So there I was in Tokyo over the weekend, living a never-endingly eventful Travelife, when my Skype phone rang.
It was my Serendepity friend from New York calling, to talk politics again, now that things have heated up again back home.
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As usual, I’m busy on a Travelife, so this pork barrel scandal that has been gripping most politicized Filipinos with ferocious anger is rather far from my range of vision.
But distance was certainly not stopping my friend from New York, calling from somewhere in Europe on another business trip.
Honestly. With his terribly busy work schedule, I don’t know how he keeps up with everything happening in the Philippines in such detail.
He’s quite a big player in a certain industry, you see.
And I’d met him by accident in the Japan Airlines lounge of Narita Airport in Tokyo over a year ago, by striking up a conversation with him.
A graduate of Penn, just like so many people I know, he was a pretty well-dressed stranger seated next to me, looking like he stepped out of a clothing catalog at 7 AM. He was also reading a copy of the Philippine Star, and I thought I might have it after him, to read on the airplane.
I’d been gone from the Philippines for quite awhile at that time, you see, and so I was ready to talk to strangers for a local newspaper.
We’d become pretty good friends after that, and he’s amused me by calling me at ungodly hours in hotel rooms all over the world, from hotel rooms all over the world, mainly to talk politics.
Basically he talks and I listen. I’ve written this before, but he really should’ve been a professor in another life.
“Cry, for your beloved country,” he said, by way of greeting.
He knows I like a book called “Cry the Beloved Country,” which is about a traumatic time in South Africa’s modern history.
I knew right away what he meant, so I said: “That’s not at all funny.”
Actually, when I’d read the headlines of Philippine newspapers a few days before this call, I already knew he was going to contact me again pretty soon.
He continued: “They impeached a poor man on the basis of an omission in his SALN, because they really couldn’t find anything else. And yet there they all were, literally raping the country at the same time.”
It was pretty late at night, but the ferocity of his words, ringing into Tokyo all the way from London, of all places, made me sit up.
He then said: “People should be out on the streets for this. Shame on every hypocritical lawmaker who has profited from pork barrel while so many Filipinos are going hungry. They should be hanged.”
YOU DON’T THINK POLITICS IS A FAMILY BUSINESS
BECAUSE POLITICIANS LOVE SERVING COUNTRY, DO YOU?
I said, with mild exasperation at his ranting: “But you, of all people, know that this has been going on for so long. This isn’t anything new. It’s just that now there’s brazen evidence.”
“You don’t think politicians turn running for office into family businesses out of their love of country and desire to serve others, do you? It’s the easiest get-rich-quick scheme for people who can’t get a real job in the real world.”
He replied: “Of course not. But never has the hypocrisy been more apparent than now. They’ve used an anti-corruption campaign to persecute their enemies. Meanwhile, all along, it’s been business as usual. That really makes me mad.”
He stressed: “Remember. Napoles may have done a lot of awful things, but she wouldn’t have even had a day’s work if there hadn’t been corrupt politicians acting as accomplices.”
He also said: “This was development money intended to help the poor of a poor country. How sickening to think that these politicians and their accomplices stole from the poor, while so many have been starving.”
Then he continued: “And the mainstream media has been an accomplice in crime. Just look at how they helped paint a picture of corruption on a Chief Justice. And then now, look how they’re trumpeting all the opposition lawmakers as part of the pork barrel scandal, while conveniently omitting so many other names — including that guy who led the prosecution of the Chief Justice for corruption.”
He almost shouted at me when he added: “That’s not called news, that’s called propaganda.”
This was when I had to ask him: “And how would you know that?”
He is in London, after all. And, as far as I know, he hasn’t been back to Manila in months.
He gave me a website link to look at, and while we were talking, I went online to see.
He was right. So many lawmakers currently in power were part of the pork barrel scandal. But most of them have so far been omitted by a particular major newspaper, especially keen on reporting this scandal.
There must be a word to describe journalists who make the public believe they’re printing the truth, when they’re actually only printing their own convenient version of it.
He added: “It’s just like that movie, Wag the Dog.”
I actually like that movie. It’s a story about how brilliant strategists can so easily dupe the public into thinking anything is the truth.
I finally said: “I don’t know what to say. It’s shocking and maddening.”
He literally sighed into the phone: “Cry, for your beloved country. The country has been raped repeatedly and truth has been so messed up by propagandists and strategists in collusion with the media that so many people have been brainwashed without them even knowing it.”
I didn’t know what to say. So instead I asked him: “What do you think will happen from now?”
He replied: “That’s anyone’s guess. The only thing I really know is that karma eventually catches up with everyone. Corrupt politicians and self-righteous propaganda newspapers included.”
Then he added: “Either that, or everyone should keep the issue alive until the real people get hanged. What a useless exercise this will all be if the only person jailed will be Napoles as fall guy. This is about her, but in reality, this issue is so way beyond her.“