NO BETTER time are the words of German-Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt more relevant than today as we are made to chew on claims presented to sound truthful but are deliberately twisted to hide the lies.
Arendt (October 14, 1906 - December 4, 1975) dealt with politics, authority, and nature of power focusing on freedom as a collective political action among equals. If we extrapolate that, we can say that freedom from the bondage of the greedy few cannot be achieved by the pittance of power people have been given called voting. This early, fears of a rigged election are getting worse, while the partymates of the President have finally admitted that they intend to make her Speaker of the House.
In the local scene, we have become familiar with the claim that our local government has squirreled off some P2.9-billion. That is if we are to believe what is being fed to us from a Commission on Audit report we cannot even fully comprehend.
The city cannot account for P2.9-billion, the rivals of the present government keep on repeating.
It turned out that these are in the general heading of "Unaccounted properties and equipment" in the city government books, that is mostly a compendium of unaccounted properties and equipment since the City was created 74 years ago.
Standard accounting procedures, really, that accountants would be very familiar with but which the non-accountants and the majority who cringe at the sight of numbers know nothing about.
"A cursory look at the annual audit reports done on different government agencies showed that comments like 'unaccounted' and 'could not be ascertained' are common on items related to properties and equipment," a statement by City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte's local party Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod reads. And so, there they are, all unaccounted for, including vast tracts of lands donated as schools and parks without titles; yanked out of the shelves and painted over to be used as a political tool intended to destroy.
Destroy the enemy, extol one's virtues (even if it requires a lot of spinning to do that): that is politics.
In the January 31, 2010 Weekend column of Sun.Star Davao editor in chief Stella Estremera entitled "Disturbing checks", she panned how the 200,000 houses for the poor being claimed by presidential candidate Manny Villar is being drummed up as his concern for the poor and downtrodden when as real estate developer, the law requires him to build low-cost housing projects equivalent to 20 percent of every housing project he builds. We all know that Villar owns a land development company that makes middle and high-end subdivisions all over the country, more than 20 of which alone are along the controversial C-5 Road. Twenty percent of all this should be more than 200,000. Bottomline, Villar is but abiding by what the law requires him to do so he can continue with his multi-billion businesses, and not building houses out of the goodness of his heart.
Of course, ordinary people do not know about that law. But it looks good when taken out of context. COA reports, urban poor housing, as the kanto-boy would say, "Same-same."
So what's this about Arendt that makes her thoughts most relevant these days? A lot.
As she wrote in the introduction of her book "Crisis in the Republic (copyright 1972):
"Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear. He has prepared his story for public consumption with a careful eye to making it credible, whereas reality has the disconcerting habit of confronting us with the unexpected, for which we were not prepared."
Somewhere else in the book, in her essay "Lying in politics", she writes: "Truthfulness has never been counted among the political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings."
With so much at stake, amid a country shackled with a P4.424-trillion debt and a fiscal deficit of P272.5-billion as of November 2009, we need to do more than just cast our vote on May 10, 2010. We need to be vigilant about having our vote count, and yes judicious in discerning lies because, as Arendt contends, freedom is a collective political action among equals. But as we are today, the balance is tipped against our favor because all we have is just one vote each.