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Miriam’s shame campaign

Janet Napoles’ road on her way to becoming the vilest public figure so far in the Filipino imagination seemed easy and trouble-free. But she was a headline waiting to happen, so to speak, Philippine media being mostly Manila-based and Manila-obsessed: Her web of operations was based in Manila; and her cohorts—many of whom remain unidentified till this day except the pogi-sexy-tanda trio and a few others—held office in Manila.

Had she been based in the provinces, I think to this day we yet would have to uncover her identity and her secrets. Or perhaps we would never have known about her at all. Had she been operating with local government executives instead of with senators and congressmen, she would have had all the chances of bringing her riches with her all the way to her grave—Heritage Park or elsewhere.

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That is the reality of the public attention given to corruption in the Philippines. Media spotlights are still mostly trained on Manila. And so local governments remain our weakest links in the fight against corruption. It is even conceivable that the farther one is from Manila media’s prying eyes the more public money he/she gets to steal.

Let’s face it, honest media are still the most potent watchdogs to guard against corrupt public servants and jaded official conduct. One cannot underestimate the power of media not only to inform but to educate. That is of course, counting out the so-called “envelopmental journalists,” and there are legions of them, whether at the national or provincial levels. Broadcast block-timers who are adept at “ACDC (attack-and-collect, defend-and-collect) journalism” are among them.

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Mainstream media’s downside may well prove to be a boon for social media. Everywhere you name it, social media is a popular tool. One can be sure, for instance, that in each of the country’s 140 cities and 1,494 municipalities, there is always a local cybercommunity that assumes a “local pride in place identity”—that is, identifies with and takes pride in a specific place as a Facebook group (Taga (name of the place: province, city, town, barangay, etc.) ka kung).

Miriam Defensor Santiago’s idea, shed of the levity with which she broached it before a graduating high school class in Silang, Cavite, may yet prove to be the most pragmatic way of exposing thieving public servants in the provinces. How we wish she sounded more serious when she advised the youth to take their shame campaign against politicians to social media.

“Be angry at these politicians who stole the taxes you and your parents pay. When you reach the voting age, which is 18, do not vote for them. Instead, shame them now,” she said. Be angry, yes. Not voting for them may be a very frail battle cry. Many provincial politicians win because of vote-buying. Why, even Sangguniang Kabataan candidates in the barangays buy votes, let’s admit that. That is how acute corruption has become.

But “[t]ake your campaign to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Post your grievances on these politicians’ walls. Tweet them your disappointments.” Yes! “Eventually, these politicians will shed their thick hides because of the shame, and reveal themselves to be spineless pathetic creatures.”

Spineless, pathetic creatures and thick hides must have achieved dominance in one city hall such that a good governance advocate was prompted to post this comment on his Facebook wall: “It seems like this current administration treats issues thrown at them like PR concerns. Instead of addressing them and reaching out, they send out a bunch of PR counter posts aimed at deodorizing the stench. Or not comment at all until the issues die down (that is the hope, maybe). It is important that these misdeeds are brought to light. It is for them to be corrected and for the right processes be the standard procedure. (Sweeping) it under the rug is SO ’70s. Hate poetic justice? Be a better one.”

Perhaps this particular city hall has begun to put one over Miriam’s shame campaign. I was told some city and municipal halls have employed hackers of Facebook accounts. There are intelligence funds galore, to begin with. But no, it will not be a cyberbattle of wits. Social media, where netizens who have become advocates of good governance can expose corruption in government, will be the citizens’ next education front.

Shame campaigns—Miriam of course is prescribing a radical approach, but one that start with documented exposés—will be a potent way of raising the peoples’ awareness and deepening their consciousness and understanding of good governance. The aim is education on good governance. The end can be poetic justice for thieving politicians—their loss at the polls. If the power of government apparatuses cannot achieve that, indeed why can’t a shame campaign in social media?

In Visayan-speaking provinces, so much social stigma comes upon a person when he is called a “kawatan.” That word is now part of the Tagalog language, a very apt cultural development of recent vintage. Legions of kawatans inhabit our city and municipal halls. If national media cannot do the part, the social media habitués will be our watchdogs to put to shame thieving local government politicians. Indeed, shame on them!

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TAGS: Janet Napoles, Miriam Santiago, nation, news, pork barrel scam
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