I think what is most appalling for me is not the fact that money had exchanged hands in order to ensure the filing of a defective impeachment complaint meant to immunize the President from a real impeachment complaint. It’s not even the separate allegations of Ka Bel and Among Ed that they were approached with envelopes of money. What is truly appalling is the way our good congressmen and local government officials and cabinet secretaries have dismissed the bribes as “small cash gifts” or “rewards for the long nights during the budget hearings” or “assistance” — the emphasis being on the bribes being tokens. Tokens on which not much significance should be ascribed. “It was nothing extraordinary,” averred former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, “the discretionary funds of Malacanang are overflowing.”
Indeed, the rich are not like you and me.
I have been given the gift of working with farmers who amaze me every single time with their resilience and faith, but every single time as well, I am angered at the sheer poverty in which they are forced to live. In a certain landholding in Quezon, they are not even allowed to gather fallen coconut husks to sell as bunot for a few pesos. After petitioning for agrarian reform coverage, even the smallest revenue generating activities like selling coconut by-products have been denied them. Unable to harvest copra as well, they live in abject poverty and hunger. On top of being stalked like common criminals by police officials conniving with the landowners.
In Agusan del Sur, farmers were made to ratify an unconscionable addendum to a leaseback agreement that would grant the farmers the unholy lease rental of P635.00 per hectare PER YEAR for twenty five years, when the average lease rental should be around P5,000.00 thereabouts. They were led to believe that they were simply signing standard attendance sheets in exchange for styrofoam-boxed lunch and transportation reimbursement during one general assembly. (how do we know for sure? umm, the sheets actually contained the word “meals” and did not even contain the words “ratification” or “consent”. harharhar) That addendum effectively binds them and their children to two and a half more decades of painful and certain penury.
Closer to Manila, PLDT employees on strike were violently dispersed after protesting the illegal termination of hundreds of rank and file employees, in violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Four hundred fifty workers out of jobs, four hundred hungry households, about a thousand children who will not be sent to school for at least one school year.
In our organization, several employees — hardworking, dedicated individuals all — had to be retrenched because there simply was no more funds to pay for their salaries, which were to begin with, not very large. The discretionary funds probably overflow only for those who approve of the President and her policies, who kowtow blindly at her and absolve her of every single infraction and sin to the people. They certainly do not flow in the direction of party-list organizations who oppose administration policies and make no bones about it — but also, who fight tooth and nail to bring down the prices of medicines for every Filipino and who struggle to put back the “reform” in “agrarian reform” for the sake of our country’s farmers and farmworkers. On this I bet my bottom peso: not a single one among the Congressmen who received money for the Pulido complaint has worked as hard, as seriously and as steadfastly as Akbayan has in the legislature.
Do what you want with your 500,000. Spend it, save it, buy a car, build basketball courts, go to Disneyland. But don’t tell us it’s token. Spare us from the thought that there are millions and millions of pesos floating around, as tokens and “small favors” for the fortunate few to wantonly wallow in, while the rest of the country is subsisting on a medley of MSG-laced broth and day-old rice.