The basket case that is the Philippines is one of a kind. Satirist and comedians have popularized a phrase for the pathological condition the country is in at this time: “onli in da Philippines.”
The phrase is instructive. It suggests the guts of the Filipinos to face head-on the odds; it suggests as well their gumption to search for a way to get out of the rut the whole nation is mired in.
On second thought, though, the onli-in-da-Philippines linguistic claim to extraordinariness is some kind of a misrepresentation.
In that phrase is the gall that many politicians possess, a conditio sine qua non to their being politicians in the first place. You have the gall to lie and cheat and deprive people of their dignity and self-respect, you become a politician.
This is the reason why those who have the integrity and self-worth choose to stay away from anything that has something to do with defending the presidency, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the other social institutions that have become a laughingstock to the world that values what democracy is all about. Take the military and the Comelec anytime as prime examples.
The gall of politicians and play-acting leaders is to claim leadership roles that do not exist because their roles have never been part of their political agenda for greatness.
The charade that is democracy, Philippine-style is, in reality, its being a democracy of the same beneficiaries of the unjust arrangement of the basic social institutions.
It is a democracy of misappropriation with the elite class owning the fruits of labor of those who cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars in order to authenticate the “Hello Garci tape.”
It is, at best, a misnomer, as it is a democracy of the elite class qua political and economic class.
We do a quick accounting of the politician’s genealogy of power—not to mention morals—and we see clearly that the gall to become a politician is definitely part of faux art that is not different from that abominable “art” of con persons, whether in the Philippines or abroad. They lie to our faces and they call that care and concern.
The politicians have the gall to highjack the Filipino people of their fundamental rights to jobs and justice, food and freedom, land and liberty. Deny these rights to people and they find the way out of hell. Curtail the right of the people to a decent home and a full meal and they go find these even in the ends of the earth.
In the news, for instance, is that terrible fact that for the last three years beginning 2002, about half a million of the country’s brightest and most skilled professionals have left the country for greener pastures in foreign shores.
To think that these professionals are the greatest human and intellectual resource of the country makes the situation tragic—and ironical.
It is tragic because the resource is scarce and yet the country does not have access to it even if, in fact, it owns it.
It is ironical because other economies get to have access to this resource and this access boosts their productive capability.
We allude to a brain drain in the 70s when the only way out of the hell that resulted from the kleptocracy of the regime at that time was to seek work abroad.
Now this brain drain comes visiting us again as if in a cycle, as if part of a reassuring rhythm that when kleptocracy has replaced democray, the price of redemption will always be the exodus of those who have the means to go away—and to go away quickly.
But this is not easy—but a life’s text filled with difficulty. To go away from the familiar place is to accept the wages of disorientation and dislocation and depression. It takes guts and gumption to take this alternative of figuring a way out. In many ways, this could be the way of cowards. But all told, this can be justified. The first of the moral principles is to survive.
We do not see an end to this exodus. Unless we see a promise of redemption in more meaningful and concrete terms, we will continue to see the Filipino diaspora in alarming numbers.
With the gall of politicians to deprive us of what is guaranteed by the Constitution such as the right to live fully, many of the most brilliant of Filipinos will always find a way out.
Well, we can only hope they will not.
Published in the Weekly Inquirer, Aug 19/05