Where’s our pride? People Power everywhere

HERE'S THE SCORE - Teodoro C. Benigno -
Aha, that latest knife-wound inflicted by PERC (Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd.) that the Philippines is the second most corrupt country in Asia has ripped a huge wound in our underbelly. And our pride. We are hurting. We have our heads in the washbasin seeking to soap off the shame, rid ourselves of the stink. Those who refuse to get hurt or insulted would just seek to deflect the PERC branding iron. They say this is old hat, so what else is new. These are the somnambulists.

A few hardy, never-say-die souls would now urge the nation to stand up and fight. And prove our critics wrong. With what? With imagined guts, with spontaneous bravura as if that were possible so the crooks, the criminals can be brought to book in some imagined jail. Brought to book by whom? These are the guys with a rush of words, and not much else. Those with nothing to say, particularly our politicians, just look the other way, pretend they never heard about PERC. Nothing surprising here, gents and mesdames, all they care for is pork. So damn the torpedoes.

Well, well, well.

Why is it really that despite years of contempt, sarcasm and verbal abuse we have suffered from critics abroad, in the end we just fold our arms? The only thing we do best is speak and squawk from all corners of our mouth like Indian squaws at an annual reunion protesting they are producing too many babies, too many papooses. For example, that VAT issue is still being kicked around when our world would be better off if VAT were just consigned to the scrap heap. And as Winnie Monsod advocates, our Congress abolished.

Alors, as the French would say, aux armes! Aux barricades!

But that too has disappeared from our vocabulary. The Filipino has forgotten how to fight. In the intervening years between the two EDSAs and the years after, and the years before, we have grown into two nations - a nation of thieves and a nation of sheep. The only Pinoy who fights is Manny Pacquiao. And so he has become our only symbol. And would that he dumps Mexico’s Erik Morales into the Sargasso Sea in a week’s time. Sargasso is known for its man-eating whales.

Now what do we really need to respond to PERC’s latest abomination about the Philippines?

We can go the long mile and explain historically, culturally, geographically, psychologically why the Pinoy has come upon hard times, in fact the hardest of times. But we’ll take shortest route today. Mesdames, Messieurs, we are the way we are today because the Filipino leader with cojones, with guts, with vision, with cerebral steel has disappeared from our midst. It seems the Filipino species doesn’t breed their like anymore, the Ninoy Aquinos, the Andres Bonifacios, the Pepe Dioknos, the Margaret Thatchers, the Golda Meirs, the Indira Gandhis, the Leonidases at Thermopylae, the Vaclav Havels, the Lech Walesas. And oh yes, but yes, we never bred the likes of Nelson Mandela.

In fact almost everybody has stopped looking at the GMA they thought would whoosh superbly out of the genie’s bottle after the May 10 elections. She would bulge forth like an avenging female goddess, fearless, fiercely intelligent, with hands that would grab the crooks and boot them into pokey, and a conscience bright as the million mirrors of the sun. She would be our reverse Medea, and light up everything she would touch.

Oh baby, that was all in the imagination.

The GMA of today is a caricature of the GMA that was on our mind, la Gloria carissima, bravissima and purissima. Today, she is the biggest stockholder in Photo-Op Incorporated, her tonsils fit to be enshrined in the Boulevard of Broken Promises, her programs lighted with a thousand candles at the Grand Paseo de los Caidas. I know the president will hate me all over again for these sallies, and her media Mafia will target me with their poison barbs in InBox. But I must remind her that once she said of me in a crowded Makati hotel reception when she had already acceded to Malacanang: "As for Teddy Benigno, he has earned the right to say or write whatever he wants, even if hurts me." Voila.

Back to our subject.

Is he or she yet to be born, the man or woman who can and will say with thunder equal to the occasion: "Follow me, and I will lead you to the ends of the world and back." And we follow? I don’t see him or her around, but, however limited the odds, he could be around, she could be around. They might still be heating their irons, sharpening their swords, feeding raw courage into the ranks of their followers.

