Grassroots & Governance

It was just a little over a generation ago when Ninoy Aquino came home to a tragic death at the hands of our own people. Just 35 years ago when hundreds of thousands of us openly marched in the streets for hours, while the dictator still controlled the levers of power, to accompany his body to his resting place, and to demonstrate our heartfelt appreciation of his sacrifice. And three years later, after years of marching in the streets to publicly express our outrage, we finally converged on EDSA to oust the hated dictator Marcos and his family from Malacañang.

Ninoy Aquino

Today, Imee Marcos seems on her way to the Senate, Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos, Jr. is trying to become vice-president, and Imelda Marcos sits in Congress. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was in detention for years, for graft and plunder charges is Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Joseph “Erap” Estrada who was virtually impeached, and later pardoned for a plunder conviction by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is Mayor of Manila. His son, Jinggoy who still faces a case of plunder in the courts, is rating among the top 10 in the senatorial electoral surveys. The Binay daughters are in the Senate and City Hall in Makati; even as the Binay men, senior and junior face plunder charges in court. Marcos crony Danding Cojuangco has retrieved part of the coco levy funds invested in San Miguel Corp. Marcos crony Lucio Tan controls Philippine Airlines and the Philippine National Bank.
Today, many of these faces, reviled not too long ago, are gathering together in a coalition mobilized by Duterte daughter and Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte Carpio for the coming elections in 2019; and surveys seem to indicate, they are likely to win.
We cannot say it is only because the new generation has no awareness or understanding of what these non-patriots have done to our country; because all told, they still comprise a minority of our voters. It means that even those who were old enough at the time crimes against the country were committed have forgotten, or choose to forget.
They also seem to have forgotten what Ninoy Aquino, who suffered in jail for almost eight years, and refused to compromise his principles, despite the torture and agony of separation from his family sacrificed for love of his country, even to the point of losing his life. Even in his statement, released after his death, Ninoy Aquino maintained that “The Filipino is worth dying for.”
Today, there seem to be some advocacies to rename the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) back to Manila International Airport (MIA). And, incredibly, columnist Ramon Tulfo has written a whole column detailing his theory that Ninoy Aquino actually plotted his own assassination in order to become a hero! Unbelievable!
Why do we have such short memories?
Why do we tend to elect celebrities or familiar names into national offices, whether famous or notorious?
Sadly, I am beginning to wonder if we are in general, really an immature people. We are over-entertained by media that caters to our wish for shallow entertainment. The endemic corruption seems to stem from a widespread need to adopt the lifestyles of the rich and famous, the sooner the better, by hook or by crook.
Nevertheless, all is not lost. There are outstanding initiatives in communities here and there, which do not always reach the mass media that are building better lives or better communities around the country. On Aug. 31, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) is holding its Triennial Awards in Cebu City for outstanding individuals and institutions that have contributed to bettering lives in their communities, focusing on Visayas and Mindanao areas. These initiatives feature cultural, peace, livelihood and education innovations, primarily by nongovernment organizations (NGOs) or persons.
Yesterday, the highly successful and prosperous LAMAC Multipurpose Cooperative in Pinamungahan, Cebu, hosted more than 100 youth delegates from all over East and West Asia, Africa and Europe to showcase on their 11 hectare integrated organic farming of livestock, poultry and vegetables. The integrated farm also functions as a school for integrated and environmentally friendly agri-preneurship. The three-day event was organized under the auspices of the International Cooperative Alliance Asia-Pacific (ICA_AP Youth Summit). The objective is to promote interest among the youth around the world who are losing interest in agriculture by exposing them to a model that can bring about community prosperity.
Also, in Cebu, local governments, under the leadership of Governor Hilario Davide III have teamed up with Gawad Kalinga to address widespread malnutrition among public schoolchildren through centralized cafeterias, using parents and other volunteers as workers (to cook, pack hundreds of meals and clean up kitchens). The LGUs provide the “hardware” (kitchen facilities and equipment); and Gawad Kalinga mobilizes donations and volunteer workers, and trains the volunteers.
Perhaps this is the new revolution. Disruptive initiatives that make life at least a little better for our people, despite our poor judgment in electing our national leaders. Perhaps these quiet initiatives, as they expand their impact, are a revolution against our unhealthy and destructive politics. Perhaps the business community and media can help multiply and hasten their impact.
Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and an independent development management consultant.