It's how it was then, it's how it still is now. Rizal, through Padre Florentino in the latter part of the sequel to Noli, EL Filibusterismo, asked what need we have for freedom when the slaves of today are the tyrants of tomorrow?
Jejomar Binay, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, current front-runner in the race to Malacanang in 2016, is at the center of the country's attention. We did this to Makati, we can do the same for the rest of the country - that sums up his justification for his ambition to become the next President of this country - he offers images of high-rise buildings, underpasses with escalators, luxury cars along the streets of the Central Business District where Dionisia Pacquiao can purchase a handbag that costs as much as three years' worth of blood, sweat and tears for the common Filipino worker. Hidden beyond the concrete monuments is the rest of Makati, representative of the rest of this country: Filipinos living below the poverty, nay, dignity line.
The ongoing Senate hearings on corruption charges against Binay and his family want to turn our attention to the systematic, institutionalized plunder of the city's coffers that's been going on for as long as the Binays have been in power in Makati that made it possible for the family to own what's been alleged as "Hacienda Binay," the size of which can probably provide land to all of the thousands of Makati's homeless and more.
Why aren't there a million people massing up along EDSA, a million voices calling for justice? Because to a lot of us, being in power means getting away with plunder, an opportunity to serve selfish interests. For if not, nobody would dignify the moro-moro that is Philippine elections - for how can anyone justify spending millions of pesos to win a seat that would pay a few thousands a month for the next three years?
Try tallying up the cost of winning the chairmanship of any one of Baguio's biggest barangays, put it next to how much a barangay captain gets as salary. "Ang swerte naman niya," we say about the young man who's been accepted to the police force, not because he has been given the chance to serve the community, but because he now has the opportunity to get his hands dirty with money earned questionably.
A cancer that's spread from head to toe, that's how deeply rooted corruption is in this country. Public service is an empty concept for most - the public's welfare can easily be set aside for the opportunity to pocket SOPs from inane public infrastructure projects like parking lots and gates in parks, throw in dozens of monograms on overpasses and waiting sheds.
But consider, too, the role models this country had - the friars and governors-general for three centuries, the yanks for half, fellow Asians for a few years, no wonder we had Ferdinand Marcos for a couple of decades and two plundering presidents more recently one after the other. For that's what we were taught power translates to: impunity. It's time we change that.
I've said this before and I say it again - for all of the failings of PNoy's administration, perceived or otherwise, it's efforts to punish people in power for crimes against the people is setting this country on the right track. But that "daang matuwid," as straight as it can be, is an uphill one and we can only get this country up there if most of us will get behind and help push it up. It's time we say no, being the president, vice president, a senator, congressman, governor, mayor, barangay captain, policeman, a person behind the desk at any government office does not give you the right to steal from the people, to take away hope from the farmers in the fields, the workers who carry hollow blocks on their backs from sun up to sun down, the children who walk kilometers before sunrise to get to school in time to sing "Aming ligaya na pag may mang-aapi ang mamatay ng dahil sa'yo."
Really, it is not, well, "OK lang" for people in power to steal, whether billions of pesos or a ream of bond paper, from the people. If the Binays, Revillas, Enriles, Estradas and for that matter, the Aquinos, et al did commit crimes against the people, they must be punished.
Let me quote, albeit with a bit of paraphrasing, from playwright Malou Jacob's translation of Padre Florentino's conclusion in El Filibusterismo in the play, "Pepe" -