“But we will not perish because we are not afraid to talk about our weaknesses and we will learn to overcome them.”
— Vladimir Ilyech Lenin
I remember very well what Speaker Jose B. “Pepito” Laurel, Jr. used to tell me when he was our Minority Floor Leader in the regular Batasang Pambansa (The Parliament).
“You know, Bono, it is better to be insane than stupid,” he said.
“Why, Mr. Speaker?” I pretended not to know the difference.
“Because there is a hospital for the insane but there is no hospital for the stupid,” he replied.
“That’s true, Mr. Speaker, insanity has cure but stupidity has none,” I said in agreement.
It has been three decades since the Batasan days but nothing much has changed in our country; probably for the worse but not for the better.
When I ran as the Opposition candidate for governor of Misamis Oriental under martial law, I had no money except P200,000 (TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS) from my wife, Marge, who is the daughter of a former governor of our province, Alfonso Ratunil Dadole. The leader of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), Vice-President Emmanuel N. Pelaez belittled me so much, saying in his speeches that I did not have a Chinaman’s chance to be elected.
My weapons against the millions of my opponent and the powerful Marcos machine were all God given gifts – brains, balls and tongue. The rest is history; the people of my province demolished the Pelaez and Marcos machines and elected me as one of two opposition governors out of 73 provincial governors in the country. As they say, God works in mysterious ways.
In my province today, one cannot get elected dogcatcher, unless he has money and much of it. So times have already changed – for the worse but not for the better.
THE ELECTORAL: The electoral process is the touchstone of the democratic system. On Election Day, the voter is the most powerful citizen of the country; he elects our leaders. The voter, however, must exercise his intelligent judgment but must never sell his vote. Today, majority of our voters sell their votes, which is a criminal offense. The candidates buy their votes, which is a worse criminal offense. The Comelec manipulates the votes, which is the worst criminal offense. The teachers who are members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), the police and the military conspire in the manipulation of the votes, which is another criminal act.
As of today, the whole electoral process is criminal; so what is the idea of participating in elections, which is a criminal process. Is not participation a form of insanity?
THE JUDICIAL: The general knowledgeable perception is that the judicial process, as a rule, is a money and influence game; it is a case of whom you know but not what you know. In the engagement of lawyers, the first consideration is the influence of lawyers with prosecutors, judges and justices and other agencies of government. Even in the Supreme Court, clients want influential lawyers like Estelito Mendoza because they have access and influence in the highest perches of our judicial system. In the Supreme Court, many people comment that cases of powerful and influential persons like Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Grace Poe are decided with surprising speed while cases filed by poor and underprivileged creatures like Herman Tiu Laurel and this writer are made to pass unnoticed and become moot and academic like the petition for certiorari on the Corona impeachment and the petition to declare the 2010 elections unconstitutional and illegal which will become moot and academic if not decided before the May 9 elections.
Many cases are enjoying a Rip Van Winkle sleep in the Prosecutors’ Offices, Department of Justice, the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, and the regular courts for long periods of time. Justice delayed is justice denied. As they say, deprive a man of food and he will beg for food; deprive a man of justice and he will join the revolution!
THE LEGISLATIVE: It is one of the most expensive institutions of government. We have two houses of Congress composed of about 320 members infamous for the following activities – fruitless and lengthy investigations; composed of most ignorant citizens of this country whose resume can well be qualifications of barangay chairmen; the stealing of peoples’ money in the hundreds of millions in the PDAF and the DAP; scandalous immorality in their public and private lives; absenteeism unheard of even in the worst of our legislatures; and taking ages in passing laws mandated by the Constitution like demolishing or regulating political dynasties, or even those that are necessarily obvious like the freedom of information and the right to reply bills. The current Congress and the past Congresses are notorious for their inutility.
THE EXECUTIVE: After Ferdinand E. Marcos, most of our Presidents lacked vision and qualifications; were ignoramuses in various levels; immoral and incompetent in the conduct of government; overwhelmed by graft and corruption; ignorant in the use of executive powers even in the observance of their oath under the Constitution which is to “faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation.” Cory Aquino was a disaster; Fidel Ramos was a calamity; Erap Estrada was a coupled disaster; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was a multiplied calamity; and PNoy Aquino is a catastrophe. The Cabinet of every President since Marcos almost to a man was involved in various degrees of graft and corruption. The Presidents were never able to decimate rebellion and dissidence in the country. They have multiplied in number with the passing of the years.
