Lean, anemic pork protest. Queues at the Marcos Museum in far Ilocos

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On the day a million citizens were supposed to gather at Rizal Park to protest the pork barrel scam, less than 6,000 attended, to the great disappointment of the anti-pork leaders, mostly poseurs and hypocrites who have seized on the anti-pork rage for self-aggrandizement. And what a letdown it was. Days before the August 25 protest, these leaders primed themselves up for stellar roles at the Park and the attendant media coverage, angling for another 15 minutes of fame.

The crowds did not come. The media coverage did not rise to their expectation. Worse, some media outlets even headlined their stories with the thinning and less-animated protest crowd. The 15 minutes of fame sought turned into a day-long frustration for the poseurs.

But this was the ultimate putdown. On the day of the protest, there were queues at the Marcos Museum in Ilocos Norte, where the paying crowds (there is an entrance fee) packed the publicly displayed, but well-preserved corpse of Mr. Marcos. The bastion of the Marcoses so teemed with visitors that Fort Ilocandia, with room rates of up to P9,000 per night, had admission desks that got drained and exasperated from telling visitors “ No rooms available.” The less rated hotels in and around the area had 100 percent occupancy rates.

This message was eminently delivered. People (mostly from the NCR) would rather view the embalmed body of a ruthless despot whose rule had snuffed out thousands of young lives and ruined a nation than march into a citizens gathering of—supposedly – the highest, noblest purpose.

As if this thing was on the minds of most citizens that day, the National Heroes Day: How can we escape from the phony angst of the do-gooders at the Park? They decided to take a trip to the turf of a late despot in far Ilocos Norte than gather at the Park. The fact that Marcos Junior, now a senator, has been named as one of the legislators who delivered tens of millions of pesos to the phony NGOs of Janet Napoles added insult to that supreme irony.

Those two optics on National Heroes Day—thinning anti-pork protests and queues at the Marcos tomb—aptly summed up the tragedy of our sad sack of a nation.

Why has the initial fire of the protest reduced to the size of dying embers? In the ideal world, fatigue should not set in. The cause against the pork barrel scam is a legitimate, worthy one. Never in our legislative history has the use of pork reached that height of brazenness and corruption. Pork comes with sleaze, that was accepted. But there was always a delivery against the release of pork, whether it was a substandard infrastructure road or bridge, or overpriced farm machineries.

An outright SARO for Cash exchange was not practiced. So when SAROs were exchanged for duffels bags of cash, the exchange done by women in Escada outfits and Hermes bags, the nation was right to revolt—and sustain that revolt over the most brazen act of corruption in our legislative history was deemed as a moral imperative.

Why then are the protests losing fire and steam? There are many answers and we can name some.

One is the overreach by the Commission on Audit (COA).

The current COA leadership now appears to have morphed into the anti-government wing of the Republican Party, the Rand Pauls and Paul Ryans of the world. The government has always been a wasteful and corrupt intruder into activities better done by private business. A good government is a government that barely functions at all, or a government cut down to the size of a chicken nugget.

Every activity of government, from beefing up the obsolete weather forecasting infrastructure and systems, to feeding the malnourished children of the country, has been tainted by monkey business and sleaze. Nothing that the government does, in the view of the COA, is unblemished by dirty hands.

The truth is legislators (senators and congressmen) will monkey around with most pork barrel activities but not with one thing—feeding malnourished children. There are eight to nine million children of school age that are being wasted by malnutrition. And legislators, no matter how corrupt they are, always made it a point to use every peso of the pork allotted for child feeding, for child feeding, the commissions forfeited. The incentive to steal from child feeding funds was also reined in by one thing—the returns, if ever, were penny ante.

Or, how can massive irregularities attend the purchase of facilities for weather forecasting?

Second reason is the phoniness of the publicity-starved anti-pork protest leaders also turn many decent citizens off. Third reason is the incessant but silent probe of the Ombudsman staff on the legislators named in the COA special audit report. This also guarantees that those who used pork to enrich themselves will be indicted. And those who used pork for the broader good will have their names cleared.

The fourth reason is the most compelling and current. Right now, most citizens feel that the public outrage should be directed at attempts to rewrite the constitution to extend the term of the president and to sneak in some odious economic provisions.

This column was originally titled “ Want a million man march? Stage a charter change protest. ”

Very true. A protest against the planned charter change would draw in people from all walks of life and of various political and religious persuasions. Stage it and they will come.

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8 Comments

  1. Mr. Ronquillo again hit it right on the button. His incisive analysis of our social, economic and cultural problems always amaze. I always anticipate his columns because they reflect the issues ailing this country. Keep them coming mr Ronquillo!

