Ten things Filipinos can (and must) do without (2nd of two parts)
Haggling on life. Deaths from the war on drugs have recently met with public outrage over the killing of a 17-year-old Kian de los Santos, 19-year-old Karl Angelo Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman. But they are probably over 10,000 already (other sources say the actual count could exceed 13,000) that would only cover known killings. Yet, except for the egregious and much-publicized teen deaths, there has been very little protest or indignation from the public. Even the anti-EJK rallies are not as many as or as effective as pro-life or pro-human-rights advocates would have wished. Noises that get our attention or sympathy come from those who through the media loudly protest the killing of a member of the family, clan, fraternity, class, or closely-knit neighborhood. Anyone who is killed outside of our circles of dearly-held ties is rarely mourned or spoken against. Only the lives within our circles of relations are precious; others are simply collateral damage or deserving their fates, especially if drug-related. In our national value scale human life is relative: precious if one of “ours”; expendable if not. On the other hand, in the Scriptures God deems human life’s value as absolute. Doubters simply need to recall God’s commandment: “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13). No ifs, no buts.
Regionalism. National unity advanced by leaps and bounds with the election to the presidency of a Mindanaoan Filipino. Or so it seemed. But those who think national unity had been achieved are now shown to be dreaming and dreaming big. The truth is, Filipinos continue to be regionalistic, provincial or even parochial in the way they perceive and relate to one another. Visayans and Southerner Filipinos still get bashed for their linguistic difficulties with soft and hard vowels; Ilocanos still get dished for being stingy; Tagalogs are equally struck for their difficulties with pronouncing English words ending with “sts”, “sks” or “cle” and “tle”; Pampangos are singled out for putting “h” where there is none and eliminating “h” when it is there; Mindanaoans are still pilloried for the violence and life-threatening traits of some of their number. It is clear that Filipino unity till now faces a mammoth stumbling block in our prejudices and bigotry against one another. Cultivating a highly aware, culturally educated and sensitive populace, with a learned fundamental respect for one another, may seem like a vain pursuit for high-price commodities. But we nevertheless need to keep the effort going.
Waltzing with corruption. There is a heightened sense of the scourge of corruption in the country’s social and political culture. That is one given. The other given can easily dampen it: Corruption continues to exist despite this and the tough anti-corruption stance of the current and previous administrations. Reason? Filipinos continue to dance with corrupt officials and their corrupt ways, in part because of a warped sense of patriotism or the lack of it, often manifested in certain forms of individual and collective selfishness. Many Filipinos swear love of country but actually work for their families’ prosperity often at their country’s expense. Unless true love of country and the common good overtakes Filipinos, corruption will keep its ugly head in our body politic.
Consenting to the ways of tyranny. Opposition has, by all historical accounts, always been the bane of tyrants. Remember the Martial Law years? Political and other conscientious opponents of the regime were incarcerated, ‘salvaged’ or ‘liquidated’, tortured or threatened, all for the sake of silencing them. In today’s circumstances incarceration and the other old ways are still among a tyrant’s options; Martial Law is another. Considering the public’s disapproval of the “soft ways” of liberal democracy and the rule of the elite, other tools have become handy: public cursing and shaming of critics and opponents, public threats to get rid of suspected narco politicians and criminals, conveniently being carried out by police operatives or hooded vigilantes, harassment by social media trolls and communications specialists of contrary views and those who hold them. Whereas past regimes used subtle and sophisticated tools to counter critics, today’s tyrants are characteristically crude, rough and unvarnished. The high approval ratings that some of these ways have been received by the public do not at all vouch for their rightness. They are a slap to civilized democracy and a contradiction to people of faith. Which brings us to the final point.
Gap between rich and poor; between belief and praxis. The one is most certainly feeding off the other. Gulfs and gaps are marked traits of life in the Philippines. Wide gulfs of seas divide our islands; so do the degrees of wealth and poverty among Filipinos. There’s a similar gulf between the profession of faith, on the one hand, and the life being lived, on the other. The wealthy in the Philippines, needless to say, are so distant from the poor. For instance, in Manila alone, one finds the elite few living in conditions comparable to (or even exceeding) their counterparts in America or Europe while the more numerous poor still live in subhuman makeshift habitats and struggle with grinding traffic to make ends meet on a daily basis. Meanwhile, many of the same elite families have children in Catholic universities and schools. And yet, centuries of Christianity have not produced conscientious Christians effectively working to close the gap between the many who are impoverished and the few who are wealthy. To profess to follow Christ and to be extremely wealthy while others barely survive is, in recent magisterial teaching, one of the “new deadly sins”. When we truly cultivate love of God and neighbor, we must flee from the practical apathy that widens the gaps between us. The gaps do not self-destruct; we do, when practical apathy instead of justice and compassion rules over us.