A THOUSAND SLASHES TO THE WRIST
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
December 12, 2009
They will call 2009 a revelation year, when the nation was once more forced to confront self-evident truths and when again too many looked away.
Decades from now, we will be asked not merely how but why we endured the decay and incredible debauchery of our time. The indifferent will shrug and the clever will offer ready theories. But many will be hardpressed to come up with suitable answers.
What would you call a country whose highest officials greet mass murderers with expressions of undying friendship, an embrace and a handshake?
What would you call a country ruled by a government that considers its citizens as its main export and which treats its soldiers as mere fodder while it feeds, arms and fondles grotesque warlords?
What would you call a country where larceny has become the leading state enterprise and where shamelessness has become the rule of law?
Here everything seems to be for sale. A man's liver, a woman's children, territories, forests, national dignity -- there is a price for everything. And what cannot be purchased is either destroyed or stolen.
In the Philippines, acts of extermination and plunder have become all-encompassing, reaching levels of ignominy several magnitudes greater than the achievements of the most notorious criminals in the country's history.
Here, the chief executive and her coterie steal lives and mine the national treasury and the ballot box, hoping, from experience, that people would rather forget, would rather move on. Because that is what the recent years has taught -- that national nausea eventually recedes.
An election is stolen in 2007? It's OK.
Contracts worth billions of dollars are drawn up with intestinal ties to the First Gentleman's belly? It's alright.
Activists and journalists are periodically slaughtered like chicken? No problem.
Noisy groups might throw a tantrum, effigies might be burned and perhaps there might even be a little chaos in the streets. But we have learned to eat bullets for breakfast and for lunch and dinner, various servings of atrocities and pillage.
Life will go on. At least that is the hope.
When the first working day of December came to a close, the Maguindanao carnage was supplanted by the accumulated certificates of candidacies filed by a motley crowd aiming for the highest post in the land.
Ninety-five Filipinos in total had entered their names in the race for the position of Philippine president while the person who had usurped the crown of the republic -- the ugliest, most despised individual in the country's annals -- moved to avoid prosecution, imprisonment and execution by going for a lower elective post.
Veiled Gloria, mother of disgrace, the nerve is with thee. Blessed art thou among the craven and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Mikey.
"I have one term left but I am giving it to someone ten million times more intelligent than I am," said the congressman of Pampanga's Second District, Mikey Arroyo, when his mum officially registered her need for his position.
Going by accepted standards of arithmetic, shouldn't the good congressman have just given his post to a slab of concrete?
In the end, do we realize that the humiliation is ours? That by our silence we also own the acts of dishonor committed by those whom we detest?
For all the noise and heat that the most humongous scandals of the government have generated, ruling elites continue to expect the public's anger to be brief -- that citizens of common station will not leave their households to put an end to the indignities they have suffered for too long as individual families and as a people.
Today we are asked in the face of the Maguindanao butchery to remember the names of the murdered. But maybe it's high time as well that we recall the names of our very own -- to name each child in our family -- who will inherit the ruins left behind by our inaction.
When an 18-foot whale shark ended up dying on the breakwaters of Manila Bay last October, too few realized that one of our country's possible futures had already washed up on our shores.
Decades from now a coroner's report of the whale shark's demise might stand in as a snapshot of the Philippines in 2009:
"The skull of the once majestic creature was fractured while its heart pumped septic water through its veins. Its eyes were gouged. Numb to violence and duplicity, the body endured ten thousand slashes and it wasted away slowly, steadily, in its desire to float away, to forget and to move on." #
Photos by redster.