Bumped into a friend (all of my friends are low-caste) a few days back. He was all red-faced and flustered. Malungkut ku, kilung de ing idol ku. (I am sad. They jailed my idol.), he said in our dialect. Of course, of course, are not we all, I said. It was a statement that I had to fake. He is an ordinary Joe but one flowing with the milk of human kindness. And to his grief, you had to show phony sympathy.
That reaction to the jailing of Senator Bong Revilla may be a discordant note in the righteous symphony of the commentariat. But looking at the sentiments at ground level on the jailing of the pork barrel scam senators, the punditry and the outraged netizens will be in for a major jolt. The ordinary Joe reared on the agimat movies of Ramon Revilla Senior and Junior have their outrage the other way around—anger at the government over the jailing of Ramon Junior.
Anak nang teteng.
The online glee over the jailing of the pork barrel senators (Jinggoy soon joined his ka kosa) is not at all the sentiment of ordinary citizens not in the cyber loop. Worse is the growing consensus at low-caste land that the Aquino administration has been engaged in selective prosecution: jailing the political foes and coddling the allies.
What has happened to the President’s interminable hectoring on “tuwid na daan?” By this time (four full years of endless lectures about following the righteous path), one would expect some a seismic shift on how the ordinary citizens view politicians accused of the high crime of plunder. You would expect outrage, the public pressure to jail the scammers pronto, the overwhelming support to clean Congress of its Aegean stables.
Yet, at the communities that can neither blog nor tweet, we see the same idolatry toward these tainted demi-gods: Bong, Jinggoy et al. There is a silent, barely-expressed sympathy for the alleged cohorts of Napoles. It may not translate into a mass action to free their senator-idols. Sadness does not translate into action. The ordinary Joe is too cowardly to do that.
But in the election of 2016, with the presidency at stake, discerning Filipinos have to fear this scenario: Bong, the presidential candidate, and Jinggoy, the vice presidential candidate, getting more votes than the anointed of Mr. Aquino.
They may not win enough votes to snag the presidency but they will definitely get more votes than the team to be endorsed by the incumbent president.
And—take note—this will be the lasting image that would haunt Mr. Aquino while he counts the days of the transition to the next president. His team being outvoted at the polls by two prospective lifetime felons.
Legacy to the nation? There will be no talk of that. The next president, impressed by the good showing of the Bong-Jinggoy team at the polls, would probably move to pardon the two.
What has happened to Mr. Aquino’s morality crusade? What has it failed to gain resonance and traction? Why was the historic jailing of senators unappreciated at the level of the masses? Is it a case of ordinary Filipinos being stubbornly star-struck ?
Or, it is something else, something more fundamental?
The sympathy for the jailbirds is rooted on two things. First is the lack of appreciation by ordinary Filipinos of the sterling growth figures and reform initiatives of the Aquino administration. They can’t feel it, it has not changed their lives and it is too intangible.
The food on the table has been the same. The availability of opportunities for their kids has not moved a bit. There is no reason to expect a better life ahead. Why would they take the side of the President against the reel idols?
The second is there is no sizable center that would uphold and champion a society with rock-solid civic virtues, a solid middle class that would support a vigorous anti-corruption drive. The center that would have been a natural ally of President Aquino is in the various Pinoy diasporas overseas. It is an absent center. More, the OFWs, the de facto center, basically have unformed views on the civic role played by an emergent middle class.
Who benefited from the economic miracle? Why can’t the majority of Filipinos identify with amazing growth rates so lavishly praised by the WEF/ Davos crowd?
As usual, it is the plutocrats. They have, in a breathtaking manner, taken advantage of government-initiated infrastructure contracts, state-owned urban lands and other crown jewels of the patrimony auctioned-off to them for development, government regulations tailored fit for the plunder of natural resources. And relaxed labor rules that allowed them to pay service sector workers slave wages.
The rising tide ushered in by the Aquino government lifted the yachts—and sank the rickety boats. So it is no wonder that the Davos crown applauds, while the rest of the Philippine society is alienated and outside of the supposed miraculous strides trumpeted by the administration.
The alienated class will of course, get its sweet revenge. In 2016, there will be a total rejection of the President’s chosen. The artistas he so loathes, campaigning as jailbirds, will get more votes than his candidates.