The Search For An HonestMan In The Philippines
I Am Not A Thief -- Aquino
Edwin A. Sumcad, PAR Columnist
Just recently, the pig-fat or pork barrel corruption in the Philippines had a nasty turn. In a rare appearance at TV prime time, President Benigno Aquino III [Noynoy] had to explain to the public his massive presidential pork barrel – actually, another form of thievery otherwise legalized by cohorts in the Philippine Congress, as Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Fund [DAP].
If we talk about the size of this huge congressional largesse ritually and politically given to Noynoy in a Silver Platter budgetary offering from those notorious bargaining-bootlickers in Congress, even if the whole pork barrels of Senators and Congressmen are summed up all together, still Aquino’s pig-fat is so enormous that the politicians’ P10 billion loot pales in comparison … just a drop in the bucket, so to speak!
“I am not a thief!” Noynoy fumed mad with rage at his distractors. Well, obviously that presidential outburst was suspicious and foreboding, if not clearly cynical.
What Noynoy was trying to say was that he was an honest man. That makes thievery of public fund more portentous and covertly, more menacingly threatening.
Unfortunately, aside from what it says on the record, i. e., on record, former Speaker Manny Villar had pointed an accusing finger to Noynoy as his very dishonest rival candidate for president in May 2010 in connection with the theft of public funds in the Appropriation Act passed by Congress – published corruption shown in road constructions leading to Hacienda Luisita, just to mention one of the really big ones so far.
Similarly, opinion writers and several newspapers in the Philippines, especially the Daily Inquirer, one of the leading dailies in Metro Manila, had written and published the contrary to what Noynoy was saying that he was “not a thief”.
Several community newspapers in the U.S., particularly in Southern California like the Philippines & Asian Report, are merely echoing the sound-bytes of corruption in the Philippines, although editorial analysts here in the United States are generally no less incisive or global-wise perhaps even more insightful or razor-sharp compared to their counterparts in Metro Manila. They are not beholden to Political Dynasties that hold the Philippines by the nose and run the country anyway they want.
For me as a PAR columnist and Internet editorial writer, my take on this issue is very simple: The truth is, if only an honest man could be found in the Philippines, that man could lead the transformation of a rotten society and liberate the people from moral bankruptcy.
But it is only an altruistic philosophical search common to life-scoffers everywhere called “critics” or “philosophers” in their futile quest for the truth if an honest man really exists, especially in the Philippines. Centuries ago Diogenes, the Cynic spent his entire life walking the streets during daytime up to late at night with a lighted lantern searching for an honest man he never found until he died in Corinth in 323 BC.
Diogenes’ brand of philosophy is to criticize the social values and institutions of a corrupt society, which is exactly what development journalists like me do in our written and published editorial reports and/or critiques.
For example, Diogenes and I are similar in that sense of criticizing corruption but at the same time he and I have a mountain of dissimilarities separating us. This contrast differentiates one from the other.
But first let’s know more about this noted philosopher of the ancient time: Diogenes was born in Sinope [Turkey]. Reports had it that he died of self-induced asphyxiation simply by cynically holding his breath to the end.  He was in the company of his two dogs when he died because as a cynic, he believed dogs are better company than humans. Humans are “liars” when they open their mouth, while dogs are truthful -- dogs bark only at the truth.
Although Diogenes and editorial writers like me are both critics of a degenerate society worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, the marked difference between me and the likes of Diogenes is that cynics criticize out of spite, while my kind criticize out of hindsight.
Diogenes’ kind is spiteful while I consider the likes of me in what is now known as grassroots journalism, as expediently useful as the immense value of the freedom of expression and whatever the immeasurable worth of the 4th Estate to our modern society are to this day.
For instance, I and my kind geared our criticisms towards nation-building. My kind is a clarifier of historic events; in my own particular editorial critique, I heat up a little bit the fats of decision-makers that rewrite history. The idea is to melt and liquefy them and filter or separate their impurities, i.e. ego-massaging, self-enrichment, artificial work-over, blind-folding and propaganda, dishonesty, corruption, etc., to make the point of national concerns clear and pure for ordinary people to understand and react accordingly.
To illustrate: In May 2010, Filipinos thought they found an honest man by electing Noynoy president like when they elected Cory Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo presidents. This has to be clarified by pointing out the fact that such decisions were costly mistakes the nation had to pay dearly. The terrible consequence of that miscalculation, dishonesty and corruptions in all gamut of society, was the sucking and the slurping of the lifeblood of the Filipino people by political vampires, turning the nation into one of the poorest in Asia.
It is almost impossible to successfully deny that a number of Filipinos although not yet that too many of them, have started to realize Noynoy is NOT the “honest man” they have been looking for, one who is honest enough to “transform society” to a better one. Instead, as corruptions continue unabated, Filipinos are experiencing a transformation of society from bad to worse … not to a better society but to a bitter one. I am referring to the changing of Philippine society which Noynoy himself dishonestly speechified [orally falsified in public] and lately, falsely barked about [lectured] in his 2013 4th SONA.
And so the Filipinos’ search for an honest man goes on. The futility of finding an honest man and turtle-driving in the humid, suffocating heat of the traffic-snarled streets of Metro Manila when EDSA demonstrators are not using them regularly, are almost the same -- you don’t need to be there to breathe a lot of carbon dioxide into your lungs to know that heavy pollution and pervasive desperation are in the air.
