PNoy legacy

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By Tibs Palasan, Jr

Spark of Law

Friday, April 4, 2014


PRESIDENTS are defined and recalled by their legacies. Good or bad, we talk about their legacy, that singular achievement or debacle that we associate the past presidents with.

Of course, Ferdinand Marcos has the stigma of martial law with him, and the draconian powers that he used to silence the multitude of opposition. Cory Aquino is credited with the restoration of democracy institutionalized in the 1987 Constitution. Fidel Ramos quieted the battlefronts with his peace pacts. Erap Estrada, aside from his “eraption” jokes, will be known as the president who was impeached. Gloria Arroyo, despite her diminutive physical structure, will be remembered with the grand scale of corruption during her stint.

It’s too early to talk of the legacy of the PNoy presidency when his term is not yet over. Barely two years before he steps down, he may yet commit a serious blunder or a monumental achievement that would define his term.

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But this early, his legacy is shaping-up. The sign is written in the wall. PNoy’s term will be defined by the prosecution of big names with corruption. The prosecution of Gloria Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla hug the headlines. Most phenomenal during the PNoy term so far is the impeachment of Renato Corona. It was marred with political plots and sub-plots, allegedly tainting the independence of the judiciary. What option do the people have if the head of the judiciary is muddled in corruption issues?

Note that we refer them by names, less the titles. Public titles should be associated only with truly honorable men.

Before Ferdinand Marcos, Philippines was behind only to Japan in terms of economy. We were the second biggest economy in the Far East then. That era coincided with democratic space, and corruption was not a daily topic for the media.

Ferdinand Marcos changed the political landscape. He killed democracy, established constitutional authoritarianism, and introduced the culture of corruption of his cronies and their minions. That era too coincided with the Philippines in the second to the last in the economic pole in Asia. We were one rank higher than Bangladesh.

Economy and corruption take inverse relation. As the corruption becomes grander, the economy plummets to the pits. Public funds which are intended to projects that propel the economy turn up in the pockets of public officials. As you bleed-white the national coffer with corruption, you make the production field barren.

For so long, the public has figured out that their poverty is directly related to corruption. Every mansion built by a corrupt official, is a roof less in the shelter of the poor.

For so long also, since Marcos era, and thereafter, corruption has been going on with impunity. Infrequently, we read the news of a lesser mortal in the government bureaucracy sentenced to imprisonment for corruption involving thousands. But the big names, meaning those who corrupt in the grander scale, involving millions, if not billions, go scot-free.

Despite the efforts to run after the corrupt officials, the public is still dismayed with the accused detained in posh hospitals, complete with the luxuries of modern living. If not in the hospitals, the accused are imprisoned in NBI or military camps where the situation is way better than the cramped regular jails. In contrast, lowly employees of the government are detained with the common criminals.

Among the criminals, there should be no first class or second class citizens. They should be treated equally.

We have superstars, or shall we call them, super villains in the pork barrel scam. Juan Ponce Enrile did a Houdini and escaped his culpability in orchestrating the mass murder during martial law. He now leads the cast of the pork barrel controversy. It would be a half-hearted pursuit against corruption if PNoy will allow his detention in hospital or military camps.

Corruption is like a termite. It destroys a portion of the house, but if left unchecked, the entire structure would collapse. Without prosecuting the big names, you see the entire body politic infested with the corrupt bureaucracy starting from the lowly clerk up to the highest post of the land.

PNoy has major weaknesses, chief among them is the mishandling of natural disasters. His redemption would be a legacy of running after the corrupt officials. As long as he will run after them, without fear or favor, his name will be enshrined in the national memory alongside the names of his parents.

In fact, PNoy will loom larger than his parents if he would see to it that these big names will be prosecuted, and convicted during his term.

That would be a legacy that could last centuries.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 04, 2014.

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