Splinters in the Eyeball

Let me ask you, if you were President, what would you do differently about corruption than President Aquino is doing?
Okay, you might ask the House to hire better prosecuting attorneys, but would you let the Chief Justice continue leading the Judiciary? Let him represent the best of Philippine jurisprudence?
Okay, you might have arrested President Arroyo a year ago, but would you have let her go free if you did not have 100% good information, knowing that some of that information may be exactly where Mr. Corona keeps his, locked in a vault behind bank secrecy laws?
How do you change a culture? This is not one or two crooks. It is a culture of crooks, from the palace to the fish vendor with the scale that intentionally favors him. I won’t try to list all the lawbreaking that goes on around here. That is corruption. Knowing the laws and violating them for self advantage.
It is a corrupt SOCIETY, not a corrupt official here and there. You know it. I know it.
And President Aquino has willfully decided to wade into that pit of self-interest and venom and try to do something about it.
This is what he told the Asian Development Bank about Ex-President Arroyo:
“The message, for nine and a half years, was: Nice guys finish last. To finish first, you had to lack conscience, exhibit a certain degree of shamelessness, and be an expert at giving handshakes with one hand, while picking pockets with the other.”
Now that is candid. I like that.
And what exactly did he do?
He took this big old ugly iron sledge hammer weighing 16 pounds and he slammed it into the convention of “looking the other way”. He tossed a really bad Ombudswoman out on her ear. He jailed Ms. Arroyo when it was clear that she was preparing to flee the country. He ham-handedly pushed Mr. Corona’s impeachment through the House. He hunted down generals who were scraping money from the public’s coffers.
Splinters flew everywhere, neh? That hammer hit splat in the heart of the corrupt Philippine social values and rocked the socks out of anyone dipping into the till. It struck fear in the hearts of anyone with a crooked SALN. It created lots of pain. Old generals started mumbling about a coup. Younger officers told them to get lost.
And those who took a splinter in the eyeball cried out . . . and many are striking out. The piece of wood stuck in Mr. Corona’s eye is huge.
My guess is Nathan Hale, that honorable American patriot who regretted he had but one life to give for his country, in the same circumstance, would have said “I cannot bear to see my nation undergo contentious and destructive debate; I resign”?
The Execution of Nathan Hale
Self sacrifice, of course, is the opposite of self enrichment. It is the ultimate of honor, to give of yourself so that others can live better.
I fear that honor in the Philippines is the opposite. It is the good feeling someone gets when he is trampling on someone else or successfully passing the blame for his own screw-ups to some poor sap.  Here honor is found in being a successful conniver. The honor of pulling a fast one, like the wink and nod you receive from the LTO agent when you slip him P100 to put your paperwork on the top of the stack.
So I ask, how would you do it differently, if you were President? How would you do it better. Faster. More profoundly. Do you think you could do without any pain for anyone, without stirring up criticism?
What is your idea for a seamless, smooth, peachy keen transition of Philippine values from corrupt to honest?
Oh, and by the way, along the way, after the President raised the hammer over his shoulder, the Philippine investment rating got upgraded, the peso strengthened, and the stock market took off in a roar.
What would you do better? You’d be investment grade already? Peso would be even stronger? Stock market blasting all Asian records?
You would not have put up a wall around a slum? You would not have allowed a bus massacre to happen? You would have sunk a Chinese boat or two? You’d plug Mindanao into a magical electrical grid? You’d subsidize gasoline more and drive out the oil companies who can’t make any money?
How many of you have ever been in a job that requires you delegate? You know, let go of the reins and let someone else make decisions, trusting they would do a good job?
Did you expect perfection? Or did you learn to slide with the mistakes your subordinate made of no ill intent? Did you learn to distinguish between material mistakes and incidental mistakes, not worth disrupting business over? Did you learn how to counsel and coach, or just fire, scream and hire someone new?
Do you think the Philippine government, built on years of corruption and hiring of favorites, is stocked with skillful executives? Or people who mainly “wing it”?
The Presidency delegates to 19 separate cabinet secretaries.
It’s a fact, one of few that I find highly meaningful.
The buck may stop with the President. Fine. Fair enough. But I argue that reason and respect ought to go there, too, for the challenges he faces, the intricacies of the job, and his fundamentally sound values. And, indeed, for the profound change in “mood” among investors.
None of the splinters stuck him in the eye as far as I can tell. But he is hearing a lot of nasty words from those in pain.
Excuse me if I remain less strident in criticism of the President than others. I don’t have a better way, frankly. And I don’t think he needs to carry the burden of all the inept thinking of all the bozos in government agencies throughout the land. That would be like heaping the world on a very human Atlas, and he would not shrug. He’d collapse.
Those with splinters in the eye maybe wouldn’t mind.
Honest people who want to see an honorable, progressive Philippines would.
36 Responses to “Splinters in the Eyeball”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Sadly, in the Philippines, laws are used to justify wrongdoing. That's why it is very easy for crooks here to scream "Rule of law!" everytime they are caught red-handed.