I myself am disheartened every time I write about the futility of searching an honest man in the corridor of power more particularly in the Philippines, a country not only economically emaciated and marginalized -- and its once glorious eminence in the gallery of developing nations miniaturized by dishonesty and moral debauchery in the eyes of the world -- but a country that missed the golden opportunity to develop itself into a model nation in Asia as the IMF and World Bank once envisioned, because this Island Republic was totally devastated by Corruption.
The reason for my disappointment is hard to question; it is unshakable, although many times I challenged it myself believing that for the fallen there is always redemption. But the ugly truth behind it stares back at me menacingly … it was as strong as Fort Knox – impregnable, invulnerable and unassailable.
Another way of saying it to drive home this point is that if it is hard to find a needle in a haystack, it is even harder to find an honest president in the Philippines since the time of President Ramon Magsaysay fifty-six years ago. Today to find an honest man among the “trapos” [rags, discards, garbage or disposable politicians] in the Philippine Congress and in the corrupt Judiciary is not only much harder but impossible … a dead end the unlikelihood of which is comparable to the impossibility of the crow turning white.
On point of public enlightenment, I am likewise disappointed to discover that only few scholars know what this search for an honest man actually means, even as I lament the fact that inside and outside the Academe even if scholars and professors knew, they are bereft of that civic-mindedness society needed badly – which is the lack of eagerness and enthusiasm on their part -- to share with the public gratis et amore what they knew unless they are paid for their labor under the atmosphere of academic freedom they enjoy. Thus regrettably, to discover what lies behind this search for an honest man and understanding what it means, is practically nil to the layman.
I learned the true meaning of this enigma – the metaphorical appeal of this philosophical conundrum if you may -- many years back when I studied Victorian Literature in the Faculty of Philosophy & Letters, University of Santo Tomas, the first and oldest university in the Far East ran by The Dominican Order of Preachers [Ordo Praedicatorum], a Catholic institution of higher learning seven years older than the United States’ Harvard University.
It was in UST – by the way, it was neither in the graduate school of law and practice of law or specialized studies of IMF-World Bank monetary economics, UN-Asian Development Institute that I have struggled in years to have, nor in the United Nations where I have been for more than a decade and a half -- where I discovered the euphemism and dysphemism [cynicism] of orthodox philosophical languages and expressions as they apply to real life. It was part of the study of Literature and Philosophy & Letters where I earned a diploma inscribed in Latin.
In deference to scholars and secretive scientists who we know hardly communalize what they know for reasons of their own, I want to share – at least through this column and through other global venues of expressions and communication that writers of my kind avail themselves of -- my little light of knowledge … share it with the world at large, just for the pleasure of sharing, and nothing more. You will find this sharing of light of knowledge I am talking about when you search for and click my name in Google or Yahoo.
Right now, this is what I am sharing with you: The reason this honest man could not be found is because in real life, he does not exist -- at least that’s what the philosophy of cynical demagogues like Diogenes is all about.
Since there is this oblique belief that in real life an honest person does not exist, the people, especially the most dishonest of them all, became CYNICAL – the case of Diogenes, the Cynic.
The misanthropic or the scornful and the sardonic, would demonstrate by walking the streets holding a lighted lantern looking for an honest man like Diogenes did in a manner of speaking, to prove that society is hypocritical.
Unfortunately, what is NOT known of Diogenes, the Cynic, was that he and his father had been accused of “embezzling money from the Corinthian mint”.  It turned out that they themselves were among the most dishonest people of Corinth that the townsfolk despised.
Feeling outcast, Diogenes became more eccentric and cynical; he lived publicly in a huge tub he had improvised as a living quarter. He lived in that container alone by himself in the company of his two dogs while searching for an honest man he never found. That’s how the world came to know him as Diogenes, the Cynic.
It is in this sense why like Diogenes Filipinos likewise appear cynical and spiteful. They have been looking for an honest man perhaps even knowing that such man does not exist. To spite the world in this manner was exactly what Diogenes did to the Corinthians.
But unknown to many, the real cause of the problem was the fact that Diogenes let corruption control his life as Filipinos let corruption control their life. In spite of his philosophical wisdom, he did not resist the temptation, and instead, accepted corruption as a way of life.
In the same way, the majority of the population of the Philippines, especially the mammoth “bakya” crowd that decides the future of the country in the parliament of the streets [EDSA], had tolerated Political Dynasties to control their lives, and accepted corruption as a way of life. In fact they elected Benigno Aquino III president who is currently the head of all Political Dynasties that through years of exploitation and corruption had emaciated the country to penury. In this case, the accusing finger of error points back at them.
The trusting Filipino people, including those with good intentions, are hardly aware of what they have elected to the presidency for the next six years. The truth is, it is really not about “who” they elect, but about what they elected, is capable of doing, or incapable of doing as president whom unfortunately they thought was capable, sincere and honest. Sadly all of these were missing.
What they elected as president was a political magician who abracadabra them into believing that he was against “publicly” committed anomaly of his Administration, and that he was fighting corruption for the good of the commonweal. I emphasized “publicly” because corruption is definitely okay so long as it is hidden from the public.
Thus because of his dishonesty, Diogenes was cynical when he said he was looking for an honest man that does not exist.
So was Noynoy when he said he was “not a thief” -- which, to me, clearly sounded cynical … an illusion if not a delusion -- when in fact the record says the contrary, and the looting and thievery of public funds, corruption and plunder captured and reported by the Media, prove otherwise.
© Copyright Edwin A. Sumcad. Access November 11, 2013.