POSTSCRIPT / January 11, 2005 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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With ineffective gov't, is it now kanya-kanya?

I TOLD YOU SO: In our POSTSCRIPT of Dec. 7 on the deluge that devastated a wide area in Luzon, we said: If you have anything important to say about flash floods and logging, legal or illegal, better say it aloud now.

“In just one more week, the disaster that hit the Aurora-Quezon area would be forgotten. By next week, everybody from the President down to Cabinet officials and lawmakers — and even media — would be talking of something else.

“Our span of attention is that short. And official concern for the poor masses is that shallow.”

* * *

HIDDEN LIST: It has been almost two months since tons of mud, hot logs and forest debris carried down by flashfloods from denuded mountainsides delivered death and destruction to several towns in Aurora and Quezon.

Yet the Arroyo administration is still hiding the list of loggers who had destroyed the forest cover and contributed to the deluge that claimed more than 1,500 lives and destroyed property in the hundreds of millions of pesos.

It cannot be that the government, especially the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, does not know who the loggers are. How can anybody receive money from a logger and not know who that logger is?

* * *

PLAYING BLIND: Even the dissident NPAs who collect revolutionary taxes from loggers know the loggers. Ka Roger, the NPA spokesman who seems to be everywhere but not in the military’s gun sights, says many loggers are very “powerful” individuals.

The community also knows them. The local folk see the gang with chain saws, the trucks that haul the carcasses of dead trees, the sawmills that cut the hot logs. They know the government personnel whose eyes have been plastered blind with logging money.

Everybody knows the loggers, legal and illegal, who had contributed to the devastation. Yet, almost two months after the deluge, President Arroyo and his satrap at the DENR cannot even produce a list? They think we have forgotten?

What kind of government is this?

* * *

MAKING HAY: This is just in the Aurora-Quezon section of Luzon. What about the other endangered areas where the same overlogging is rampant and where similar calamities are just waiting to happen?

Well-connected syndicates are cutting and hauling away the defenseless trees, converting them to quick cash as if there is a 2010 deadline. Is there?

The money-making frenzy has a parallel in the civil government where many officials are busy making hay while the glorious sun shines. A politician tried explaining years ago in a memorable quote that one has to provide for his future.

What kind of society is this where the agenda of incumbent politicians is dominated by their amassing wealth while in power?

Who is managing the confusion of priorities? Who plans the improvisation from one crisis to another while making money on the side?

* * *

KANYA-KANYA: Every time there are hints of the nation going to pieces, the ruling politicians treat us to talk of unity and reconciliation to buoy optimism. But the only thing that binds them is their common greed.

Sometimes it is to politicians’ interest that the people are splintered. Aside from being divided, the masses are to be kept poor and ignorant if they are to remain as docile as sheep.

The people know their state of helplessness, which we hope will not deteriorate into a state of desperation, and they try hard to cope.

The ground rule is becoming “kanya-kanya” — every man to himself. Since the government cannot or refuses to look after the citizen, he knows he now has to fend for himself.

* * *

LES MISERABLES: This free-for-all is not at all surprising. The traffic light at a busy intersection conks out while the traffic officer is somewhere else making money or providing for his immediate future — and pandemonium ensues.

With government not of much help as far as jobs and livelihood are concerned, the average Filipino left to his own devices will look for some way to provide for his family.

Les miserables stray from the straight and narrow path that their faith and the law have drawn. Suddenly the end justifies the means and there is an upsurge in crime. Conscience kicks, but soon adjusts to the aberrant behavior.

The dominance of self-preservation in one’s behavior marks the beginning of the end of the human person and, on a bigger and more frightening scale, of the nation.

* * *

WASTED SALIVA: Without an over-all program and a system of follow-up as basis, calling political summits and prayer rallies and Cabinet meetings and town hall photo ops et cetera is just lost motion.

Presidential press encounters that sound like one-way classroom lectures do not register positively among media audiences and so-called policy speeches before Rotary-type meetings are usually wasted saliva.

Especially because it seems nobody listens to the President anymore.

It is distressing to see President Arroyo hopping from one problem to another, improvising here and there, leaving no lasting solution to any major problem she chooses to “solve” at the moment.

* * *

UNDERGOUND ANTS: Filipinos who cannot afford to travel, those who may have to beg, steal or borrow, look for some way to raise fare and pocket money to move to other pastures (I’m not even saying “greener”) across the sea.

If the Philippines only had land borders with neighboring countries and were not surrounded by a vast expanse of water, this fair country, our Inang Bayan, would be depopulated faster than a supermall during a fire drill.

Like water seeping and seeking a way out, the Filipino falls back on his native ingenuity. He tries making a living on his own with the least contact with government.

This is the reason for the burgeoning of the informal economy, which probably accounts for nearly half of the real gross domestic product. The underground is mostly unregulated and untaxed, but provides the lifeblood that keeps this poor nation going.

To the small merchants, the ants scurrying around making a living, the least government is the best government. Government is mostly irrelevant to their survival.

* * *

SUSAN? OH NO!: This is not a brief for the political opposition, nor an attempt to incite people. It is just telling it as I see the writing on the wall.

Neither are we meaning to suggest, as some of emotional elements are doing in their distressed state, a Hollywood solution to the hard problems bedeviling the Arroyo administration.

Huwag naman po si Susan Roces. She is a good actress no doubt, and a pretty one, but president of the Republic?

Let us learn from our past mistakes, some of which are so grievous and so recent that we are still feeling their ill effects.

We have seen clowns marching into the august hall of the Senate solely on the basis of their popularity. We have seen similar showbizzy role models and heroes being installed on pedestals before our youths. We have seen the garbage cluttering media, especially TV.

Are we not alarmed by the steady decline of our standards?

* * *

GRIM PICTURE: To round off the horror story, let me quote from an email received from reader “vglavajr”:

Latest estimate of peak oil production from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) is 2007. If crude oil rose to $55 last year, enjoy your cars now, before prices double to $110/bbl or higher.

Forest cover is probably below 18 percent, affecting agriculture, flooding, landslides, and water supply.

Population is still increasing at over 2 percent per year, while carrying capacity is dropping probably down to Bangladesh levels.

The drop in the US dollar is projected to continue this year, as US budget deficits and balance of payment deficits increase. This worries major US dollar holders and they may consider action. It will also affect US stability.

Climate changes provide additional uncertainties.

There appears to be no end to armed conflict in the Middle East; Western aggressiveness in policy and arms may result in the spread of conflict, affecting our region.

Thus, PGMA, or any other group in power must revise existing policies of exploitation and degradation of natural and mineral resources, of passive acceptance of population increase, of unquestioned adherence to the neo-classical economic policies that have contributed to our decay and impoverization including foreign so called “investment,” and an “export economy” that has impoverished the coconut and sugar regions and turned us into a nation of consumers without our own production.

… Or face an inevitable further disintegration of our nation.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 11, 2005)

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