Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Jun Lozada in You

There are no saints, no sinners, only human beings.

As I write this, a Filipino who spoke truth to power has been arrested. His offense? That of implicating the powerful in the most heinous of crimes that can possibly be committed by those who are entrusted with the public trust - abuse of authority to commit theft in such unimaginable magnitude.

Graft and corruption, such vague words. What does this mean to the ordinary person? It can range from life and death situations, especially among the most vulnerable, to inconveniences of having to drive on pock-marked, barely-lit roads. Public funds are a lifeblood of a country. How and where they are spent show the priorities of our society. Ideally, public funds should be spent on the provision of public services and public goods. In simple terms, they should be spent to make life easier for all of us.

If Gloria Arroyo's husband, indeed, the President herself - the embodiment of the Filipino people's will - steal from public coffers as Jun Lozada and others like him allege, then they literally make life harder for all of us. Imagine the billions of pesos that would have been spent on the construction of new classrooms, the procurement of books, the funding of public hospitals.

Corruption is not only a public crime committed by public officials. To my mind, corruption is very private, very personal. We all pay for the privilege of being Filipino. Our taxes, automatically confiscated by the State, are a product of our own personal toil. Imagine the fruits of your hard work going to the pockets of those whom we entrust to run this country. More than a slap in the face, it is an abomination.

There are no saints, no sinners, only human beings. Jun Lozada has himself admitted to wrong-doing. A mid-level bureaucrat dabbling in mid-level theft. But there are limits to our descent into perdition, and he probably reached his when he learned he was going to be made to disappear. I remember seeing him for the first time last year, my bittersweet homecoming. I remember thinking he vaguely looked like my father. In his eyes I saw not the absence of fear. He spoke like a man with a death sentence awaiting judgment. Today mayhaps, it has come.

He said he did not want to be a hero, and a certainly not a martyr. In this country's grand narrative, we, all of us, seem insignificant gnats in the order of things. But there are limits to the 'inconveniences' we can bear. There are limits to our consenting to surrender the fruits of our labor to a giant thieving machine. There are limits to the collective deadening of our social conscience. We cannot all be ostriches, willingly burying our heads in the sand in denial of the reality we're in.

No comments: