What Really Matters

THERE WAS SUCH a hodgepodge of news this week that it’s a bit tricky to recap as I usually do. But let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

Politics was business as usual, except more so. Grace Poe had dinner at Malacañang then started to make the rounds, which probably tensed up Jojo Binay, who escalated his wooing of the masses by giving away cellphones, wheelchairs, t-shirts, rosary bracelets, and cash, to the delight of the crowds in Negros Occidental. Super Vice went vote-shopping in Mar’s bailiwick. How brash is that?

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As for Roxas, well, he remains quiet, iffy. I almost feel sorry for him. His good friend Noynoy is embarrassingly reluctant to endorse him and has placed him in limbo. Such an untenable spot…what’s a standard-bearer-in-waiting to do?

Meanwhile, nearly a hundred more children fell victim in various cases of food poisoning across the country, in addition to the 2,000 recovering in Davao. Up to seven workers are feared dead in the Semirara mine landslide and several remain missing. A 24-year old tricycle driver suspected of robbery was shot at close range by Manila policemen though his hands were raised in surrender when cornered. And of course there is still that Canadian trash which continues to stink more and more.

In the face of these deaths, illnesses, injuries, and atrocities, politics loses its edge. The candidates’ hemming and hawing, their coy denials, their cocky declarations, their bravado, their show of “modesty” (and other theatrics), their courtship of the hoi polloi – all this pales when set beside the widespread grief and confusion, the backstories of hunger and poverty, the illicit machinations and back-door deals daily being revealed.

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It is one thing to hear that an alleged robber met his end at the hands of the law after committing a crime. But it is another matter to watch the actual CCTV footage and see him give himself up then keel over after one of the cops shoots him in the head.

It is sad enough to hear how workers perished horribly in a morass of mud and water 300 meters below sea level; it is profoundly worse to learn that the very island they were mining has been dying a slow death after years of being systematically gouged for its riches.

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Northern end of Semirara Island, Antique. AFP PHOTO / NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY gmanetwork.com

How do these things happen? Why are too many of our public and private officials sleeping on the job or helping themselves to the till? And how did we become so indolent that we fail to check them? Why do we allow the complacent and corrupt to manage our affairs? And why do we welcome them back year after year?

For instance, in the Quezon City food poisoning case: How could a 20-year old male pretending to be a student enter the elementary department of the Juan Sumulong public school and sell candies in several classrooms without anyone raising a fuss? Who was manning the guardpost, and why was the CCTV camera out of order? Who was in charge?

And in the landslide incident: Why was a megacorp like Semirara Mining not held criminally accountable two years ago for the 5 deaths resulting from the first landslide in the same location as the Friday tragedy? Who was in charge of that? Is a hefty indemnity all it takes for a company to get off the hook?

These problems and their attendant questions and several more like them – these are what really matter today.

Just as we are now learning to seek redress for corporate neglect, police violence, the cavalier treatment of foreign bullies, and other injustices, I truly hope we shall demand with equal adamance more from the politicians who pursue our troth. We have got to put someone in charge who cherishes truth, yes, but demands accountability from the culpable, whether in or out of government, and who genuinely intends to act on our national maladies.

The politicians will tell us many things in the run up to May 2016, things that will initially sound to us like hogwash but which we may eventually accept for want of something better. The candidate we dismiss today we may end up selecting then because we fear the victory of someone worse. Is compromise our destiny then? Surely not; we needn’t always settle.

While we suffer the politicians’ platitudes, we must ultimately require their platforms. And these we should scrutinize. The candidates who want our vote must pass a test that we write; we should carefully craft our questions. This takes serious reflection, but it is energy well-spent. If we again vote without thinking, if we again choose expedience and celebrity over wisdom and integrity, if we go the same route as we have for decades, then we shall again fall through a hole of our own making.

Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results. Are we for the nuthouse in 2016? We shall see.

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