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Commentary

Robbing victims

/ 11:55 PM October 11, 2013

The  next time there’s a flood, go to an evacuation center, look for a child who’s hungry and cold, get her a hot cup of instant noodles from the relief workers—and eat it yourself.

You’ll feel rotten after you’re done with it, for sure. That little girl’s eyes will flash in your mind and your tummy will push the soup back up your gullet. It will be mixed with stomach acids now, so you will feel some stinging in your throat and taste something vile in your mouth.

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But do it again a few more times and it won’t bother you anymore. Better yet, don’t bother looking for a hungry child anymore. Just steal a box of instant noodles from the relief workers’ van and take it home.

That’s essentially what the people who plundered P900 million from the Malampaya Fund did. And they didn’t have to look in the eye the victims of Tropical Storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng,” for whose relief and rehabilitation the sum was allocated.

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The media should stop calling the plundered amount “P900 million from the Malampaya Fund.” They should call it the “Ondoy/Pepeng Victims’ Fund,” for that’s what it was. As soon as the Department of Budget and Management issued the special allotment release order, it ceased to be part of the president’s discretionary fund. It already belonged to the victims of Ondoy and Pepeng’s devastating one-two punch.

Stealing P900 million from royalties on natural gas will raise hackles; robbing calamity victims will turn stomachs. One is plunder, the other vulturism, as in eating the flesh of the weak and dying. And that, I hope, will turn enough stomachs to fill Ayala Avenue in the next protest marches against institutionalized plunder of public funds, and eventually Luneta.

But then again, you might ask, What for? Sure, the plunderers have been sued. But can public outrage outlast our justice system? Look at the Maguindanao massacre. The outrage over that was even global. But it’s been four years now, for crying out loud! What outrage can last that long?

Well, the outrage over pork—in all its forms—need not outlast our justice system; it need only last until May 2016. Then the next election will be life-changing for our nation. For decades we have clamored for an election that’s driven by issues, not personalities. So here’s the mother of all issues that can drive 2016 into becoming the mother of all elections.

An election is essentially a transaction between voters and candidates. In democracies truer than ours, candidates put their campaign platforms on the table and voters pick from the ones addressing issues that concern them the most—and vote for the candidate with whose position on such issues they concur. Or whose promises they believe.

In our own democracy, such as it is, it’s not platforms that candidates put on the table but themselves. That’s why popular “dishes” beat unpopular ones. The year 1998 provides the best example: Joseph Estrada’s fans clobbered Jose de Venecia by 6.5 million votes! Even the womanizer/drunkard issues raised against him didn’t matter to them. Of course, De Venecia did not present an appetizing “dish,” platformwise and otherwise, however lavish his campaign was. But Emilio Osmeña did, I think: “Develop the provinces to develop the nation.” Still, Estrada’s multitudes clobbered him even harder, by more than seven million votes.

But in 2016, it’s the voters themselves who can put their platform on the table and ask candidates to embrace it, or lose their votes. Pork—in all its forms—can be the main course in 2016. But only if the “porkbusters” serve it up themselves. No candidate for president will dare campaign to abolish pork and risk having every incumbent congressman and pork-fed political dynasty in the land scuttling his/her candidacy.

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Every presidential election since Edsa has been a set menu, as it were, and voters had to settle for what was served. But 2010 was an exception: Noynoy Aquino was served up by his party because the voters asked for him. It’s the exception that validates the proposition: In 2016, the voters can demand to be catered to and stipulate the abolition of pork by the next president.

It shouldn’t be too hard to make a resounding demand. The true forum of the “porkbusters” is the social media, where mustering one million voters would be infinitely easier than mustering one million marchers at Luneta. And one million votes for a presidential candidate is one million votes against his/her opponent. That’s two million in vote-value.

It would take maybe three or four million “porkbuster” voters for any presidential candidate to conquer his/her fear of incumbent congressmen and embrace their platform. Chino Roces collected one million signatures for Cory Aquino when Ferdinand Marcos still ruled. Collecting four million clicks should be doable now that the social media have changed the game in politics and governance.

But the issues raised against pork must also be visceral. Many more voters are turned off by politics than turned on by it. And for good reason. Politics, not patriotism, is now the refuge of scoundrels. Or their shield. Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada used it to deflect the shrapnel of the Napoles bomb. Edwin Lacierda and Frank Drilon are now using it to deflect the lances being thrown by Joker Arroyo and Boboy Syjuco. It’s all dumb defense and ad hominem, but it gets the job done. It gives them an excuse to not respond to the accusations.

So let’s take pork back to that box of instant noodles you will steal from flood victims. When you feed it to your children, of course you won’t tell them where it came from. What parent would tell their children they were eating food taken from a cold and hungry little girl?

But they will find out. Their classmates and playmates will find out. Such things have a way of getting discovered, you know. And when they do, imagine their anger and outrage toward you.

That’s the kind of anger and outrage the “porkbusters” need to make last until May 2016.

Romeo Bohol is a retired advertising copywriter.

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TAGS: Commentary, Evacuation, Malampaya Fund, opinion, plunder, pork barrel, Romeo Bohol
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