  2. brianitus says:

    (Alleged) Crooks still need their day in court. Much in the same manner, if people were convinced that you're a crook even if you know that you're not, wouldn't you like to have the law behind you?It works both ways. That's in an ideal world, of course.

  3. brianitus says:

    Hmmm, the President is like the super Jollibee of the Philippines. Shouldn't you be concerned about how he does things? If the man is responsible for 91 million Filipinos, why should the burden be light? He wanted the job, right?Anyway, whatever's on the internet stays on the internet. His choice KKKs survived whatever assaults were made on them online, right? I doubt if PNoy loses sleep over what people have to say about him. Don't worry, Joe.Um, what's with the long "if you don't have anything nice to say, just shut up" blog post today? It's not like your usual writing.

  4. AJ says:

    As a citizen whose lost hope in the system of government, I'll probably resort to violence and have my personal death squad to deal with the corrupt and villainous.Regarding his cabinet and appointees, I have to agree with brianitus, the president seems to be too sentimental and keeps his friends close. However, I find this ineffective in some cases, such as suggesting a reassignment or cabinet members to different departments.I mean sure, maybe he sees potential in his people but I think assigning someone to the top post of an executive arm just because of potential is a bad move. Maybe I just believe too much in meritocracy.Out of topic though, Mr. Chairwrecker Esposo has taken notice of your blog.You might want to check out this article:http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?publicationSubCategoryId=64&articleId=804202

  5. AJ says:

    *of cabinet members

  6. Anonymous says:

    "Let me ask you, if you were President, what would you do differently about corruption than President Aquino is doing?"If you ask this to the GRP crowd, they'll probably answer, "Whine about it in front of the computer all day, everyday."

  7. Anonymous says:

    "(Alleged) Crooks still need their day in court."Assuming that the law still requires them to show up in court, that is.

  8. And assuming they cannot buy their own ruling with a payment to the "court".

  9. i thank the Chairwrecker for his column today. It is he that led me to your blog, and I'm glad I checked it. I will read your blog from now on. Your analysis is articulate, and for me they are truthful and honest observations. Thank God, Joe, you are here.

  10. I suppose there are two points I am making, brianitus. One, is that there is a middle ground between love and hate of the President, that is called reason. I think too many people on either side of the spectrum are overly strident because they are not arguing about the President, but about their own stance . . . for or against the president. There is a middle ground. The middle ground should start with an understanding that the president was elected to do a job on corruption, and that is what he is doing.The second point is to emphasize the intricacy and demands of the job. I don't expect people to go light on the President and not criticize when it is warranted, for a specific act. But to take a specific act where a mistake has been made (by a subordinate, probably, as in the bus massacre), and to declare the Presidency a "failure" is unreasonable.It is this 100% black or white I have problems with.

  11. AJ, well, actually that is a legitimate criticism of the President's executive ability. If a job requires delegation, and one hires friends instead of competent people, because it is comfortable, that is not exactly being a strong executive.

  12. Hermelo, thanks. Don't put me in the bucket of being a 100 percenter for everything the President does, however. Good of you to visit.

  13. Right, my point, stated less bluntly. If we could wipe the slate clean, go back to January 2009, and say "okay, how are we going to get rid of corruption?" I'm not sure there is a better approach than the sledge hammer.

  14. J says:

    It's hard to disagree with this post! Indeed, what the President is doing would probably be what I would do if I were President as well.

  15. AJ says:

    Joe, I've just reminded myself that everyone in the government had been doing the same thing for years. The president is not much different from his predecessors in this area.Difference is he's putting effort to get back part of what the gov't and the people lost for the past decade.But yes, I hope that while taking care of the mess around him, he'll see the smudges on his face, and take some effort to wash them off too.