THE SCHOOLS: Whether they are private or public, they have failed in the task of educating our children in terms of the collapse of the humanist value system; erroneous curriculum; failure in the building of character and discipline of the students; and inability to teach love of country in the most effective and pragmatic terms. Trees are known by the fruits that they bear, a Cebuano saying goes. To validate this saying, all one needs to do is look at the products of our schools – whether elementary, high school or college. Disappointing is the mild term to describe them; disgusting is the more appropriate term to define them.
THE CHURCHES: There is not much to say by way of praise to categorize them. Most of the Churches in this country are failures in the task of educating their flock. There is too much theorizing and verbalizing, which is not translated into action. Most of them prey on the incalculable ignorance of their followers. They are also involved in corruption in various forms – from corruption of the young to the corruption of women; corruption of their priests or pastors to the corruption of the leaders of their Churches. They are fast in saying, individually or collectively, that this country needs transformation when their leaders cannot transform themselves from their known and established corrupt habits to those of a properly oriented individual with character and discipline, and acts with the proper human values.
THE BUSINESSMEN AND OTHER OLIGARCHS: They do not observe labor laws; they think only of themselves; they are not concerned with the general welfare but only of profits; they support candidates, specially presidential wannabes not from the standpoint of qualifications and who could serve the country best but those who will serve their family and business interests; they do not pay the correct taxes; they flaunt their wealth and luxurious habits unashamedly in the midst of poverty and squalor of the ordinary citizen; and they wallow and delight in the filth of our current system which promotes national degradation.
THE REBELS OR SO-CALLED REVOLUTIONARIES: Some of these groups have been there for the past 57 years – fighting in the mountain vastnesses, in the hills and in the countryside. Their theory is obviously wrong. This country is an archipelago. The correct approach to rebellion or revolution in this country is to do it in the cities. In Leninist term, it is insurrection in the cities and it should be done only in the cities of Metro Manila. The correct precedents are EDSA I and EDSA II, though it need not be done the way it was done in these two examples. There are more effective ways to do it without involving massive crowds. All you need, as I keep on repeating, are a courageous and intelligent leader, logistics and apparatus. After that, all you need is four months at the maximum to effect the change of government. The rest will just follow to make revolutionary dramatic changes. You do not need 50 years to capture power, all you need is not more than four months and the game is over.
THE FAMILY: It is the primary institution in building a nation. The family today is a total failure in the raising of a good human being, much less a Filipino worthy of the country in which he lives. The government needs to reorient and retrain this institution in the proper and disciplined approach to the raising and training of a citizen properly armed with the proper human values
THE POLITICAL PARTIES: The current political parties are possibly the greatest inutile institution in the country today. They have no vision of what the country should be. They have no blue print to follow if their candidates are installed in office. They chose some of the most crooked, unprepared and ignorant candidates during elections. They do not have an intelligent process in choosing candidates either on the national or local level. There are only two basic elements in the choice of their candidates – money and/or popularity. There is no system followed in the choice of candidates. In the old days, whether it is presidential or mayoral, it is always through the process of a convention. Now, it is by self-acclamation or party dictation. There is no more consultation with the people. The people are just limited to the self-acclaimed candidates or the ones dictated by the parties.
Where are we now and where do we go from here?
For now, with the way our citizens behave, specially the voters, it appears that the country has gone insane – the symptoms are too glaring to ignore. Tomorrow seems too grim to contemplate. There seems to be no way out. In my studied assessment of the present circumstances, the country is at the crossroads. The choices are very limited. It is like Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty – the knight in shining armor. But he failed to appear.
It is easy to wish for a messiah. As our secretary in our law office articulates: wishing for a knight in shining armor or a messiah is a hallucination at noon day – like searching for a needle in a haystack, as the cliché goes, or similar to Diogenes looking for an honest man in the middle of the day.
The human factor is an imponderable factor. What appears hopeless in one moment brings surprises in the next. This is my hope. This is my article of faith. As Kalidasa put it so well, “For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow a vision. But today well lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day, such is the salutation to the dawn.”