it all, his mother may have created more animosity when she scoffed, on public television, would you believe— “What is 70,000 dollars?!?” The quick answer to that of course is: Someone’s hard-earned savings; an amount many less fortunate people would willingly die for and could only dream of. It’s not an amount one sneers at.


Anonymous said…
To be quite frank, it saddens me that so many people are letting themselves get so caught up in the Gucci gang scandal.

Not to sound callous, but shouldn't matters like this be resolved quitely? I feel we have bigger problems to worry about, such as the recent gas price increase or the rice shortage.

I'd understand Gorrel blogging about it in light of his frustrations, but the Montanos going live just to air their side?

I also heard their statements, and I must say they've really dug their own hole. What arrogance!

I've just discovered this blog of yours, Mr. Austero. Please keep it up - they're good reads!
Bong C. Austero said…
thank you for the comment. i think people are caught up in the scandal because:

1. it involves people that apparently many others hate, after all;

2. it involves someone people can empathize with, someone taken advantage of;

3. there are social issues engendered - hiv/aids, homosexuality, how we deal with foreigners, hypocrisy, the social set, etc.


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