Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Remembering Pork Barrel

I hope I’m wrong about this, but I’m getting an intuitive sense that the collective shock and anger caused by the Pork Barrel fiasco is beginning to fade a tad. Someone please tell me that this isn’t so and that it’s just a matter of my being prematurely pessimistic. Although I lack any expert consensus on the matter, I fear that Filipinos are ever so slightly shifting their attention away from one of the most egregious fiduciary misappropriations in Philippine political history. And that’s saying a lot considering the Philippines’ long history of politically-induced fiduciary misappropriations.

A lot of Filipinos picture the Pork Barrel scam in two ways: there are those who see it as a form of moral turpitude that should never be excused under any circumstances; and then there are those who inform their judgment of the scandal with a combination of waning outrage and measured standards about the innocence or guilt of the accused.

It is due to this that we can detect the smatterings of compounded diffidence among once-indignant Filipinos. If on the mark, some would say that this would confirm that the so-called Filipino value of “ningas cogon” is rearing its head again in the face of the latest political and financial transgression that has been thrust upon Filipinos. “Ningas Cogon” summed up, refers to Filipinos’ alleged tendency not to finish what they’ve started. Like the type of grass that it is named after, ningas cogon reflects the purported Filipino pattern of coming out on fire at the beginning but then burning out like a flash in the pan.

Some very proud Filipinos would regard ningas cogon as an unfair characterization of themselves. But let’s look at part of the record over the past quarter century: none of the Marcoses have been punished for their crimes against the Filipino people and they are in fact planning a political comeback; Joseph Estrada was pardoned for his executive corruption and then elected Manila mayor; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues to stave off true incarceration by staying in an innocuous state of hospital arrest, all the while serving as a congresswoman; numerous politicians in both the House of Representative and the Senate who are strongly suspected of corruption and other felonies remain in office. How could all of this have transpired if the voters were active and vigilant as they should have been?

Ninotchka Rosca wrote in her 1988 novel, “State of War,” that the Philippines is “a country of beginnings.” She is right in suggesting that Filipinos are always willing to light the fire of change and evolution, but do they have the staying power to see the process through to its conclusion? Anyone trying to write mostly in a sanguine chord here can go on the record as appearing hopeful and optimistic about Filipinos. Fine, more power to these indigenous particularists. But “ningas cogon” captures the truth about a lot of Filipinos, that their first and last instinct is to cling to immediacy, that they---and this perhaps is human nature---wallow in anger and outrage at the outset only to squander the power that discontented emotion can generate and lose it to the multitude of banal demands that everyday life imposes on them.

Everybody knows with a fair degree of accuracy that certain parties were all but caught red-handed in ripping off the pork barrel fund of millions of dollars, not just pesos. What I want to know is this: are Filipinos little more than a bunch of “beginners” who will give in to impatience and frustration with the drawn-out nature of the pork barrel scam and therefore find “better” things to do with their lives? As the storm of the scandal hits lulls of public attention, it becomes too easy for Filipinos to grow weary of the whole mess, which is exactly what the politicians in question want. The Estradas, the Revillas, Enrile, and other indicted individuals are stalling for time, hoping that the longer the scandal drags on, the more likely public attention will fall off.

This article is my way of calling out those Filipinos who are standing apathetically on the sidelines or who are losing interest. If you think what I wrote here is wrong, then prove it by not letting go of the Pork Barrel scam until justice has been done to the perpetrators.


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