is the topic of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
This election campaign reminds me of the climactic scene in The Bridge Over The River Kwai. After foiling the attempts of his countrymen to destroy the bridge he constructed for the enemy, Alec Guinness’s character suddenly comes to a realization of his folly and whispers, "What have I done?" At which point he gets hit by a mortar and dies, but not before stumbling over a detonator, triggering an explosion that ultimately destroys the bridge. A shocked James Donald, the only surviving character in the movie, seeing the carnage and the waste, despairingly mutters to himself, "Madness! ... Madness!"
Because this election campaign has taken the ridiculousness of our politics to a whole new level of insanity that one could actually consider it sublime. If only the consequences weren’t so tragic.
Albert Einstein was supposed to have said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Well, that insanity is what’s prevailing over the country now. How can it be possible for a select number of families to actually side with the Spanish against the Katipunan, intrigue against Apolinario Mabini, collaborate with the Americans against the First Republic, collaborate with the Japanese, then see their kind give pardon to the collaborators, preside over ever increasing corruption and stagnation in the Third Republic, and then exploit (either in government or in opposition) the Marcos era, People Power, and Edsa Dos, and still play a part in our nation’s affairs? The last two and a half decades alone have seen continuous blackouts, the nose-diving of our economy, increase of robberies and kidnappings, the sinking of the Doña Paz, the massacre of farmers in Mendiola, bungled land reform, of Roppongi, Big Bird, and missing sequestered assets, and the dismemberment (almost) of our Republic’s territory. It’s the same people and families. And yet, a lot of Filipinos seemingly have no qualms in keeping them in power. That is insanity.
And hypocrisy as well. Never before has the double standard in our society been made so evident as in this election campaign. Does it really matter if Manny Villar was previously just poor or very poor? Because no matter how you put it, Villar could never be sanely argued as growing up with the same or half or a fourth of the comforts and privileges that the elite families had or still has. Even assuming that Villar overstated his poverty (which I doubt), who among us (including all the other presidential candidates) have not exaggerated their resumes or accomplishments when applying for a job? People make much of Villar’s alleged wheelings and dealings and yet no single case has been filed, much less won, in court against him. This is truly the height of double standard and hypocrisy: if it’s the old rich who does it, it’s pragmatic and clever business; if it’s the poor or from the poor who does it, it’s corruption.
And yet if indeed corruption is the root of our nation’s ills (which I seriously question), then the focus of our examination should be on the corruption by the elite. After all, how much corruption can the poor do? Petty corruption for purposes of "processing" papers in a government office? This is nothing compared to the large-scale methodical corruption done by the alleged elite in our society and that is what truly damaged our country: the reported embezzlement of the Katipunan’s funds, war profiteering during the Japanese occupation, corruption over the US Army surplus, the selling out of the country through treaties and agreements with foreigners, currency manipulation and corrupting the import licensing scheme, behest loans, and government coddling of favored companies or "kamaganaks." And remember all the scandals that happened in the past few decades? Those weren’t corruption done by the poor or of the poor. They were instigated by the elite, the purported "de buena familias." Read the newspapers and then read our history textbooks: it’s the same people and families screwing the country over and over and over again. And this coming election they want to be given the opportunity to screw the country some more. And Filipinos are willing to give that to them? That’s insanity.
What would’ve been so funny if it weren’t so pathetic is how shameless and unapologetic this so-called elite of ours is. It was only nine years ago that Villar was applauded by these people for passing (as speaker of the House) the articles of impeachment against Estrada. These people, the elite and their middle-class wannabes (collectively called the "un-civil society"), would go on to disrupt the Senate impeachment proceedings, hysterically rally in the streets, kick Estrada out, and install Gloria Arroyo as president. Now these very same people want us to forget that it was they who put GMA into power and that we should again believe them when they now say that Noynoy is the savior of our country?