Looking back at thefts in high places
Filipinos are said to have not only the shortest memory but also the briefest attention span. Our history is littered with unfulfilled hopes, lapses of judgment, and unresolved issues. This is mainly because in us is mirrored George Santayana’s view of an underachieving race — “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Very true. We move forward so slowly because we are held back by constraints we choose to ignore, forget, or simply drop because we have lost interest, have tired of them, or have found new distractions to chew on. And so we repeat past mistakes and fall in the same holes again and again.
“Tuod” is a Tagalog term for a tree stump left to age and decay, and for passersby to trip over because those responsible are too lazy or awed by the labor required to dig it out. Many a tuod litter our cultural landscape, problems we refuse to confront, opportunities we shut our eyes to because we have neither the patience nor the audacity, perspicacity, or political will to handle them in a way that would end in meaningful results for the nation.
Nothing more eloquently encapsulates our penchant to leave business unfinished or issues without closure than the view expressed by an elder statesman on the ongoing probe of the misdeeds of past administrations: “Drop all these investigations, they scare away foreign investors, let’s move on!” As though ignoring crimes against the people in the name of foreign investments were the highest form of patriotism!
True, endlessly ruminating about the good old days is counterproductive. The past is past; it will not come back.
But looking back at history to find out where we have committed grave errors, in what area or undertaking we could have done better, what pitfalls we could have avoided but did not, opportunities we missed because we were too lazy or uninspired to act, is not counterproductive. It is, rather, a positive exercise.
Here is a catalogue of “disasters” — scams and scandals — that visited our land in the last 20 years or so that underscore our penchant to leave bothersome issues hanging, unresolved and forgotten — until they become templates used by the scum of our society to commit more social and economic mayhem:
AFP fund anomaly (damage: P303 million); Benpres-NLEx deal scam (P1.1 billion); C5 extension scam (P6.2 billion); calamity fund anomaly (P1.4 million); SSS irregularities (P331 million and P15.6 billion for two transactions); SCTEx contract magic (P34.106 billion); tobacco taxes scandal (P130 million); ZTE broadband deal (overprice of P6 billion); Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines caper (P400 million);
“Euro generals” feast (P6.9 million); fertilizer fund scam (P728 million); “Hello, Garci” steal (P850 million); Jose Pidal (P321 million); Jose Velarde caper (P400 million); PCSO fund fiesta (P178.71 million); PEA-Amari land scam (P1.8 billion);
Quedan-Rural Credit Corp. gimmick (P2.75 million); RITM flu testing anomaly (P9.56 million); rice fund anomaly (P6.2 million); Macapagal Highway robbery (P1.1 billion, P630 million overprice); Northrail project scam (P500 million); Owwa fund diversion (P530 million); Pag-IBIG Fund anomaly (P6.6 billion); and many more.
That list is far from the complete list of shenanigans that were committed — at great cost to taxpayers — by greedy and conscienceless people in the government. The list will run into several pages if we have the fancy to detail the magic they do at Customs, BIR, DPWH — and Pagcor.
These scams and thefts in high places are a great shame. But the greater shame is that most of them, maybe all of them, would end up in the dustbin of history or in the graveyard of the forgotten: No money lost by the people will be recovered, no perpetrators will go to jail.
This is because the scams and thefts will soon enough vanish from the media radar. And so, with nothing or no one reminding them of how the scam artists made fools of them, the people will forget and move on. It’s a lamentable situation that calls for the formation of an apolitical, nonpartisan citizens movement that would put it aright.
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Mart del Rosario ([email protected]) is a retired advertising-PR consultant.
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