Proud opportunists

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

WHEN the son of the embattled budget secretary came out with an open letter to defend his father against accusations that he lies at the center of the pork barrel scam, it was a heart-warming gesture of family loyalty and love.

We must not take anything against the public gesture of a son valiantly trying to protect the pride and high regard he has of his parents and siblings. But while we respect him for taking up the cudgels for his father and family, he raised a number of points that is indicative of the social discourses that have emanated from the extended political crisis exposed by the Napoles scam.

On the one hand, he decries those who have “committed grave acts of injustice [who] would rather burn the house down than admit defeat.” Then he criticized those “who revel in the comforts of cynicism” while offering as the alternative panacea to both maladies his own parents’ supposed hopeful stance as reformers in the midst of all these political opportunism.


Who was he referring to when he spoke about the guilty and the cynics? And was it correct for him to argue that the reformers in the present administration represent the best hope we have as of yet as a nation? His letter provides us the opportunity to probe the psyche of the current neo-liberal disposition and understand their motivations both personal and political.

Neo-liberals distinguish themselves from what they regard as the predatory elite rule of former administrations. For them, the Erap and Arroyo stints were showcases of crass corruption and patronage. The public agreed with their assessment, thus, the success of the “tuwid na daan” slogan which to a certain extent catapulted their president to power. In order to secure the elections, however, and run government afterwards, it is the height of irony that they have resorted to the same tactics of buying political patronage through people’s funds as what the Napoles scandal reveals.

To their mind, such measures are par for the course and necessary. I can almost hear them argue that politics, or realpolitik is the art of the possible. If they do not use their monopoly over state funds and resources, then they are in danger of losing their power and legitimacy to other interest groups out to grab or return to positions of authority.

So they have dipped into public coffers creatively through the PDAF and now the DAP as what has been the norm ever since, influenced the national elections to bring allies into both houses of Congress, persecuted political enemies in preparation for the coming elections, all to maintain the present disposition today and beyond.

This is the hubris of the section of the elite and the reformers who have allied with this administration. They consider themselves as God’s gift to national politics and they will continue to misrecognize that there is actually very little that distinguishes them from the former administrations that they so despise.

Have we moved on from the trickle-down economics of Arroyo where government infrastructure spending and corporatism through public-private partnerships have actually impoverished the many while enriching a few of the same economic elites that prop up the past and present administrations? Has there been a dent in the culture of corruption when government appointments are still coursed through the same system of political patronage where allies and relatives are rewarded for their loyalty by given them access to fat government contracts?

Is this the national hope that we are left with- a compromised system of the same practices of political accommodation and horse-trading just because those at the helm have stellar anti-dictatorship pedigrees, activist nostalgia, and group-think misrecognitions? I refuse to agree.

When the current president confirmed that he was taking on the challenge of being a candidate for president after the prodding of the so-called reformers and a section of the elite, there was the realization that we are in for interesting but trying times. His predecessor was easily exposed to be predatorily corrupt and to a certain extent, one can say that she did not lie to herself about it. In fact, she used her powers cunningly and to such great success that she remained in power far longer than anyone expected.

I am afraid that the current cabal in Malacanang, a coterie of reformers, landlords, and corporate dummies, do not have that same sense of honesty to acknowledge their governance of compromise, pragmatism, and patronage. It is far more difficult to expect changes from those who think themselves as the saviors of this nation while running it to the ground. Such proud yet cynical opportunism.


(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 03, 2014.


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