This month witnessed an incredible display of mobilization among Filipinos and Filipino-Americans as people took to the internet, to the newspapers, and to the streets to exclaim their anger over a single line on Desperate Housewives.
I agree that outrage and action were justified; Filipino-Americans cannot allow such comments, even if they are just “in passing” or “jokes.” However, I also agree with the sentiment of most opinion columnists here in the Philippines: Why is it so easy for Filipinos and Filipino-Americans to organize, mobilize and act over less than 1 minute of a fictional drama, while there is little or no reaction to the ongoing and very real drama we are all living through?
We here in the Philippines are at a point of complete frustration. Over the past few months we have witnessed the unfolding of one scandal after another:
1) The $364 million USD (that’s right, US Dollars, not Philippine Pesos) ZTE National Broadband Network deal, which was overpriced by $160 million so that there would be adequate funds to bribe competing firms, bribe people within government to stay silent, and line the pockets of first gentleman Mike Arroyo and former Comelec Chief Benjamin Abalos.
2) The PhP 26.5 billion CyberEd deal, wherein the Philippines would get a loan from the Chinese government and award a contract to a Chinese firm to install satellite TV in almost all public schools in the nation. Mind you, the vast majority of public schools do not have adequate rooms, chairs, toilets, water or electricity (electricity, by the way, is necessary for TV).
3) The 3-page joke of an impeachment claim filed in the House of Representatives, which came complete with offers of up to Php 2 million from KAMPI (the President’s party) members to members of the opposition in order to support the claim. There is allegedly an attempt to get the opposition to support the weak impeachment claim in order to block a real impeachment claim for the following year. (The Constitution says only 1 impeachment claim can be filed per year).
4) The October 11 meeting at Malacañang, where 190 congressmen and 48 provincial governors were handed between PhP 200,000 and PhP 500,000 each in paper bags. The office of the President and various cabinet departments are all contradicting each other as they point wily fingers at each other while simultaneously confirming and denying that any money was handed out in the first place.
5) The revelation that Erap is now seeking complete amnesty from the President, and the President, “elated,” has ordered the Department of Justice to move swiftly on the matter. After 2 People Powers which divided the nation, 6 years of waiting for a result, and a guilty verdict that gave many hope that justice in this nation could prevail over wealth and connections, what are we left with?
And then comes the catastrophic #6: The explosion at Glorietta Mall on Friday afternoon which killed 11 and wounded almost 100. The investigation is still going on to uncover the real cause of the explosion, but this has not stopped various factions from airing their conspiracy theories. Fingers have already been pointed at the Rajah Solaiman/Abu Sayaaf/insert generic Muslim extremist group, rogue elements of the military, opposition forces, and even the Ayala group itself. The most common theory at this point, alarmingly, is that the bombing was a diversionary tactic by the GMA administration itself in order to take attention away from scandals #1-5 above.
I do not know if the administration is responsible and I will not venture an opinion as I believe it would be counter-productive at this point. However, the very fact that people believe their own government is responsible for this act of mass murder is a testament to the sorry state of Philippine politics today. People do not trust the government. They do not trust what Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says. They truly believe that Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is so desperate to hold on to power that she would resort to such acts. In the end, we cannot blame the people, as the almost 900 dead and disappeared journalists and activists since Madame assumed the presidency in 2001 demonstrate that this is an administration willing to turn a blind eye to murder, if not commit murder itself.
And this is all happening as the United Nations in New York is being presented with a report on the state of human rights in the Philippines this very week. UN rapporteur Philip Alston has prepared a damning report; presenting the status of human rights in the Philippines as under attack and identifying the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the main violator. In response, GMA has sent Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to the UN to work damage control. Ermita will be in New York until Sunday, October 28.
Where are the hurting masses who claim to be fighters for the dignity of our people? Why can we be so angry at an actress reciting lines and not at a president who recites whatever excuses she can to stay in power? Why is it that we are offended by a network insensitive to our race, but not by members of our own race who, instead of protecting and supporting us, lie, steal, cheat and kill us?
If ever there is a cause for which Filipino-Americans and Filipinos all over the world should mobilize, that cause is the escalating crisis in our nation. Ermita is in New York right now. Show him that Filipinos living abroad care about what is happening back home. Whether or not you choose to believe it, it affects you too.