The pork barrel scam, had it unraveled in societies with rock-solid civic virtues, would inevitably lead to a national soul-searching. Which would lead to the mending of ways. And to the redirection of lives—and characters—gone awry. There would be an effort, at all levels of society, to make pariahs out of those who brazenly dealt with Janet Napoles and her phony NGOs. The judicial system would be unsparing in its pursuit of the guilty and in the clearing of innocent names dragged into the scam without basis.
But this is the Philippine context. And the better question to ask is: What soul-searching are you talking about?
And this is the sad truth. In our hometown of Lubao, Zeny Ducut, the chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission and former three-term representative of my Pampanga congressional district, has not suffered from diminished prestige despite her alleged key role in the P10 billion pork barrel scam. Despite the allegation that she was one of the main brokers/agents of Janet Napoles, Ducut remains a popular public figure. A public figure with a reputation unblemished.
I know she has never run out of these things:
• Invitations to grace weddings, fiesta celebrations, baptisms and the like. As the main guest or as principal sponsor.
• Invitations to be a sponsor/guest of honor in the various celebrations of Lubao’s 44 or so barrios.
• Getting endless adulations and approbations from the barrio officials and townspeople.
• Positive treatment from the local clergy.
And, definitely, nobody in our hometown would call her “pork agent.” Or “thief.” Or any derogatory name for that matter.
If you expect a town torn by anguish, by endless regret on why Ducut never lost any election here, or a town in deep lamentation over the wayward turn (at least from the perspective of media) in the life of a native daughter, there is nothing of that sort in Lubao. She can come home today and she would get the reception of a conquering hero.
I hate to break this piece of news to the NGOs holding regular protests to force her to step down from her ERC perch. Or to push President Aquino into making a decision to summarily fire her. So sorry. I have never voted for Ducut. I will first slit my throat before voting for her. But the sad fact is nothing has changed in Lubao, including its endless approbation of Zeny Ducut.
When Ducut is spoken about in my town, it is all about this single line: Makualta ne I Zeny. Zeny is rich and that’s it.
Is Lubao any different from other Philippine towns in the sense that it does not frown upon a native allegedly gone wayward? That there is no, at the local level, expression of outrage and disgust? That being tagged as one of the principals in the worst corruption case ever to hit Congress does not merit the slightest reprobation from the townspeople? That it is a town largely disjointed from the raging issues of the day?
The answer will break the hearts of the anti-pork crusaders. And the media people who think that the crusade to expose the vileness of the pork system will change mind sets and values. And reform politics as a whole. The answer is No. A big No. Especially at the local level.
What about in the other areas?
If an election were held today for the governorship of Cavite, and the protagonists would be Bong Revilla and Ping Lacson, who do you think would be the runaway winner? Relative to the pork scam, we have two dramatically contrasting figures. One is accused of selling his SARO for hard cash. The other did not use his pork barrel allocation in two Senate terms. Would the Cavite voters go for Ping instead of Bong?
The voters will most likely vote for Bong, despite the taint and the Napoles baggage. The margin of victory may not be at the level of a contest without a major issue against Bong. But it will be a victory just the same.
You are talking here of a booming province adjacent to Metro Manila and with a formidable middle class. It is within the major media loop and every major issue being discussed by the intellectual class in the big city being heard here. Cavite students commute to study in the major Manila universities, especially the big ones clustered around the Lawton area daily.
Yet, it is a province that is totally oblivious to the major integrity issues rocking and unsettling the republic.
It is now too clear that the Philippines is two countries.
At the capital, the judicial system acts and feels that it is fighting its biggest war to help set the country into the straight path. The intense media coverage of the pork barrel scam has put the anti-pork crusade at the forefront of the national discussion. The various personalities associated with the crusade are now minor celebrities. There is a sense that the anti-pork crusade will be a life-changer for the country.
Yet, in areas like Lubao, the pork scam is a non-issue. There is a weary indifference to it. Zeny Ducut will always get the red carpet here, especially from scores of young women who precisely dream of following—do you get this—her massive footsteps.