Who was the young Filipino who did most for the country this year in terms of changing things for the better? Who exhibited the most courage under extreme pressure? Whose statements have driven Philippine officialdom to radically and profoundly alter the budget process without much debate? Whose chubby and smiling face—a profile of truth-telling—revealed the SARO-for-Cash scandal that is yet without precedent in the annals of official corruption?
And shocked a nation that thought it was already immune to lurid and outsized stories of congressional kickbacks in particular and official corruption (top-level) in general.
The answer? Benhur Luy, never mind the efforts of some Catholic priests under Janet Napoles’s payroll to cast doubt on his integrity as the principal witness in the most explosive corruption scandal in contemporary times. Priests, historically, have been employing ad hominem attacks to defend the corrupt wealthy against charges from truthful and honest peons.
Yet, for his epic efforts to expose a side of official corruption whose scale and level of greed was never known before, Benhur Luy was not among the young men and women honored this year for their outstanding contributions to Philippine society. And for missing the very obvious—that Luy should be top exemplar for our youth- we have to ask this question: Why?
Profound impact on society through community service. The young awardees were supposed to have achieved this. Place the individual TOYM awardees across the name of Benhur Luy and what do we get? All of them, the awardees, do not deserve to shine the shoes of Luy. Nor comb his often unkempt hair. Luy did service at the highest level, the national arena. How can a basketball player who is often on the bench compare with Luy and his policy-altering testimony? That comparison is a bit rude but it has to be made. Phony politeness has not taken this country anywhere. What we need are extreme dosages of truth-telling like what Luy has been doing at an heroic level.
This is also non sequitur but we have to state this. Who was the young man who spoke headlines this year? Benhur Luy, hands down. Who was the young man whose determined and smiling demeanor while doing the toughest of tasks dominated the upper fold of the front pages of the country’s major newspapers?
What kind of positive and epic contributions from the young men and women in the country were the TOYM judges looking for? The TOYM body can’t operate on the guile and on the pretext that nobody had nominated Luy. They should have frozen the nomination process and demanded that Luy be on the list of nominees. So they could have been given him the Number One ranking.
Young and tough and truthful. Unafraid, rather. What more can we ask of Luy?
Now, we have to get answers to this question. Why was Luy snubbed by the TOYM body? We know the answers.
He is part of the Great Unwashed, the likes of you and me. Luy did not go the right schools and does not have the academic background so loved by the TOYM body. He did not go to the local version of Oxbridge.
Luy is not the public face of success and does not smell success—at least from the reckoning of polite Philippine society.
Luy, while the face of truth-telling, does not have the kind of phonetics so loved by the TOYM body.
Luy is chubby and short and occasionally looks grubby. He looks better in a bullet-proof vest than in a natty barong tagalog. He will sweat profusely with a suit.
In short, like you and me and like most Filipinos, he has the face and feel and look of the blue-collar Filipino, the Everyman. Polite society does not recognize such species and does not vest them with awards.
On what undergirds the snub, on why the young man whose bold testimonies and zealous record -keeping of bribes forced lawmakers to scrap the P24 billion-a-year pork, (an earthshaking change that was not imaginable a year earlier) was not given the recognition due him by polite society, we, too, know the reasons.
This is still the same society that Rizal wrote about in his novels earlier, full of phoniness and great pretensions.
People with rough edges, the likes of Luy, those who lack the polish and pedigree, never get recognized even with their huge, positive impact on society. This is true across the board and across all sectors. More often than not, awards go to actors who cannot act, journalists with the most turgid prose and who can’t write themselves out of a jam, political leaders with the savviest PR. Outsiders and arrivistes need not apply for recognition.
Benhur Luy can, however, take comfort in the fact that to the ordinary Filipino, the Everyman, he is the whistle-blower as superman and the avenger. He has slain dragons. He has changed the budgetary process. He is the public face of courage and truthfulness.
By consensus, all of us in the club of the Filipino Everyman, hold Luy in the highest of esteem. He is our Young Filipino of the Year.