‘Personalan’ | Inquirer Opinion
Editorial

‘Personalan’

/ 12:56 AM July 30, 2011

Five days after President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address before Congress, who else at this point has not offered his or her two cents’ worth on the speech? Nearly everyone with an agenda or cause has taken to faulting the President’s report for failing to mention this or that subject. Sen. Pia Cayetano said she was disappointed it did not touch on the reproductive health bill, or elaborate on the government’s plans for education and health care. Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano blasted Mr. Aquino for ignoring land reform and the Hacienda Luisita issue. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility twitted the speech (literally, since it unloaded its position on the social networking site Twitter) for not pushing for the Freedom of Information bill. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago complained that it was “anecdotal,” and one of the “SUV bishops,” Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran, declared that not only did it sidestep the problem of poverty in the country, Mr. Aquino’s no-frills, plainspoken speech also failed to hold his precious attention. “Somehow I got bored listening to it,” said the prelate.

Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo reserved for himself the most barbed appraisal of the Sona. It was “full of soundbites but lacking in substance,” he said. “Unfortunately, from start to finish, it’s all wangwang that I hear.”

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There might be a reason Mr. Aquino’s repetitive wangwang invocations resonated with Arroyo more than any other part of the speech. Conscience, perhaps? The wangwang imagery, after all—the disruptive sirens of officious-looking cars by government officials racing in and out of the roads, declaring their primacy in the pecking order by displacing ordinary citizens aside for some imagined all-important event or destination of national import—has been adopted by Mr. Aquino as his shorthand for the abuse and corruption of government power that he has dedicated his presidential campaign, and now his government, to eradicating.

If Arroyo felt alluded to, well and good. While now out of Malacañang, the family and dispensation he represents might well have been, as voluminous records and testimonies now suggest, the most grasping, rotten administration this country has had the terrible misfortune to endure since the long, dark night of the Marcos years. Everything that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo touched during her nine-year presidency turned to dross at some point—from a Comelec and Armed Forces commandeered to assure her victory in stolen elections, to government institutions such as Pagcor and the Department of Agriculture pillaged to prop up her presidency with money and resources, and even the Catholic Church, some of whose august members would end up disgracing their moral persons by partaking of Arroyo’s patronage.

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In considering the weight and impact of Mr. Aquino’s SONA, it is important to keep this recent history in mind, if only because the speech itself was anchored on it. It might have lacked topical talking-point specifics, but who but the most churlish, really, would deny the central power of Mr. Aquino’s call for a more engaged, zealous battle against the overwhelming Malacañang-directed sleaze and corruption that had ravaged the country, the ghastly minutiae of which are emerging only now?

“Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally,” said Mr. Aquino. “It’s true. Doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable—whoever they may be—is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption.”

However you parse that statement, its metaphysical clarity is absolute. Corruption corrupts. It coarsens both the policeman who fleeces the harried motorist, and the motorist who chooses to pay his way out. It brings out the lesser angels in lowly government workers who skim off money at their work but who are otherwise doting parents, kind neighbors—good people—off it. Unchecked, its material and political benefits left to metastasize, corruption further inflates the egos of those in power, leading inexorably to the culture of impunity that would spawn, say, the Ampatuans, a family forever tarred with the grisliest of massacres, and a giant blot on the country that enabled—coddled—their like.

Mr. Aquino’s SONA was about many things, but it was also about one simple truth: Corruption is personal, because, in essence, that’s our very own money stolen from us. Try not to be “personal” about that.

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TAGS: Aquino, arroyo, bishops, church, corruption, Editorial, Government, issues, opinion, SONA 2011, wangwang
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