TEODORO BENIGNO: A CITIZENRY IN DENIAL / ABOUT 'POLITICAL PROSTITUTES'

MANILA, February 9, 2004 (STAR) HERE'S THE SCORE By Teodoro C. Benigno - By the beard of Mars, the top deity of Mount Olympus, the Philippines by this time should be convulsed in revolution or civil war, The dictator Ferdinand Marcos way back in the 60s declared the nation was "sitting atop a social volcano" which could erupt any time. The historian O.D. Corpuz sighted the same smouldering volcano and predicted it would blow its top before the end of the 20th century. More than a year ago, from my ringside seat at the sweep and passing of history, I too wrote the same social volcano was just waiting for a trigger to explode.

Until today, there are no clear and definite signs of such an imminent explosion. Although there is a trigger somewhere, waiting for the event.

If the nation is convulsed at all, it is in the context of the May 10 elections. Almost every political and social avenue leads to it. There is nothing like elections to fire up our people. It is fiesta, the circus, and the Black Nazarene combined. FPJ and GMA, virtually to the exclusion of the others, torrentially ride the media campaign wave. If the public pulse is to be believed, elections are the end-all and be-all of our existence as Filipinos. The belief is that the masses possess the talisman of the future, meaning FPJ, and they and they alone – being in the majority – can and should determine our fate. This, of course, is nonsense.

Are we fated thusly? Is the Philippines perpetually condemned to stage elections which serve no purpose at all except to safeguard and protect the interests of the elite, a political system that cranks out nothing but refuse, a greedy gaggle of politicians whose god is pork barrel, whose greater god is the bible’s most sordid creature – the Golden Calf? Whose altar boy is Didagen Dilangalen? Whose muse is Miriam Defensor-Santiago? Whose aging and decrepit matinee idol is Ernie Maceda? Whose spook is Benjamin Abalos? Whose gentleman in residence is Jose Pidal?

And yet, this writer cannot help going back again and again to Victor Hugo who said: "No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come."

The idea we have nursed diligently in this space is that of another great historian Arnold Tynbee (1889-1972) whose trenchant pen rigorously traced the course of history. He said primarily that civilizations and cultures come and go. His theme was "Challenge and Response". A civilization lasts so long as it continuously and creatively meets and copes with the challenges of its time. Once it can no longer do so, it falters and stumbles. Then like a fatally wounded bull, it seeks the shelter of the shadows, there to shudder one last great shudder – and die.

So it was with the greatest of empires, the Roman Empire. It lasted 500 years. It bred the radiant rule of the Caesars. It spread a civilization that nurtured the dreams of the great ideologues of its time, until it too was besieged from within by tyranny, graft and corruption, by a terrible lust for power and riches. From this, "freedom" grew by leaps and bounds, as even popes and Caesars indulged their lust for sex and other pleasures of the flesh. Roman power lost its meaning. That great historic will of a great empire to bequeath its accomplishments and virtues to the rest of the world collapsed. Roman law was one. An effective bureaucracy another. Opera. The performing arts. The theater. The great bloom of so many knowledges that led to the Renaissance.

Will Durant wrote it was this "riot of freedom" that drove the last sword into the heart of the Roman Empire.

So it was with the Ottoman Empire. So it was with the British Empire. And before that, the ancient Chinese, Greek, Indian, Sumerian, Japanese civilizations. And then the rise of the West when European Christendom soared and swept forward like a tidal wave in the 8th and 9th centuries. And starting the year 1500, there was a Renaissance of European culture. And since 1815, so many historians say, America with the big shoulders emerged to later dominate the world with Pax Americana.

There is, of course, no comparison.

The Philippines was just a miserable victim of empire. More than 300 years under Spain. A half-century under America. But the last staggers of empire now jolt the Philippines, long after Castilian Spain has disappeared, and more than 50 years after American gave our nation independence. Virtually the rest of colonized Asia has shaken off the clutches and ravages of empire. They now bid fair to become the economic super-power of Asia in the 21st century. Look at China. Take another good look at India. India is a giant now awake. So is Vietnam.

They dug deeply into their own culture and civilization – something we Filipinos do not have. Then in the late ’60s and ’70s, they launched that massive historic economic and political counter-wave that today enables Asia, particularly China, to face up to the US and the West on an almost equal footing.

Notice how Washington remains impotent to crush North Korea. Saddam Hussein looks like a choir boy compared to Kim Jong-il, a ruthless pathological killer who rattles his few nuclear bombs (Iraq had none) in the face of America. Kim threatens to plunge the Korean Peninsula into war – which could annihilate millions – if the US should invade or threaten to invade North Korea and rid it of its weapons of mass destruction. His father, with no provocation at all, invaded South Korea in 1949.

The Philippines? We are a sorry destitute republic knit large into the trials and tribulations of the 19th century. And we are not even aware how stuck we are in that mildewed past. We are a nation still in denial. We believe the turbulence – present and future – will pass. We believe that God in all His goodness and mercy will save us. Surely a miracle or miracles will occur. The seas will part. And – lo and behold! – our blessed nation will cross over. Christus vincit. Christus regnant.

It will? No, it will not. And because it will not, we might as well all wake up – now.

If and when the Supreme Court should disqualify FPJ’s bid for the presidency – I am almost sure it will – then we shall have cocked and pulled the trigger for what could be the Philippine version of the Holocaust. If the Court does not – highly unlikely – then FPJ and his atavistic hordes will slam into the May 10 elections and probably reach the verge of triumph. But this will be denied him by the veterans and supporters of EDSA who claim, more than the masses, they have prior claim to the future of the nation. Didn’t they topple the dictator? Didn’t they get rid of that drunken sybarite?

Armageddon? Maybe and again maybe not. But as we have always maintained in this space, the Philippines is no exception to history’s iron rule. Tyranny begets violence, popular uprisings, bloodletting. Have we reached the zenith of that tyranny? Almost. When three-fifths of the population start staring into an empty rice bowl, then the winds whine, the last dikes begin to crumble. Just a little push, and we enter the maelstrom.

Is it again, as it has been repeatedly in the past: Aprčs nous, le deluge? * * * These days, we have repeatedly encountered that grossest of insults – "political prostitute". For so insulting Sen. Loren Legarda, Brig. Gen. Victor Corpuz had to publicly apologize to the lady senator after being raked over the goals by AFP chief of staff Gen. Narciso Abaya. The offending general found no sympathizers or allies and so, he continues to stew in his own juice. He was crude and vulgar, no gentleman at all.

Political prostitute? Almost every politician I know is a political prostitute.

It wasn’t that way before, a decade or so ago, when there were exceptions to the rule. The earlier Nene Pimentel, the earlier Joke Arroyo and even Jojo Binay, Rene Saguisag and Jun Factoran were held up high. They were knights-errant of the poor and the oppressed during martial rule. And like Loren Legarda today, they were pinpointed by the military establishment as communist sympathizers, if not communist moles, who had penetrated the regime of Cory Aquino. Then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Gringo Honasan zeroed in on them as "security risks".

For sometime, I too was a communist suspect. And before the Cory cabinet where I sat as press secretary, I had to explain that I had long abandoned the Marxist ideology, and no longer had any truck with it or the communist movement in the Philippines.

It got to the point where kabayan Noli de Castro of ABS-CBN called me up one early morning to inquire about my ideological loyalties. Eventually, everybody was floored by my reply, which went thusly: "If between the ages of 20 and 30, you are not a communist, you don’t have a heart. If between the age of 30 and 40, you are not a socialist, you don’t have a soul. If at the age of 40 and above you are not a capitalist, then you have no goddam brains."

That always brought down the house.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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