  16. brianitus says:

    Um, you're sort of becoming too idealistic on how you want the president to be "graded." I get you, really. I'm just one of those Pinoys who believe that politicians should not be "worshiped." At least you don't claim PNoy as infallible. I won't ever expect that from you.Just to add to your points:1) There is no middle ground. Positioning is not what you say it is. It's what the PEOPLE says it is. One can only wish that a position in the mind of the electorate can be created and held on to for so long. Remember, PNoy isn't like laundry detergent. There are other measurements available. Since he said corruption is gone, people WILL move to the other measurements.If the people are poor today and are getting pissed off about it, then the president will be measured on anti-poverty measures. He can't say treat these sentiments as irrelevant because he was swept into power because of "anti-corruption."If corruption ranked high before as a priority during the time of GMA until the elections, guess how much time media spent publishing reports about corruption scandals involving the former admin. Was it daily?Since GMA is no longer president, people will eventually forget and move on to the next priority which is filling up their empty stomachs. That's why PNoy always has to constantly remind Filipinos about GMA and her minions. It isn't simply just to blame the previous admin. It's also to reinforce his relevance. The anti-corruption position is a slippery slope to stand on. It's not like corruption is an organized crime syndicate with FPNCGMA and FFGMA as the alleged heads. I wish that was so. It makes crimefighting easier. Other bosses have to fall, some faster than others. The message I got from the anti-corruption efforts is this:Don't piss off the family of the next president. 2) The cabinet men are extensions of the president. Whatever results they generate naturally goes back to him, however unsavory those results may be. Since you mentioned subordinates, he "appears" to favor those close to him. Puno was identified as one of those responsible for that Luneta incident. What did the president do? Did he just let the guy slide because of his "closeness"? It's hardly the cultural change that you want. The point is this: If his people can't live up STRICTLY to the position he chose, he should get rid of them or at least make a very visible effort that something is being done to rectify a situation. It makes him believable. Otherwise, he'll always be taken as the #1 Salesman of the Status Quo, a product of the corrupt culture that you hate. Again, I hope I made sense. I just hope PNoy wraps up thinking about whatever it is that he really wants to do and actually spend time figuring out how to improve the buying power of my peso along with those of other 91-million plus Pinoys. Sure, that peso may be stronger, as you said before, but can it buy more? I hope he realizes that some people rely on one pack of instant noodles to feed a family of four to six. It is the season for results. It's been 2 years.

  17. brianitus says:

    Joe, sorry for the extra long reply. Maybe you can add an email link next time for extra long comments. Or you can delete this one after reading. Thanks!

  18. brianitus, long thoughtful comments add to the blog thread. They are always welcome. It is what distinguishes a blog from a chat room, thoughtful dialogue that adds, one remark to another. Indeed, I'll take your comment away to reflect on it.

  19. AJ, that is a SUPERB way to put it. I hope he reflects on his ways and means, too, and grows. Or washes, heh.

  20. brianitus, to your longer point, I respond:If the President has said corruption is gone, he is wrong. It will take an enduring discipline of transparency and, yes, investigation, to instill the kind of proper values that will make the broad economy more honest. That said, I agree with you, he needs to move forcefully to address poverty with something other than cash give-aways. He needs to figure out something to say other than "no" to socialistic demands that money be paid to laborers before it is earned by the company. To pay people high wages and drive businesses into bankruptcy is a dead end, and the main reason why socialism is a dead form of governance. (I'm not putting words into your mouth; you have not addressed this; I am just extending the argument.)Did you not also learn to do an SALN that is truthful and adds up well? I'm hoping that is a takeaway from the Corona bruhaha for Senators and others required to do SALN's. Also, I hope another take-away is the recognition that the country's bank secrecy laws abet crime, they don't foster better security. Law enforcement should have access to deposit accounts, under proper warrant.To your second point, I agree the President does not appear to be a skilled executive in the sense that he hires for competency rather than comfort/favor. I think that is a failing of just about every President because it is the system here. Everyone hires family, friends and favorites. It would behoove all of Philippine management (government/private) to do a better job of hiring for capability. I do think some of his cabinet-level subordinates are doing well (Foreign Affairs, Tourism, Finance).But you are right, he would be mistaken to view his mandate as six years of anti-corruption, and little more. Somehow, I think China will help him see the light. And Labor Day protests. Heh, and bloggers . . .

