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The J Spotter

Personal insights from the J Spot author J. Angelo Racoma
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The J Spotter » Jose Ma. Montelibano on the Armed Forces scandal

Jose Ma. Montelibano on the Armed Forces scandal

Received this through the COPA-NET e-group. This is for Jose Ma. Montelibano's (of COPA) Glimpses column to be published in tomorrow's Philippine Daily Inquirer.

COPA is Council On Philippine Affairs, an advocacy group whose mission is to motivate Filipinos to BE INFORMED, BE CONCERNED, and BE INVOLVED in nation-building guided by the highest collective good. COPA is engaged in a continuing monitoring of essential and critical developments in the Philippines, offers key decision makers the benefit of its observations and recommendations, and may often provide pro-active leadership to agents and disciples of meaningful and sustainable change in Philippine affairs.
(Click here to download the COPA primer)

** Edited as of 22 October 2004. Here's the link to the PDI article.


Their Cups Runneth Over
GLIMPSES
Jose Ma. Montelibano

It was too good to be kept a secret. What is the use of amassing wealth, no matter how hidden, when it cannot be enjoyed? And that is the heart of corruption, that its fruits will somehow be enjoyed by the corrupt.


By their fruits you shall know them, the good book says. The Filipino people had long seen the scandalous lifestyle of public officials who forget that the citizens they serve largely wallow in poverty and deprivation. Before global monitoring agencies like Transparency International had tracked the shocking degradation of Philippine governance to being one of the most corrupt in the world, the Filipino people knew their own leaders were stealing from government coffers. By their fruits, the people know them.

Knowing and exposing, though, are two different things. One is an inward process, while the other is crossing the line of personal safety to heroism, or recklessness. There have been few successful exposes that have actually achieved their desired endings. In some cases, the whistle blower is himself or herself counter-accused as a form of harassment, just as Jun Tagun and Acsa Ramirez experienced. In most other cases, the legal process extends itself beyond the life span of the key players.

Thus, it is serendipitous, or divine intervention, when an ugly truth is exposed without any effort of local authorities to do so, or perhaps,
despite the effort of authorities to sweep it under the rug. How poetic that the laws of another country that is too attractive to pass up by those who have the secret funds to spend will be the cause of exposing long suspected corruption in high places. This is precisely what the anti-money laundering law intends to do, if it still has the teeth to do so after our honorable legislators got through with the proposed draft bill.

A mere general in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, an institution accused by some of its young officers as unable to afford sturdy and
reliable boots for their foot soldiers, is determined by official US Customs records to have brought into the United States the equivalent of more than 40 million pesos. This was done through mostly his wife and sons. Scandalous?

Perhaps, but not as scandalous as the Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard which cost a billion to construct despite the fact that it is only a few kilometers in length. When wholesale looting is performed almost publicly, what with approvals coming not just from the Board of the Public Estates Authority but from the board of banks and even from the Office of the President, what is so deplorable about a general carting away tens of millions to the United States?

After all, a general gets to where he is by going through a long and often dangerous process. It can take thirty years for a general to head a sensitive, and lucrative, post in the AFP, while it only needs the right connection and a lucky appointment for once private citizens to become board members of government owned or controlled corporations where they can dip their sticky fingers. With trillions being owed by Napocor over the decades that its officers and bureaucrats ransacked its treasury, what is 40 million pesos being smuggled out of the Philippines by the family of a general?

It will become a circus in the Congress again as investigations in aid of legislation will be viewed over television. Once more, the Filipino public will be treated to a grotesque vaudeville of graft and corruption in government through one of its strategic institutions, the AFP. And once more the spectacle will leave a bitter aftertaste which one day will find its own dangerous overflow.

What will be ironic will not be the expected grandstanding of some lawmakers but the stove calling the kettle black. How hilarious it will then be when one of the most corrupt institutions in people’s minds will be implying the same to a fellow government organization. Indeed, elections are not the only diversion of a people’s discontent and frustration - legislative hearings can also serve the same purpose.

An honest-to-goodness lifestyle check will send many officials to jail. Grafters can become the most dominant of criminals in the prison system, what with the Philippines being rated as the 11th most corrupt nation in the world and one of the most populous. However, lifestyle checks in this country will turn out to be selective, very selective. If not, they can turn out to be very bad for one’s health.

It will not take a whistle-blower to rid the motherland of thieves in high places. It will not even be the courts or formal justice system. When the rot has infected every branch of government, then only an enraged people can begin and end the cleansing process. Or, a few self-appointed messiahs with guns and guts will simply take over. It is not an easy choice, but one that will be made sooner than later.

Have things gone from bad to worse in our beloved Philippines? Not necessarily so. Bringing ugliness to the light can be the purification that rot and decay need to be reborn. The foul odor can be swept away by gusts of fresh air that nature supplies as a gesture of kindness to a mankind that is not as gracious. In the end, transparency rids the spirit and the heart of unnecessary baggage, even if this means millions of pesos or dollars.

The whole leadership and elite structure of the Philippines is on trail. A dirty AFP could also mean a dirty PNP, and a dirty Congress, and a dirty judiciary. It could be dirty all over, and the thieves having stolen so much that their dens are not enough to store their loot. The general’s cup runneth over, and his undeclared wealth burst through hidden vaults. What about the others whose cups runneth over as well? When will we get to see the fruits of their labor?

And what do we do then?

This article (c) Jose Ma. Montelibano, 2004.
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The corruption scandal in the Philippines is just like an iceberg, Gen.Garcia is just the tip of this massive iceberg. I think the reason why the investigation is going so slow is because the "powers that be" are concerned about Gen.Garcia exposing everyone.

I honestly believe that the "people’s power" revolution had gone to waste and that democracy has failed in the Philippines. Indeed, this nation is not ready to become a good example of democracy for its people do not have the courage and discipline to fix this ongoing problem.

You maybe right about mentioning a good “cleansing process” by some courageous messiahs (armed or not), we need a new breed of leaders, young and patriotic individuals who are not bent to the old corrupt ways. Leaders that have a good vision of a prosperous and long-term economy.

To solve and expose corruption, all we really need to do is have a “lifestyle” check on all public officials. We could also sue any banking system worldwide for taking deposits from any government and military officials or its family members.

Let’s start the laundry now!

Posted by Blogger Guy Rendon on Monday, October 25, 2004 9:55:00 AM  



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