ALEX MAGNO: CHANGE! WE CANNOT GO ON ENDURING THIS PORK BARREL STATE...

MANILA, NOVEMBER 4, 2013 (PHILSTAR) FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno (photo) - More and more, these past few weeks, political conversations have become more radical. Change must happen. We cannot go on enduring this pork barrel state, this bankrupt political class and a regime that betrayed us.

The anger is profound. It is not just that a handful of politicians were caught with their hands in the cookie jar; it is about all politicians misusing public funds for partisan ends instead of public good.

Corruption is not just endemic; it is systemic. Misuse of public funds is the indispensable means of patronage-based politics. It is the alpha and the omega of dynastic rule.

The President is seriously out of touch when he vainly tried to downsize the controversy over the PDAF and its larger twin, the DAP, as merely the product of political spin. He has a complex and expensively appointed “war room” at the PSG compound, next to where he sleeps. He hopefully uses this facility to feel the public pulse rather than bully both the mainstream and social media.

Otherwise, this digital bunker becomes nothing more than an entertainment pavilion, a gym for delusion — much like Adolf Hitler’s impregnable bunker in Berlin, the last cathedral where Germans held on to the belief they were winning the war against the Allies.

Sen. Miriam Santiago has an eminently better grasp of the public pulse. Last week she was quoted as saying public esteem for politicians has fallen so low that people want to spit on them.

That might even be an eloquent understatement. In the unsupervised world of social media, netizens wantonly talk of lynching our national leaders.

These days, around dinner tables and in the coffee shops, talk inevitably gravitates to the matter of fundamental political change. Authentic and systemic political change, not just the cheap sloganeering this administration plastered us with before it so brazenly betrayed its own supporters.

This is quickly turning into a season for sedition. We are entering a volatile episode, the winter of all our discontents.

The President and his dull minions just do not seem to get it, to wrap their minds around the profound dimensions of a citizenry seething at the gross betrayal of public trust unmasked over the last month.

Those ensconced in the Palace fret about being perceived as “callous” by those displaced by totally unnecessary urban warfare in Zamboanga City, those ravaged by the typhoon that crossed Central Luzon, and, finally, those traumatized by a major quake in the Visayas.

To avert being perceived as “calloused,” the President camped out in Bohol. It was such an obvious public relations spectacle impressing no one but the most gullible loyalists.

This administration still over-relies on propaganda. That impulse might have worked when the promises were fresh; not anymore when the promises have all been betrayed.

The more it continues attempt getting away by means of propaganda, the greater the danger of flopping.

Last week, the President appeared before the Foreign Correspondents Association and insulted his audience by asking them to buy into his conspiracy theory about the DAP controversy. The appropriately insulted audience responded with polite but stony silence.

A few weeks before, he tried to insult the public’s intelligence by blaming his falling approval ratings on the previous administration. That was a dud.

The more he speaks these days, it seems, the deeper the hole he digs. After the ASEAN summit, where he met with the Chinese premier, Aquino denied the matter of the Luneta fiasco was taken up in the meeting. A spokesman for Beijing basically called him a liar.

The controversy over the DAP is not just about recasting the budget beyond the reach of Congress. It is about bribing both chambers of Congress to impeach and then to convict the Chief Justice. It is about arbitrarily realigning public funds to serve partisan ends.

Not even staunch administration ally Panfilo Lacson could keep his peace. He has joined the chorus protesting the onset of a “fiscal dictatorship.”

Concerned Filipinos worry about the drift of things. It seems we are led by people so overcome by their own hubris they have lost sight of the parameters of democratic governance, of the principle of checks and balances, of the democratic ethic of respecting dissent.

In another place, or here in another time, people might have poured out to riot in the streets. Recall the days of riotous rage in the streets of Istanbul earlier this year. The immediate cause for that was a municipal decision to close down a public park and build a mall on it. The larger cause was a growing sense their government has become less than accountable to ordinary citizens.

Right here and right now, the dam of public anger has not broken because people are hoping for more efficient means to restrain the bankrupt political class that rules us. People are hoping the massive looting of public funds will be checked by the action of the Supreme Court on several petitions asking that both the PDAF and the DAP be declared unconstitutional.

In the event that does not happen, many groups are organizing behind former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s call for a popular initiative to clearly mark out pork barrel politics at the minimum, reform the constitutional order at the maximum.

Short of an uprising, fundamental reform of the constitutional order might achieve for us a more responsive and more responsible government. This should be the last pork barrel presidency we are made to endure.

If constitutional reform is thwarted, then other, more drastic, political options might begin to gather appeal.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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