ON Saturday, Communications Undersecretary Manolo Quezon delivered what may be the funniest line ever uttered by President BS Aquino 3rd’s overstaffed propaganda bureau.
Addressing the topic of the RCBC money-laundering scandal, Quezon said, “On the whole, you can see that the system is working.”
What, exactly, is “working” in a scandal that has seen $81 million of another government’s money vanish into thin air by way of our banking system and casino industry, has put together the words “Philippines” and “money-laundering” in headlines all around the world for more than a week, and for which proper investigation has been rendered impossible by a bunch of senators figuratively trampling all over the crime scene with yet another tiresome hearing “in aid of legislation?”
As it has for the past six years, the government has responded to the RCBC mess like a teenager who has just wrecked his father’s car, but insists it’s not as bad as it looks because the radio still works.
Every government in this country’s history has had its scandals – it is a consequence of our rowdy, combative nature when it comes to politics – but there has been no government, not even during the darkest days of the Japanese occupation or the martial law era, that has had such a continuous string of ethical and moral failures, and has so poisoned the civic culture of our people as that of the feckless son of the Philippines’ putative ‘icons of democracy.’
From his very first weeks in office, when some of his close advisors were caught in misdeeds that should be beneath the dignity of officials of a national government – and when one of his own first acts was to purchase, under highly questionable circumstances, a Porsche sports car – Aquino has seemed determined to demonstrate that his government would represent the polar opposite of everything his endlessly-repeated blandishments about the “straight path” might be contrived to mean.
The list of the most damaging blunders goes on: standing idly by while tourists were massacred in Luneta Park; deporting Taiwanese suspects to China (and as a further affront to our nearest neighbor, responding with arrogance to Taiwan’s outrage at having a crew of one of its fishing boats gunned down by the Philippine Coast Guard); the breathtaking swindle of the ‘disbursement acceleration program;’ making secret deals with a sworn enemy of the Republic in a Tokyo hotel room; the appalling incompetence and insensitivity displayed in the mishandling of the Zamboanga, Typhoon Yolanda and Mamasapano tragedies; twisting the law the rare times he couldn’t ignore it entirely in pursuit of his political ‘enemies.’
No large population can live so long under such leadership without its culture being tainted, and it shows: Drug and violent crimes are out of control in some parts of the country, smuggling has ballooned into one of the country’s biggest businesses, and all around us, systems that in other places are ordinary, unremarkable trappings of a civilized society – trains that function reasonably well, agencies that are able to provide driver’s license cards or passports that don’t fall apart, airports that don’t oblige travelers to encase their luggage in packing tape to ensure it isn’t tampered with – are completely falling apart. It is little wonder, then, that a scandal of the magnitude of the RCBC money-laundering case would find fertile ground here.
Yes, Mr. Quezon, we can indeed see that “the system is working,” and that is precisely the problem. It is the system your boss has created, and if we cannot find a leader who can make at least a little progress in undoing it, we fear this country may not long survive.