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The menace of the years


Menace seems to be part of our nation’s calling card, whether it’s imposed or self-inflicted. For some strange reason, we possess a capacious character to shoot ourselves in the foot every now and then, even if making the right choice is clear and compelling.

How do you explain, for instance, the surprising stat that , in an age of tantalizing technology and modern oral hygiene, we have more cellphones than toothbrushes ? To borrow a sentence from Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes– again and again.

We have had menace in this land at least once, or more correctly, we have had more than one, for a real long time in history. Other nations have shown a lower average per capita or per circa. We can blame the stars, literally or figuratively, but Cassius of Rome had long ago disabused that notion. The fault is not in the skies, literally or figuratively, but in ourselves, he said, suggesting both choice and character.

But, we’re lucky. The World Health Organization or WHO has declared that the end is in sight for the worst menace to afflict the world and us. And it resonates with the fervent hope that springs eternal in the Filipino heart like a best friend forever :hope. Which can also mean the beginning of the end of common sense or caution. Which is why, those who have it warn us. This is no time to lose our gain. Don’t throw away that mask yet. The virus is still around, etc. etc., echoing Camus. “ Stupidity has a knack of getting in the way.”

The first time around, when COVID 19 was yet beginning to poison China’s highly polluted air, when Wuhan was emerging as the new Oran, there was an urgent call to ban Chinese tourists or what-have-you from landing in Philippine soil. It didn’t happen because officialdom thought it would be bad p.r. The West Philippine Sea encroacher might be disappointed. Besides, there’s a lot of gambling revenues coming through the now infamous POGOs that have brought in hundreds of thousands of illegals, making a joke of local law enforcement, if not the judiciary. Never has pastillas made local pastries more popular, if not more alluring.

And so, we had the Pharmally case that indicted no less the top official of the land , in practice more than in paper, for millions stolen from the government coffer while thousands died and thousands more suffered from lack of oxygen or loss of life. One word, indeed, defines both the trauma and theft in enormous fashion. Well, in the word of a famous first lady, some people are just smarter than others. Better yet, one can get away with murder so easily in these parts. And so it went: nothing happened to Richard Gordon’s findings. Instead, he lost his megaphone.

The strident call now is to kick those POGOs out. Or at least, go through the motion: padlock ‘em. They that don’t pay their taxes. They that not only play with chips but play footsies with the rule of law that seems to be quite malleable under the golden rule: he who has the gold, rules.

The new kid on the block, or his minions, are trying hard to keep the International Criminal Court from resuming its probe on another menace, crimes against humanity under a former president who declared war against drugs. By count, official and unofficial, there were between 6,000 to 30,000 people who perished in the war. The official song: ICC has no jurisdiction over the case. But the ICC says its rules, which the Philippine signed when it joined it, were clear: it still has the right to go ahead even ifthe state has withdrawn from the treaty whne the violations were made when it was still a member.

Corruption still rears its ugly head in high places, or even the highest one. The new is still the old. The sugar importation brouhaha bared it. Heads rolled, not necessary of those who are guilty but less powerful and not on the side of Napoleon’s heavier artillery.

Fake news has a lot to do with our past and present afflictions. Trolls have enthroned two unlikely kings, the previous and the present. No doubt, they were paid. Handsomely. The best of the bad is even installed as a government spokesperson. “Fake news has emerged a new menace,” wrote Ram Nath Kovind. “, whose purveyors proclaim themselves as journalists and taint the noble profession.” Then as now, lie travels faster than truth, only much faster now.

Attempts to rewrite history under this atmosphere is undertaken in earnest with the obvious motive, means and myth. There’s such a thing as golden age. The possibility of a kilo rice for P20 is there. The P23 or P203 billion estate tax is not true. The brethren in the Supreme Court erred in their final ruling that it was true. Cory Aquino played mahjong with nuns in a Cebu convent while hiding from goons who wanted to take her out for challenging a dictator. It’s their story against history.

Through all this, we still manage to keep our heads above water. “ Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul, “ wrote William Henley in his poem “Invictus”, Latin word for unconquerable. He must be a Filipino. “Ano ba ang Filipino?”, asked the maverick Filipino poet Jose Garcia Villa. He’s not sure. A ewan, basta Filipino ako.”

Let’s see. Rising fuel prices. Food shortage from rice to sugar to salt. Inflation. Pestilence. Politics as usual . Media or the current equivalent. “And yet the menace of the years, finds, and shall find me, unafraid,” Henley wrote confidently. Camus was equally hopeful. Times like this, he said, men rise above themselves.

As of this writing, President Bongbong Marcos is in the UN to tell the world how to achieve economic recovery, food security and agricultural productivity. Pariah or prophet? Not a poet, definitely.


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