In Philippine society, the level of hypocrisy amongst economic classes is directly proportional to the level of their wealth cum social status. Of course, it goes without saying that most are too hypocritical to even admit it.
At the top of the hypocrisy rung are our so-called political leaders who are so comfortable wearing two faces, they have no qualms shifting so easily to wearing the one which will favor and fuel their lust for wealth and power. When in power, they wear the face of the Great Achiever who has made the economy so robust and outstanding. When not in power, or when angling for power, they portray themselves as the harbinger of Kingdom Come, the only one who can save this nation from sure damnation. All said, the latter could well be the worse of the two.
The contest between the two leading contenders in the last presidential elections turned out to be showcase of this hypocrisy in action.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the incumbent and proclaimed winner, offered herself as the Last, Best Hope. Never mind if she herself eroded people's faith in the system amid corruption and deteriorating squalor and hopelessness. Never mind if she happened to give rise to the worst ever performance of the economy and a more restive military.
And then there is Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) and his rag tag team of political desperadoes resurrected from the ignominy of two failed regimes.
Together, they make up FPJ's rogues gallery. Together, they manipulate the naiveté of the broad masses. They try to spin a yarn of presidential competence and worse, Messianic salvation from a man who they truly know is totally clueless about the wherewithal needed to take over the highest position in a nation already extremely beleaguered. If this is not the height of hypocrisy, I don't know what is.
The roots of this disgusting two-facedness in Philippine society run far back to the earliest days of our colonization. Under the noble mantle of propagating the Christian faith, Spain subjugated the indios and exploited their unresisting hospitality to the hilt. To this day, we see this hypocrisy in action. Just look at all the "pious" men and women of the Philippine elite receive Holy Communion every Sunday - they are the same ones who fuel the machinery that runs our highly exploitative, anti-poor, pro-elite system of governance.
While most of the filthy rich in Philippine society are guilty of unexplained wealth, the majority of Filipinos today find themselves in the throes of unexplained poverty. A country rich in natural and manpower resources, we were well ahead of all the rest of Southeast Asia in 1960 and our neighbors in the region even sent their children to Manila to obtain that much coveted well-rounded Philippine education. Today, all of Southeast Asia has prospered, even Vietnam, voted then as least likely to succeed, now proudly tracking steady growth. It can only confirm that indeed we are a great nation but we have been badly led.
We pride ourselves in being a democracy. Being first to adopt democracy in the region, we were referred to then as the showcase of democracy in Asia.
Yet when did we ever have a truly free, fair, honest election? As early as the election of the second president after independence in 1946, our democratic process was already seriously in question. Massive cheating marked that 1949 presidential election and the young republic teetered on the edge even as a communist rebellion festered in Central Luzon.
Democracy has always been a sham in this country. The oligarchy, a small exclusive minority of around 400 families, has always had their way and their say. Like a rigged casino crap table, you are allowed the honor of rolling the dice in a game you are not aware you will never really win.
People are made to join in making motions of casting votes but many of these votes will not be counted. And in the few instances when these are counted, the voters' mandate hardly ever gets heeded. Policy, dictated and controlled by the oligarchy, will always breed and maintain the exploitation syndrome where the rich gets richer and the poor ever more desperate.
All these have been happening for over six decades now in a country that prides itself as predominantly Christian and traditionally democratic. Hypocrisy - that's what it is.
Now our hypocrisy confronts us. A social explosion, long anticipated by social and political scientists and analysts, has become more imminent than at any other time in the past. For two presidential elections now, the long-suffering masses have manifested a consistent rejection of the usual offerings of the corrupt, self-serving political dynasties. They now gravitate around "savior" types and "masa heroes" like Joseph Estrada and Fernando Poe, Jr. Disagreeable as their choices are to some of us, the one undeniable fact is that the masses have finally realized their power as the majority and are increasingly bent on wielding that power.
We found just ground for evicting Estrada. He was caught with his hand inside the cookie jar. The specter of an FPJ ascendancy frightened us and thus we now find ourselves contradicting our own "values".
When Marcos used every dirty trick to railroad his victory in the 1986 Snap Election, we poured out into the streets and toppled him with People Power. Now we see before us an incumbent president violating all rules of engagement. It was a déjà vu when she appointed questionable characters as Comelec Commissioners, when she brazenly helped herself to government resources and funds for her campaign, when glaring discrepancies in election returns, SoVs, CoCs cast doubt on the entire electoral exercise.
Where were all the EDSA I and EDSA II middle and upper class stalwarts this time as all this was going on? Are morality and rule of law selective and relative to one's personal gain and greed? EDSA Shrine - the very monument which has crowned our people's struggle to defend democracy and morality against two ignominious regimes, can no longer be used for rallies against Macapagal-Arroyo. This is our hypocrisy confronting us.
Loudly so that the whole world could hear, we cried Repression when Marcos dispersed our assemblies with water cannon and truncheons. Now the same players of EDSA I and EDSA II are silent (some of them even cheered) the moment FPJ's masa followers were met with water cannon and truncheons for rallying to voice their sentiments on what they believe was a rigged election. So, is this right to assemble and express grievances applicable only when the candidate is ours and does not apply when the candidate is one that we fear? This is our hypocrisy confronting us.
In a recent rally in Mendiola, rallyists were dispersed and pursued all the way to Legarda Street. Police were seen harassing even those who were just standing around - obviously for the purpose of preventing a re-grouping. To be harassed because you happen to stand in a corner along the route of fleeing rallyists reeks of that odious Marcos edict called Amendment 6 which empowered the state to arrest or detain anyone, even without evidence, in order to prevent any effort that the state deems potentially destabilizing. We railed and ranted about Amendment 6 then, so what makes us now so indifferent over its virtual revival?
In another recent episode, in Payatas, people were arrested for distributing FPJ booklets that denounced cheating. They were brought to the nearby police precinct and their materials confiscated. There being no law against distributing position papers and such materials, media asked the arresting policemen what charges will be filed. The precinct officer admitted that they still have to determine the appropriate charges. True to the spirit and practice of Amendment 6, people are now arrested even before their offense or transgression is determined. Marcos is alive and well in this so-called STRONG REPUBLIC. Again, our hypocrisy confronts us.
This leads us to ask: Where were the so-called "EDSA Icons" while all this was happening? I could not believe my eyes when I read reports quoting Cory Aquino as saying that the use of People Power is now past. Can People Power be considered a thing of the past when voters are disenfranchised, when elections are rigged, when there is blatant repression of the people's right to assembly, when Amendment 6 is once again a part of state policy?
Frankly, I cannot blame the masa who pinned their hopes on Poe to now perceive all this as a manifestation of class war. Neglected, brutalized by grinding poverty, I shudder to think what a desperate man bereft of all hope can resort to. This renders the masses quite vulnerable to the siren song of military adventurism.
Call it karma, yin and yang, what goes round comes around - now our hypocrisy threatens to bring us back right to where we started.