In reaction to the four-part “20 questions on Tuwid na Daan” article (published August 14, 16, 19 and 21, and available via the manilatimes.net Archive link), readers of a more activist bent were wondering how knowing more, staying straight, praying and caring would stop creeping one-man rule unchecked and unbalanced by browbeaten Congress and courts, partisan constitutional bodies, and co-opted media and civil society. Shouldn’t we be marching in the streets like the pork barrel protesters massing at Rizal Park on Monday?
No doubt, political action also plays a major part in national change: the 1896, 1986 and 2001 uprisings swept unwanted regimes from power, while the 2010 elections was supposed to install a regime of good governance. Yet time and again, opportunistic politicians and their cronies have rebuilt their rapacious clout, often seducing or pressuring supposed leaders of change, from Kamag-anak Inc. in 1986 to Kaklase, Kakampi at Kabarilan today.
Hence, the first and more important step toward real, lasting fundamental social reform has to be inner, personal change. Informing the mind to see and share the real state of governance and politics, undistorted by vested interests and partisan loyalties. Disciplining the will to constantly avoid corruption and advance integrity and the common good.
And most of all, the determination, patience and endurance to persevere despite setbacks, mistakes, suffering and impossible odds. Just like Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, Manuel Quezon and Claro Recto, Ninoy Aquino and Jose Diokno. For the demonic cabals and structures fearing and opposing real change have been building their corrupt power and unholy alliances for ages, constantly regaining clout even after major reform movements. And now, they are more powerful than ever.
Just consider one top politician who has wielded immense clout in government, media and society for nearly two decades. He is one of the five top officials in the land, a post he has held in more than one administration. He has run one of the most populous and wealthy cities in the country. His family controls a leading media entity, though they are set to sell majority ownership. A close relative is high up in one of the most corrupt agencies. And if there is constitutional change, he will play a leading role in it.
Like others in the ruling class, this power broker is not keen to see pork barrel abolished, investigated or stringently audited. Even after his family relinquishes ownership of its media enterprise, his relatives and minions in the outfit will continue to reflect his perspective, if not oblige his promptings. Nor will his kind want to see their lucrative connections in graft-ridden agencies and local governments curtailed.
With such powerful, privileged, prestigious and well-positioned potentates holding sway in national and local affairs generation after generation, advocates of reform and progress necessarily have to work with or through them. Many such well-meaning change and development agents quietly but effectively served even under leaders of unsavory reputation. And even in the upheavals that removed hated regimes, the successors who took over were also from that clique of power.
Which is why in driving reform, it is indispensable that its advocates and supporters see the ills and evils around them, including among the powerful entities they have to work with or officially serve. At the same time, change agents must take care not to be seduced by the power, privilege and perks of lofty position and prerogative.
And when the battle lines are at last drawn, as they would inevitably be, Filipinos seeking a better future for the nation and their families and communities must be ready to struggle, sacrifice, and suffer ignominy, reprisal, failure, betrayal, penury, injury, imprisonment, and even death.
So when citizens crusading for good governance and transparent, accountable and honest public service, congregate in Rizal Park on Monday to denounce the pork barrel and call for its drastic reform or abolition, let them know that victory is neither certain, nor painless.
They will have to battle what fellow columnist Tony Lopez rightly called “the biggest criminal syndicate in the country,” whose resistance to radical system change has support from no less than President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who has used pork barrel to pressure Congress. The same can be said for crusades against two other sources of political largesse: tax and tariff collections and jueteng. Not to mention the imperative to expose and correct automated election flaws, which corrupt the very core of democracy.
Nonetheless, those Filipinos sincerely seeking the unbiased truth, staunchly living by ethical standards, and embracing challenges and difficulties for social reform and the national interest, their efforts will bear fruit, at least in their limited circles of influence, and in conjunction with similar struggles by others committed to what’s right and just.
The writings and achievements of Rizal and other expatriate Propagandists, and his martyrdom eventually opened the eyes and steeled the hearts of Filipino nationalists who then ignited Asia’s first nationalist revolution. The incarceration and incessant advocacies of Ninoy Aquino and other anti-Marcos dissidents, watered by their blood, kindled people power. Today, the nation needs new patriots speaking the truth, living and working for righteousness and justice, and fighting for change with their words, deeds and lives.
To be sure, the present struggle for change, like past ones, will be messy, with political alliances and compromises tarnishing even the saintly. That’s exactly why knowledge and integrity are most important to avoid becoming part of the problem even as the good have to join hands with the not-so-good. It is also the reason why the Catholic Church, despite its own human failings and foibles, must take a leading role in driving change. Frankly, any other national entity would be more prone to being compromised.
The Church’s involvement is essential for another reason besides maintaining moral and spiritual focus: the need for divine grace and guidance. Given the power and ruthlessness of those opposing change, no less than God Himself will need to sway souls, inspire and mobilize good men and women, and somehow stanch the dastardly schemes of the entrenched oppressive class.
Many spiritually minded Filipinos believe that was what happened in 1986, when rosaries and crucifixes stopped tanks and armalites. Indeed, the year before, the Philippines was the only Catholic country to follow Pope John Paul II’s call to declare 1985 a year honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two months after that Marian year ended, the EDSA Revolution ousted Marcos.
We pray that this year’s dedication of the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary will also grace the nation with another milestone in our never-ending struggle for righteousness, justice, peace and compassion in our land.