The social cancer of Philippine society

Edgar B. Badajos
In the thick of the fight, whether in Mendiola, at Liwasang Bonifacio, or abroad, some of our countrymen have found temporary solace in the victories of their fellow Filipinos

Like in the days of the fictional Don Juan Crisostomo Ibarra in Noli Me Tangere, Philippine society today is suffering from a social cancer.

The disease has manifested itself in various forms. Juetengate scandal. Midnight Cabinet. “Hello Garci” scandal. ZTE-NBN scam. Fertilizer scam. Euro Generals scandal. The Corona impeachment trial. Senate Christmas Bonus scandal. Pork Barrel Fund scandal. Janet Napoles. The list is endless.

One symptom is as gruesome and nauseating as the other, killing the Philippines slowly like the way they do it in the Cordilleras where they beat live chicken with a stick until it dies. But Don Ibarra’s nemesis – the lecherous, coarse, tyrannical Padre Damaso in his priestly habit – seems to have been replaced by politicians in bespoke suits and shimmering barongs. These politicians allegedly lust not after God-fearing virgins but development projects of dubious origins.

Like vultures

I remember a story once told to us by a history professor during my days in the University of the Philippines. He said that in the time of the Roman Empire, Senators comprising the Senatus or Assembly of Elders were sought after by the emperor for their sage advice. In our time, in the Philippines, it seems that some of our legislators are being sought after by some lowlife creatures for entirely different reasons.

It is being alleged that some of them have been captivated by the entrepreneurial genius of one person and, together with the latter, pulled off what may yet go down in the annals of Philippine history as one of the greatest acts of “official” thievery. I am suddenly reminded of vultures circling in the sky, waiting for the right moment to swoop down and feed on carcass lying on the ground. Only in our case, it is the peoples’ money that those facing charges of plunder have allegedly fed on.

Of course, there is that presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty. I would be the first to rejoice and salute them for their integrity if it turns out that the legislators concerned have been unfairly judged.

Because of this social disease, many of our countrymen have been driven to abject poverty. Some 8 to 10 million have joined the Filipino diaspora, perhaps, hoping to find salvation in distant shores. Among those who have chosen to stay home, some have accepted their fate in quiet resignation as though it was the will of God. But there are also those – and they number in the millions – who have chosen to fight in every way they can despite the seeming incurability of the disease.

Hope in many places

In the thick of the fight, whether in Mendiola, at Liwasang Bonifacio, or abroad, some of our countrymen have found temporary solace, if not some glimmer of hope, in the victories of their fellow Filipinos.

File photo by Rappler

Like in the victory of Ms. Megan Young in the Ms. World 2013 beauty pageant. Or in the triumphs and travails of Manny Pacquiao who has metamorphosed from great boxer to politician to TV personality to preacher and to what next, only Manny himself and God knows.

Others have found escape in Korean telenovelas and K-pop heartthrobs, forgetting that in the 1980s Filipinos had Janice de Belen who as Flor de Luna made many people cry buckets of tears every 6 o’clock in the evening, and Victor Wood and Eddie Peregrina and Edgar Mortiz who serenaded their way into the hearts of many a swooning Filipina in the 1970s.

Or in Ms. Vilma Santos-Recto successfully parlaying herself from tear-jerker movies into Batangas politics. In the lives of these other Filipinos, those of us who chose to fight have found a reason to be optimistic about the future. But truth be told: These “escapes” are temporary salves. Like Band-Aid applied to minor cuts.

Detoxification needed

If the Philippines were a human being, what it needs is complete detoxification to rid itself of free radicals that are slowly killing both body and mind. But who will administer the cure? Rizal has long been dead. His stillborn child – a boy – by Josephine Bracken died at birth in Dapitan.

They killed Andres Bonifacio and his brother, Procopio, in the mountains of Maragondon. Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. got shot in the tarmac. Secretary Jesse Robredo perished in a plane crash. The name “Bayani Agbayani” keeps creeping into my mind, but I am not sure whether he is capable or if at all he qualifies

If as a person the Philippines were Buddhist, it might have preferred death over life by now because to Buddhists life is suffering and death ends all suffering. Being dead, how apt it would have been for our country to have retained the original name given to it by Ferdinand Magellan. The name was “Lazarus,” after the man who was resurrected from the dead in Jesus’ time. Then it would have been perfectly understandable for Filipinos to pin their hopes on resurrection. Resurrection not from death, but from all these vicissitudes. But I digress.

Filipinos are born fighters. Lapu Lapu demonstrated this as early as in March 1521. I am convinced that Filipinos will carry on this tradition of courage and fight this deadly disease until it is completely eradicated from our midst.

Edgar Badajos graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law and is Minister and Consul General at the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand

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