• False freedom and insatiable greed


    Just before Independence Day the other week, a group of newly enrolled children from a shelter excitedly set out on the first day to walk to school at Sacatihan, Gala, Pamatawan, Subic town, Zambales.

    The road up the hill would give them an easy walk to freedom through education – the great liberator. But then, as they crested the hill, to their dismay the asphalt abruptly ended. The rains had turned the rest of the way into a muddy quagmire that had the children squelching their way through ankle-deep sticky mud, symbolic of the political corruption, waste and abuse that mires almost one third of the Filipinos in pitiless grinding poverty from which there is no freedom.

    Like thousands of others, the road is a fake or ghost project that had never been fully built. Even urgent requests to the governor to throw gravel from the exposed river bed on to the muddy road are so far unheeded. The children suffer and it became so bad in the past week that 26 children transferred to another school.

    This mess and the plunder and looting of public funds at the highest level of the Congress as the headlines announce daily is just one, very small indicator of a greater harm done to the people by some depraved and greedy politicians. How many more fake and fraudulent infrastructure projects are there like the one in Gala, Subic? There is no freedom from greed, it seems.

    Besides these small corruption-ridden projects, the extremely wealthy ruling elite in the Philippine Congress have allegedly plundered and looted billions of pesos from the treasury. Three prominent Senators have been charged, arrest warrants are imminent and many Congress people will join them in jail. Their “jails” are posh, luxuriously tiled, well, appointed bungalows built for ranking officers.

    They are incomparable to the stinking jail cells where the hungry street children are incarcerated, abused, beaten and raped for taking a banana in the market. The indictments by the Aquino administration are a glimmer of hope that change is possible but with billions of bribes at hand, justice is likely to be thwarted and the defendants will never answer for these alleged crimes. These funds came from the taxes imposed on the people especially the 17 to 20 percent VAT that were supposed to be used for rural development to alleviate poverty and build barangay roads to bring the children to school.

    Independence Day last June 12 was to celebrate the political freedom of a nation from colonial domination and exploitation. It’s a tortured history. First, the impoverished oppressed Filipinos struggled for liberation from the Spanish and almost succeeded. On the eve of independence, the North Americans declared war on the Spanish, landed troops in Manila in 1898 and took over, then sent home the defeated Spanish. The Filipinos fought back but after a few years of bitter war marked by atrocities, the American forces conquered them.

    They subdued and tamed most of the Filipinos, then the Japanese invaded and ousted the Americans in World War II. The people suffered greatly and the Japanese were eventually defeated and again the Filipinos struggled for independence from the United States of America and in 1946, they got it with string attached. But was it real freedom?

    They got political independence and a lot of unfair and exploitative trading arrangements and unequal treaties that enabled American corporations to exploit the country at will until the present. They were swamped with Americanization. So it was not true independence, a great dependency has been skillfully arranged. The democracy was a sham, in reality, the rich Spanish-Filipino families in close cooperation with the American corporations ruled without much opposition.

    The vast majority of Filipinos remained bitterly poor peasants and isolated tribal people. Philippine natural resources were ruthlessly exploited, enabled by unequal treaties, the riches of the nation flowed across the Pacific to America. The people were exported also. Filipino overseas workers flowed to the pineapple plantations of Hawaii to work in slave-like conditions.

    Little has changed. Eleven million Filipinos still go abroad to find economic freedom. The majority live with 25% unemployment and the freedom from poverty for the majority of Filipinos is still a dream. The economic news may boast of 7 percent economic growth but that is only for the oligarchy who have 70 percent of the wealth in their pockets.

    To quote from an Editorial in a national broad-sheet of March of last year: “The increase in the wealth of the 40 richest families in the Philippines that made it to the 2012 Forbes list of the world’s billionaires accounted for 76 percent of the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP). It’s one of the biggest rich-poor gaps in the free world and, Habito observed, the highest in Asia”. That is what they call Independence. [shaycullen@preda.org, www.preda.org]

    (Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times and publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)


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    1. coward filipinos deserve what they get,,,,,,,,,,the crooks deserve what they steal


    2. excellent synopsis. you only have to compare Philippins with Vietnam to discover the self-esteem that beating the USA brings to a country. Pride in your country rather than plundering public money to bring into the USA in socks to buy condos in Manhatten

    3. If you are right that you think justice wont be done against these corrupt scum in power then the people should rise up against them & take the law into their own hands & administer instant justice, not just to the guilty but to the ones that protect them. It will need a revolution with teeth not just words as thats what these scum politicians are good at, words. I for one dont want to listen to their words as i cant stand to listen to liars. I know father you wouldnt favour killing these people but its the only option, nothing else will work, they can manipulate the law ( as these law makers have made it that way just in case any of them ever get caught. The french had it right in their revolution & it benefitted them, sometimes drastic action is needed

    4. E. G. Festin on

      Correct again,. Fr, Shay.
      I just wonder why you quoted an editorial from another daily when your own newspaper has published similar data and opinions as yours.