If you ever had the experience of taking a public utility vehicle in the Philippines, this is likely familiar to you:

The jeepney or bus driver violates a traffic rule. A traffic enforcer comes out of hiding and accost the driver. The Driver scratches his head and mouths some expletives, saying “I didn’t see the  buwaya  hiding there”. “Buwaya or Crocodile” is how we describe police and traffic enforcers who extort  or take bribes from drivers who violate traffic rules whether for real or imagined. The driver tries to make excuses for the violation, which the traffic enforcer is unlikely to accept. An inconvenienced passenger shouts “bigyan mo na kasi!”(give him money already!) which also means bribe him already. The driver slips in a hundred peso or more depending on the violation and the traffic enforcers lets him go. One passenger blames the driver for the wrong thing, saying “if you gave him money right away, we wouldn’t have experienced the delay” when the correct blame should be, if he didn’t violate the traffic rule, we wouldn’t have experienced that delay.
And then we complain about the corruption in the traffic management system of the country and the government as a whole.

This little situation is a microcosm of a larger system of corruption in the Philippine Society. We are angered by government officials who steal but could not do away with them. A lot of us are afraid to operate in a cleaner system because it means, no bailout from traffic violations, piracy, tax evasion, profiteering and crime against people and properties. It means no way to beat the system through shortcuts, no special favors and no patronage.

This is symbiotic corruption. A corrupt government that feeds on the corruption of the society that cannot exist in the same way without a corrupt government. We need a new kind of symbiosis.


Strange Social Disease

Photo Courtesy of Sir Mervs

Photo Courtesy of Sir Mervs

My country is afflicted and the cure is nowhere in sight. The disease isviral and it spreads and resides at the very core of our psyche. It infected and rotted our government and they manifest all the signs and symptoms: un-moderated greed, incessant lying and loss of remorse are the most obvious ones. Who knows what else it is doing to us. The symptoms have crept through our social organs. Generals caught with stash of millions, a congress that is too sick to resist a viral attack, religious and business leaders that support all these and a people so crippled by apathy, they can’t stop the spread of the disease.

Our system is so ill that the electoral cure is in itself contaminated. It’s like replacing a sick organ while we don’t know if the replacement is sicker. Many resigned to this notion that they decided to make the most of a sick system.  As they say, if you can’t lick ’em,  join ’em.

So that’s where we are today. Each one part of the ill one way or another, either as active participants to the social decay or as tolerant bystanders, none is less worse.

We need a good doctor, a surgeon who can dislodge the apathy virus from where it is comfortably seated.  We need a doctor to give us back our numbing sense of nation, to rid us of our impoverished thinking that infect not just the impoverished but those who have plenty.  Those who in one way or another, steal from the already poor. We need a doctor who only has passion for curing our ills. Not someone who is out to make a killing for offering placebos.  We need a doctor that attracts other good doctors. Someone with integrity, someone who has not been blamed for malpractice. Someone who can cure this strange social disease.

I hope to see this doctor in my lifetime.