Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach.
-George Bernard Shaw
Thailand, where thousands of protesters have occupied the main airport to force the current prime minister to step down, not only learns from other countries. It also puts what it’s learned into practice, unlike the country we currently inhabit–which teaches, but doesn’t practice.
The Thai government sent hundreds of students to the University of the Philippines in Los Banos in the 1960s, and then proceeded to put into practice what they learned by turning Thailand into the world’s leading rice exporter (it exports some 10 million tons of the staple annually). Since then, the Philippines, where hundreds of Thai agriculturists and agronomists studied, has become a net rice importer.
The occupation by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) of the country’s three-billion-dollar Suvarnabhumi International Airport is threatening to do one better the country which claims to have originated “people power” and to have taught it to other countries in the 1980s. The Thais may actually succeed in removing one more government in their long-running, two year effort to eradicate from government the influence of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whom a Thai court has found guilty of corruption.
If the Thais succeed it would be some kind of record. The anti-government groups led by PAD have previously removed two other prime ministers, prompting Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) chair Kavi Chongkittavorn to quip during the celebration of SEAPA’s tenth anniversary in Bangkok last November 7 that Thailand is now also “the land of changes” as well as “the land of smiles.”
The Philippines is also threatening to set its own record–for the exact opposite achievement of not having changed governments in the last seven years. No matter how many prime ministers and presidents may resign, lose in elections, or be removed worldwide, it seems our own de facto president will hang on forever, or at least beyond 2010, every effort to remove her from the office to which she has clung with the tenacity of a barnacle having failed. “Wow, Philippines” could be more than a tourism slogan, but expressive as well of collective surprise over the country’s being “the land of permanence” despite EDSAs 1 and 2.
The most recent indication of “Wow, Philippines” is the ruling by the House of Representatives Committee on Justice on the fourth impeachment complaint against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. That body threw it out after a scant three days of hearings, ruling that the complaint, while “sufficient in form” was “insufficient in substance.”
Speaking in the turbid prose favored by UP College of Law graduates, Committee Vice Chair Congressman Edcel Lagman and his company of Arroyo cheerleaders trotted out every Latin phrase they’ve ever learned from law school to justify striking the complaint down.
In the process they made it appear that they were judges in a court of law where the complainants had to meet the most stringent legal requirements for a conviction. And yet an impeachment complaint is only precisely that, a complaint over whose merits in terms of probable cause, not on evidence, the committee was expected to rule. The Senate is after all the body that would try the case, if forwarded to it by the House.
Fat chance. Lagman summed up the complaint’s “insufficiency” in terms of its being made up of “rehashed an recycled charges” “bereft of ultimate facts which would show the culpability” of Mrs. Arroyo. Not only did he thus imply that old charges don’t have any merit just because they’ve been made before. He and the Arroyo majority also passed on the merits of the “evidence” presented by the complainants—which was a mere recitation of facts to show that Arroyo had probably committed impeachable offenses (corruption, willful violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust).
The decision was expected and widely predicted, however, and likely to be upheld by the House plenary. What continues to surprise is how this latest outrage and previous others involving Mrs. Arroyo as well as her husband and allies, her subalterns, and her hatchet men and women, have been met with a shrug and a yawn by the people who supposedly taught the rest of Asia the possibilities of self-rule by waging the first anti-colonial revolution in Asia and establishing the first Asian Republic.
I wouldn’t go as far as the Black and White Movement’s Vicente Romano. Romano was asked to explain the vast apathy that apparently afflicts the very same people whose forebears a hundred years ago defeated the Spaniards with a worker and peasant army armed only with obsolete weapons and no military training, and who, only 22 years ago, threw out a dictatorship on the strength of sheer numbers alone. Romano said all Filipinos were to blame, to which I do take exception–although I would object only to the “all” and would replace it with “most.”
Certainly some Filipinos, among them the members of the militant groups; the party list formations that not only filed the complaint, but which have also been fighting corruption and exposing human rights violations all these years; the civil society groups demanding that Arroyo resign; the bishops who haven’t been bought with PAGCOR funds; and the human rights, good governance and anti-corruption lawyers like Harry Roque and Neri Colmenares, can’t be blamed for allowing the outrage that’s the Arroyo regime to continue. But it’s true as well that the vast majority of Filipinos are either unconcerned, resigned, or both as far as the country of our sorrows is concerned, and can’t wait to take the next plane out to some other country where the trains not only run on time; they’re not the subject of million-dollar rehabilitation projects that never go anywhere either.
Romano did say that most Filipinos are apathetic because they have an actual, physical exit in the country’s airports, and actual destinations, whether in the Middle East, the Americas, Europe or a Saudi Arabian oil tanker ripe for seizure by Somali pirates. But what he didn’t say was how this focus on an exit also shows that many Filipinos value the country of their birth so minimally they can think only of leaving it, in direct contradiction of all those claims about how much they love it.
Think about it. Everyone from Arroyo down to the last MMDA traffic enforcer asking for a fifty-peso bribe says he or she loves this country—but can’t wait to defraud, cheat, and ruin it as well as to leave it. They say in the United States that you either love the US or leave it. Apparently you can love this country as well as leave it to its fate too. Wow, Philippines.