Who? Some venture to say he is already around, has been president, namely Fidel V. Ramos, who seemingly has positioned himself for the 100-meter run to Malacanang. Meaning he will take the shortest route, will not wait even for 2007 or 2010, with possibly the Americans plotting the golpe that will take Malacanang by storm. Golpe? Is this still possible?

Oh yes, but only if Uncle Sam is in the loop, and does everything possible to explode the bottom from GMA. The World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, the credit and finance institutions like Moody’s, Standard and Poor, Fitch, PERC, Transparency International, Heritage Foundation and their local stooges, can be relied upon to whittle GMA to the size of a spent cigarette butt.

There are those who say that the man best positioned to topple GMA is Brother Eddie Villanueva, The Bangon Filipinas Pied Piper with the only political following today that can cover the whole of the Luneta with a human swam of million or more. So scared is Malacanang of Brother Eddie that GMA and the powers-that-be have pulled out all the stops to boycott him in media. In recent months, not a line in print media, not a single footage in TV, not a single squeak in radio. Has our media become that submissive, that, er, mercenary?

Not even when just recently, the JIL (Jesus is Lord) flock of Brother Eddie celebrated its 26th anniversary at the Luneta with a whopping 1.2 million in attendance. It was just like a passel or roosters refusing to crow with the advent of dawn. C’est bien possible? Take off the handcuffs, GMA, your slip is not just showing, your handling of media has become a big stink.

I must warn Malacanang, GMA, the military and the police this will backfire.

Once Brother Eddie decides to move, and he will move, not all the massed might of the powers-that-be can stop him. If he and his gospel hordes and their allies move within the folds of the law, and they are broken up by force by the military and police, with their accustomed bestiality and brutality, heaven help this country. For the state’s only fallback position will be a ruthless garrison state. We will be another Burma trampled upon by uncouth, corrupt, and duplicitous generals.

Their only knowledge of governance is looting the public till as exemplified by Generals Carlos Garcia and Lingot. And the police better stop that ridiculous litany of theirs – no permit, no rally. They don’t need a permit to rally in many countries. This is their right as a sovereign people.

So beware the Ides of March.

Aren’t the rulers of the Philippines aware? The phenomenal political force we released during the two EDSAs – People Power – are now de rigueur in many countries. In Georgia, just two years ago, when the corrupt presidency of Edward Ambrosievich Shevardnadze became intolerable, the people rose in a massive uprising, occupied parliament, demanded that he and his government step down. They stepped down and not a shot was fired. This was unheard of for a former Soviet state where state violence was a constant muzzle jabbed at the temple of society.

And only two months ago, the whole of Ukraine shook in presidential elections that took the record for fraud and poll violence. The defeated opposition candidate, M. Yuvchengco, resorted to People Power. Overnight, the capital of Kiev was teemed with protesting hundreds of thousands that braved the freezing cold of winter and stayed in the streets for days with uncommon thunder. Despite Russian support of the incumbent, the people did not quail and daily their ranks increased by the tens of thousands. New elections were held and Yuvchengco won by a mile.

Now, just so many days ago in Lebanon, after the assassination of the popular former prime minister Rafik Hariri reportedly by government agents with the support of Syria, again hundreds of thousands marched in unbridled outrage, demanded the ouster of about 15,000 Syrian troops from their country the government’s resignation and a full dress probe into the killing of Hariri. The pro-Syrian government almost immediately announced the Syrian troops would be withdrawn.

We Filipinos invented People Power. Yeah, we did. And we never stop boasting about that. GMA ascended to Malacanang on the shoulders of People Power.

Now let me tell you. The time has come anew when we Filipinos have to use People Power, reinvent People Power, at the very least get People Power out of the archives, make it work again for the country. Because by God, we are fast wasting away as a nation, and the bargaining chips that remain are fast diminishing. If they disappear, the only thing left for us is a prayer and a military waiting to take over. Heaven forbid!












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