IN the “Conclusion” chapter of El Filibusterismo (or The Reign of Greed, the second novel of Jose Rizal, whom we honor today), we read these words. In spirit and reality, the words Padre Florentino, the personification of Christian wisdom, moral outlook and authentic faith, addresses to the dying Simoun, the failed patriotic instigator of a revolution, directly apply to us all, Filipinos of today:
“Our ills we owe to ourselves alone, so let us blame no one. If Spain should see that we were less complaisant with tyranny and more disposed to struggle and suffer for our rights, Spain would be the first to grant us liberty, because when the fruit of the womb reaches maturity woe unto the mother who would stifle it! So, while the Filipino people has not sufficient energy to proclaim, with head erect and bosom bared, its rights to social life, and to guarantee it with its sacrifices, with its own blood; while we see our countrymen in private life ashamed within themselves, hear the voice of conscience roar in rebellion and protest, yet in public life keep silence or even echo the words of him who abuses them in order to mock the abused; while we see them wrap themselves up in their egotism and with a forced smile praise the most iniquitous actions, begging with their eyes a portion of the booty—why grant them liberty? With Spain or without Spain they would always be the same, and perhaps worse! Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.”
We are victims of tyranny exercised by the elites and dynastic families, like the one to whom our current President belongs and also provincial and municipal dynasts.
Their tyranny no longer includes the personal and racist humiliation that colonizers often made the Filipinos under them suffer. But the tyranny is the same in terms of withholding good governance to the people. This tyranny through bad and corrupt governance robs the people of the minimum comforts that efficient, caring and responsible public officials could give to the citizenry–for instance in the form of good transport service.
No sense of responsibility
If President BS Aquino 3rd’s arrogant boasts could be taken seriously at all, right about now a mob of irritated commuters ought to be tying him and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya to a set of train tracks, in preparation for the arrival of the train that the President bragged he and his hapless underling would be ready to be run over by if the LRT-1 extension to Cavite was not completed by the end of 2015.
On the incredible chance that there is anyone who is not aware of it, let us clarify that not only has the long-planned commuter rail expansion not been completed, not so much as a single shovelful of dirt has been moved for its construction in the more than two years since Aquino promised relief for Cavite commuters.
In China, unlike in the Philippines, some officials take a rather stern view of their duties. Over the weekend, two different officials paid the ultimate price for failing to meet their responsibilities. In Shandong Province, the owner of a collapsed gypsum mine, where at least one worker was killed and more than a dozen remain trapped, drowned himself in remorse for the accident. And in Shenzhen, where a huge landslide just over a week ago killed at least 7 people and left 75 others missing and presumed buried, a district chief for the City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau, committed suicide by jumping from a tall building.
We are certainly not suggesting that President Aquino or Secretary Abaya actually commit suicide, whether by being run over by a train or through other means, for their failures to fulfill their duties and promises to the public. But we definitely believe there is a level of commitment more appropriate to their responsibilities than the flippant manner in which they approach them.
The extension of the light rail transit line to nearby areas of Cavite – home to several hundred thousand daily commuters – is not a laughing matter, it is a critical piece of infrastructure that is desperately needed and is long overdue. For it to be casually tossed off with a joke – and later, brushed aside by Presidential mouthpiece Sonny Coloma with a glib assurance that government “is still pursuing the project” – is not even close to an acceptable explanation.
The commuting public was promised a light rail line. There is no light rail line, nor any evidence that anyone is even working on it, and that requires a serious answer. Even though we have had five-and-a-half years to become accustomed to it, the lack of any sense of responsibility in President Aquino and most of his underlings still amazes us.