  21. Say Hey J, thanks for stopping by.

  22. brianitus says:

    For the SALNs, that's like asking a tiger or zebra to let go of his stripes. Personally, I've thought of the whole Corona affair as giant pot versus medium size kettles. That Tupas fellow isn't Mr.Clean himself. Ask the dad. Their case with the Ombudsman got buried after PNoy took over. I guess a real test of transparency is for all these people to open up their SALNs. In Filipino, magkaalaman na (let the truth come out). Pinoys aren't that dumb not to notice how some of these politicians suddenly increase their financial holdings while in office. If the FOIA doesn't see the light this admin, I don't think it ever will. Call up the tombstone makers?

  23. Yes, kettles. I wish a good writer would take the main players of this little impeachment drama and lay it out. Like Tupas. Or how about the two Senators who participated in a coup attempt on Ms. Aquino. And Ms. Santiago. What bag of bones is in her closet? I'd suggest benigno or manualbuencamino, but I think they are otherwise engaged . . . Maybe Arche. He and I are, if not friends, but at least are on writing terms. He could do it . . .

  24. Anonymous says:

    Wow, your blog got featured in Esposo's column? Congratulations!Just be careful, though. I can already imaging benign0 fuming mad and writing another stupid post about you in retalliation.

  25. That's a nice article, eh? Sweeeeeet. Who's that guy you mention? bignono? Bigsomething or another. I used to know a guy by that name, but he is now irrelevant.

  26. J says:

    You're welcome. I enjoy reading you 🙂

  27. Anonymous says:

    Yeah I agree, we have a corrupt society, so If I were the President I will do something radical by rounding up all the corrupt officials and other criminals and send them to jail to rot starting with the SC. Impossible to do unless the writ of habeas corpus is temporarily suspended, but there has to be a way to get it done. Strengthen all the law enforcement agencies for a starter.Its Jack

  28. Right. And amend bank secrecy laws to permit law enforcement investigators to gain access to account records under proper warrant signed by a judge. When secrecy laws help criminals, they are bad laws.

  29. Anonymous says:

    "Let me ask you, if you were President, what would you do differently about corruption than President Aquino is doing?"If I were the President? I would have started in my own backyard. The wise man's counsel is never more apt.Take Hacienda Luisita from which he grew up, silver spoon in his mouth. Do you think the origins of that property is pure hard work and entrepreneurial genius? Hahaha! If it were, I would rather they keep it whole.The President belongs to the oligarchy which corrupted the country for long. Where do you think did the commoners derive their inspiration for corruption if not from their masters? The oligarchs, the custodians of our nation's wealth failed in one thing: expand wealth and create a pie huge enough for everybody. Failing that, the commoners— poor and hungry most of the time– looked at their masters, found them wealthy beyond measure, heck discovered their ways and means, copied them instead, if in crude and smaller measures. And the rest who could left for other lands of course. -ricelander

  30. ricelander, yes, the oligarchs seem to be content taking care of themselves rather than the nation. Agreed. Also agreed that President Aquino is from one of the "families". He can't disassociate himself from history or the hacienda or anything else his family has done unless we are willing to grant him some latitude to be himself. I would not want to be held to account today for some of the nitwit stuff I did as a younger man, and am willing to cut President Aquino some "historical slack". And try to judge him on his acts in office, or his failure to act.

  31. Anonymous says:

    My point is, if the President wants to make a huge, huge statement on his anti-corruption drive, I mean, make a deep, earth-shaking impact to scrub off this trait that has taken a cultural root of its own, he should make his own backyard his first target of cleanup. Then people will take notice and say ah here is one who really means business. You go hammer and thongs against your enemies first, JoeAm, no matter that indeed they are corrupt, people will take notice but at the back of their minds they are saying, ah here is another one running after his own kind, these hypocrites.– ricelander

  32. ricelander, I got your point. If "his own" is corrupt, he should also go after it, sledge hammer in hand.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, that's right. Although, to be clear about it, to me, corruption is more a symptom than the cause. But that will be for another time.That is all for now and thanks for your time– ricelander

  34. mami_noodles says:

    I also found my way to this blog through Billy Esposo's column. This would be a resular staple of my blog-reading…Kudos!

  35. mami_noodles, good of you to swing by and give your observations. I'm glad you enjoyed the various reads.

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