*my column in the Nov. 6 issue of Cordillera Today
Seven years ago, Braulio Yaranon won the Baguio mayoralty race on a platform of graft and corruption-free governance. The main issue at the time was the local government’s contract with Jadewell to manage the city’s on-street pay-parking scheme. Most people thought that the contract was anomalous and grossly disadvantageous to the government, for how else do we explain the overwhelming mandate then Mayor Yaranon received from the citizenry?
From day one, he spent most of his time and energy on his pursuit to remove Jadewell from our streets, stepping on a lot of toes and breaking some laws in the process. People said that he was forgetting that there was so much more for him to do as Mayor of Baguio other than tilting at that windmill that is the Jadewell contract. Eventually, he was suspended from office in the last year of his three-year term.
His detractors successfully trivialized his quest against pay-parking company – that first, there was really nothing anomalous with the government’s deal with the company and that his obsession with it rendered him inefficient as Mayor. But the Jadewell contract was so much more than the P20.00 they forced out of every motorist’s pocket – it represented all that is wrong with our political system, one where our elected leaders rule with impunity. For at the end of the day, no matter the noise created by the most despicable acts by our chosen leaders, more often than not, they get away with it. We even reward some of them with re-election.
PNoy is in the same boat at the moment, sort of. He’s being accused of focusing too much in prosecuting, or persecuting, depending on which side of the political fence you’re on, former PGMA, now CGMA. Marcos proposed a “Bagong Lipunan;” the current president’s mother’s administration may be remembered for the word “sequestration” in her quest to recover the previous powers-that-be’s ill-gotten wealth; Ramos led us on the road to “Pilipinas 2000;” Erap’s short-lived regime waged an “all-out war” against the MILF; and Gloria promised us – “Matatag an Republika.” And while PNoy continues to pitch his “Tuwid an Daan” idea, critics paint a portrait of him as a vengeful president, obsessed with and hell-bent on sending Gloria to jail. To this, I say, so what? Really, where did PNoy’s predecessors’ grand, comprehensive schemes bring us?
And if PNoy is indeed giving too much focus on GMA’s prosecution, then so be it. From the time of the Spanish occupation to the last one hundred years or so, our country has been raped and pillaged by the very people who were supposed to care for her and they got away with it. Heck, the Spaniards were even rewarded with 20 million dollars for three centuries of abuse. Sure, Erap was convicted, but was pardoned and could’ve even been our current president if Noynoy wasn’t persuaded by PR efforts to run in the last election.
Gloria and his cohorts are being accused of electoral sabotage – or telling you that your vote and your voice is worthless and you are absolutely powerless as a citizen of this country, and of plunder – or telling you that they have the right to help themselves to the money the government takes from your meager salary, or the extra five or six pesos for every liter of gasoline or kilo or so of rice you buy.
Let them say that President Benigno C. Aquino III has forgotten that there’s more to the presidency than making Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pay for her sins against the country, for really, so what? This is not merely about Gloria, as much as it wasn’t all about Jadewell then - it is about the root of all that is wrong with our country.