After Napoles

Carljoe Javier
We have to see this as a crucial point where we can reassess our understanding of the function of public service and government

CARL JAVIERSo we got Napoles. Or she surrendered. Whatever. We got her.


Now we want names. We want people charged. We want convictions.


While we are aware, in a general sense, of the rampant corruption going on at various levels of government and the companies, institutions, and private individuals who are a part of this system of corruption, we have had so much difficulty pinning down particular people. Sure, low level government employees taking bribes or perpetrating petty acts of graft and corruption have been caught. But we have yet to see those who operate at the upper echelons of government—those who have access to millions of pesos and use this access to steal from the people—put in jail.


Now, hopefully, we will have the tenacity to demand and keep demanding that the corrupt parties be named. It is of course in the best interests of these perpetrators of corruption that the process be dragged out and delayed. They are hiding their money, diverting their funds, planning their escapes. We must also be hopeful that despite the majority of those in government being implicated, there will be enough good people still there and willing to see this through, willing to actually do their civic duty which they have sworn to do.  


I want my money back


I wish we could get our money back. As a teacher in a state funded university, I get a substantial chunk of my salary deducted for taxes. I am sure that there are many people who have the same feeling when they see their pay slips and look at their deductions.


Where did this money go? To congressmen paying for their illicit lovers’ posh condos? Towards buying government officials SUVs and filling up their gas tanks while I struggle and sweat through jeepney rides and unforgiving scrums on MRT trains? To one of the Napoles’ many houses, vehicles, or Louboutins that are worth maybe two or three months of my salary (and I had to look up the spelling of Louboutins because it is so far out of the stratosphere of my price range that I have never had occasion to type it before)?


We can’t have it redistributed back to us. Though it would be nice if, for a few months, we all didn’t have to pay taxes.

CCTV. A jail guard fixes a CCTV camera while VACC volunteers stage a picket outside the Makati City Jail 

The next best thing is to take all of this money and utilize it for important projects. How about building some classrooms? Buying some MRT trains? Fixing roads? Upgrading government systems so that it can provide services better? Anything you can think of, we can probably do with the billions we should get back. Heck, it’s what taxpayer money should be used for anyway.


I don’t just want funds seized. I want properties and assets. I want these converted into spaces that could be used to provide services.


How about using some of these funds to set up progressive schools and using these houses as campuses? And how about selling some seized aseets, not at incredibly low auction prices, but at proper market value, so that we could recover some of what was stolen?


Expose the charlatans


Beyond what we want done with Napoles and those around her, we have to see this as a crucial point where we can reassess our understanding of the function of public service and governance.


We have been used to a government that we can’t trust, a government that just barely meets our needs, and often fails to do the bare minimum. We are used to having to grease palms if we want things done. We are used to the idea of government services as inefficient and incompetent and corrupt. We vote for people who we consider lesser evils.


Why do we have to choose and live with lesser evils? Why not demand that the best and the brightest of our country be the ones who actually run this country? Shouldn’t those who represent us be the best of us? How many of our congressmen or senators would you consider the best examples or role models? It is a House of Representatives, but whose moral values and beliefs do they really represent?


We have now exposed the corruption. We see how high it goes, and how widespread it is. Now is the time to demand better of our supposed public servants. Enough of these charlatans who see government service as a moneymaking enterprise, who see campaigns as investments and who demand exponential returns on investment. Let’s hold these people to higher moral standards of public service, rather than perpetuating systems which make us beholden to them.


Local reforms needed


What we should ask for are reforms in local government so that there will be no justification for “priority development” or whatever it is they want to call it.


We should demand that legislators do their jobs and pass laws that will help people.


The job of the houses of Congress isn’t to hold a public scourging when sex tapes are exposed or whatever else it is that these congressmen and senators are doing instead of passing important legislature.


It’s time that we put people in government who know what their jobs really are, and how best to perform those jobs. Their goals shouldn’t involve making themselves rich or sustaining political dynasties or silencing dissenters. They should involve concrete actions that lead to the empowerment of the people and the improvement of our country as a whole. I know empowerment and improvement are vague terms, but if we get good people on those goals, then these can be operationalized and aspired for.  




One of the things that worry me, though, is that after this hullabaloo we will forget.


Consider that we have two former presidents who we know are the biggest thieves. We took to the streets and ousted one. This only so that we could place the other in power.


Now one is a mayor.


Another is in congress.


How many more names do we find on the roster of government service similar to these? Will we make sure that anyone connected to the rampant corruption is never given an opportunity to take advantage of us again?


At this point, all of this is up in the air. I wonder, how tough will our president be? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find myself wondering how there has been no statement of personal outrage.


I know that we are all different people and we all have different responses. But if I were president and I heard about this, I would be so deeply disturbed, and ashamed that this was happening under my nose that I would lead the charge in a massive crackdown. I would make it my mission that if I did nothing else while in office, I made sure that I cleaned out all of the people, institutions, and systems involved in the corruption.


I mean it isn’t like our president just came from a vacuum and took office. He was a senator when this stuff was going on. Didn’t he know anything? Hear anything? Was he insulated from this? Why is he not responding more aggressively to this? Should we expect or demand him to?


What should we expect of ourselves at this juncture? We are all fired up. This issue has kindled the fire of civic duty and responsibility in so many people. It has shown us that because there are those who would perpetrate great evil, we must be ready to stand up and fight for what is right. We must hold onto this fervor and let it power the change that our country needs. –

Carl Javier is an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman. As an undergraduate he served as a member of the UP Samahan sa Agham Pampulitika. Before entering the academe he worked on a number of development projects concerned with capacity building for farmers, factory workers’ welfare, and OFW welfare. He currently teaches literature and creative writing.

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