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Wrapped in Grey
Friday, September 20, 2013
A NATIONAL conversation is currently taking place and the outcome of this social debate would chart the destiny of our nation in the coming years. Are we going to tolerate once more the systemic failure of our political institutions as revealed by the pork barrel scandal, and now the Zamboanga crisis?
Or is this the time when we as a people declare once and for all an end to this condition that has always persisted since our local elite have taken control over the reins of government?
The pork barrel scandal and the political institution's response to it provide a good exposition of how corruption infests governance in our country. Long under the monopoly of the landed elite, our local elective positions serve as important conduits of political power of the various factions of the national elite in their bid for dominance in Malacañang.
The currency has always been political largesse and whoever sits as president controls the largest electoral war chest at his or her disposal. The local officials are thus dependent on the funds and other forms of state power made available by political allies in the national elite. The pork barrel is one of these institutionalized instruments and the corruption that follows it is considered de rigueur or standard by politicians both national and local.
It is then no wonder why our politicians are all smug under the intense pressure of the protests against the PDAF. Even the president who ran on the platform of good governance, cannot seem to imagine running government without pork because it is his means to wield political and economic control of the provinces and cities just like other presidents before him.
That is the problem when our political processes are hostaged by the elite who, historically, have always been predatory and extractive. While they have the gall to blame the poor for being dependent on their patronage, the elite corner a big chunk of the funds intended for much needed public services for their private gain. This is why the Napoles' exposed lifestyle struck a sensitive chord among ordinary Filipinos working hard and dutifully paying their taxes. People were scandalized by the narratives of maneuverings and pay-offs amounting to billions of pesos of stolen public funds.
The crisis in Zamboanga is another symptom of the same problem that afflicts our political system. With 8,000 homes burned, scores killed and injured, we now have a humanitarian situation in a major city down South. But the effect of the siege will last beyond the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Zamboanga. The social wounds of old that have been re-opened and made to fester once again will have an even more lasting and pervasive effect - the consequence of a piece-meal approach to peace by our national elite based in Manila running government.
The official script of the State and their apologists is to put the blame on Nur Misuari as a rabble-rouser. There must be some truth to the volatility and temper of the man who had founded the armed struggle of the Bangsamoro in his youth, fostered a peace agreement with the Ramos administration at the peak of their movement's strength, and now that he is in the twilight of his years, realize that he had been made a paper tiger by the machinations of an elite-controlled political system.
But what we are missing in this picture is that while Misuari represents the sad demise of a revolutionary leader depicted by reports that he had been swallowed by the system, the concrete conditions that sparked his subversive aspirations for the Bangsamoro remain present and still generate new batches of revolutionaries and ideologues.
The rise of Haber Malik, the charismatic MNLF military commander who headed the siege in Zamboanga as well as the well-trained women snipers that kept military troops at bay reveal the organizational power of the group beyond Misuari. And the recent incident stands as a potent warning that unless the roots of the Bangsamoro problem are addressed, the social conflagration will spread beyond the Zamboanga peninsula to other places threatened by the same ills.
What unites the issues of the pork barrel scandal with the Zamboanga crisis is that they are both precipitated by an elite government approach that values expediency and political survival over addressing the systemic issues that make possible corruption that enriches those in power and the widespread poverty of the many that fuels war.
The national conversation regarding these issues as seen and heard on various media platforms indicates that a social boiling point has been reached. Because on the one hand, the people have awakened to the serious maladies that mire our political leadership but they have also lost confidence and hope that these very same forces that brought us to this dire situation will be able to extricate us out of it.
Where will we turn to for redemption? At a time when the traditional centers of power are being rightly indicted, the Filipino people will have to once again trust themselves to see to change through. However, the order of battle should go beyond the personalities that merely change names and faces, but instead must target the elite-controlled political and economic system that depends on corruption and fuel wars.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 20, 2013.