  2. The problem with us Filipinos is, we are so used to the feudal system that we tend to bow down to the rich and powerful. Even in finding friends, people look for someone he/she can be proud of, that means-money and power. Even with relatives, people recognize relatives with money and/or power and tend to disregard the poor relatives, forgetting them a part of the blood line. In politics we carry on the same mentality. we still salute the powerful and the rich. Most people beam with pride when they are friends with the wealthy. Why people still pay to see marcos who was a known dictator and allegedly caused the death of many,it is feudalism. they are still inspired by his wealth, him having been the Ilocano president, him being the father of the senator and husband of a representative. People want to be part of that family who are still in power. That is why it is hard for our country to rise up from the ashes and move forward because of this mentality.

    • Agreed. Filipinos still have feudalistic and colonialistic insecurity hangover. Due to huge economic disparity between the rich and the poor and small middle class, the poor being 60% of the populace! it will surely happen that the majority of the poor will put these rich people and powerful politicians up to the pedestal for them to idolize whether these rich segment of society and powerful politicians are honest or corrupt! The social insecurity of poor majority becomes vulnerable and gullible to the crooked agenda of these corrupt and dubious politicians! In short, their moral values are not considered by them in choosing an honest and good political leader. It is rather the social status of the community or national leader that they choose to elect whether the politician is corrupt or honest as long as he appears wealthy and powerful and can emote as a leader who can uplift the lot of the poor.
      The majority of the poor people ( not only Ilocanos ) constitute as the segment of voters who made Marcos Jr. won as Senator because the are still in awe of the Marcos STOLEN wealth and remaining political power.
      Those who voted for Marcos did not weigh in their moral values but their own social ambivalence and insecurity in choosing an alternative. This approach is true in the cases of the Estrada’s, Binays, Revillas, Cayetanos, Pimentels, Guingonas, Angaras, Enrile’s. Poor people have believed the continuance of family political rule as if they are the landlords and the voters are peasants to serve their landlord-landowner! These psychological Filipino thinking must end and each individual must be independent-minded and respect their own moral values in choosing their leaders! To exercise your judgment based on your moral values and compass will guide you to doing righteous and honest choices whether in electing a leader or going into a business venture or finding your lifetime partner and family!

  3. The pork barrel scandal has had its heyday in the media. The recent People’s Initiative has been downplayed (especially in Television) to such an extent that many people around the country has not heard of it. It will take a long road to inform the people of this action in order to rid the country of a dreaded desease called the pork barrel.

  4. Sana merong writer na isulat ang pagkakaiba ng panahon ni marcos na sinasabi ng mga oligarchs na masama at mga santo santitang yellow mafia kompara sa mga pangulo noon hanggang sa mga Aquino kung sino ang pinakmaraming magnanakaw at nagawa kahit pagsamasamhin ang lahat ng pangulo pagkatapos ni marcos,
    Ang ipinaglalaban lang naman noon ng laban kay marcos ay sarili nilang negosyo at interest katulad ng ginagawa nila ngayon hindi para sa mayayaman kung hindi sa sarili nila,malinaw pa sa sikat ng araw ang kasakiman nila,,itinatak nila sa isipan ng mga inosenting at uto-utong mga tao na sila ay taga-pagligtas at iaahon sila sa kahirap pero sa maraming taon na nakalipas lalo lamang nabaaon sa hirap ang bansa,
    Aminin man ng mga taong sumusuporta sa mga Aquino ay totoong niloko lang nila ang mamamayan,katulad ng paniniwala,na marami paring katoliko na naniniwala sa mga pari !! Sana balang araw malinawan angmarami pa,sa mga nangyayari sa bansa natin,
    Mga senator at mga congcongressman ngayon kahit wala kang sakit, kukulo ang dugo mo sa sobrang kakapal ng mukha at wala ng dignidad!!ito yata ang uso ngayon,lahat ng masama ay tinatakilik

  5. Samuel santos, & thats the most important thing you can say after reading this article, Marlen is a lady right. Doesnt it go to show what is wrong with this country. Surely the content is of more importance than the sex of the author. But hey thats the sort of questions you get in this country & thats why nothing will ever change. But im afrain samuel you will get upset by my words instead of trying to do better.

  6. I would ask one thing why is marcos allowed to lie in state as a national hero. This country gives him a god like stance. It votes in members of his family including his very wife who was an equal part of the pair who stole billions & billions of pesos from this country. Why does the filipino do such stupid things. Its like they want to be kept as surfs & downtrodden. I know what i would have done & the first thing is imelda would be rotting in jail not living the wonderful privileged life she is living. In her saln doesn she claim to have almost 1 billion pesos. Where did that come from. Its so easy to find out but i havent seen a single one of you press who ever mention it. You really do in this country deserve what you have. If you will never move on from stupidity then stay stupid & let the elite continue on its merry way.

  7. Samuel Santos on

    Marlen is a lady writer, right?

    Reply: No, sir. Mr. Marlen Ronquillo is male and proud of being so. The feminine version of Marlen is Marlene. Thanks for reading The Manila Times, Mr. Santos.