Friday, February 22, 2008
What made a lasting impression on me about the movie was the fact that people could be different persons at the same time. Like Jesse, one could be an excellent father and husband and be a unflinching murderer/robber at the same time. Jesse’s wife was dumbfounded of his murder (by Bob) as she clearly did not know the entire facet of his personality well. The persona that Jesse presented to her was beyond reproach; he was the perfect husband and father to their two young children. If she only knew what her husband was truly like then perhaps she would understand and even condone the act of treachery committed by their family friend Bob. This reminds me of an Anita Shreve book I read entitled "The Pilot’s Wife." The protagonist in the story, the wife, discovered his pilot husband’s affair through the most unusual of circumstance. The plane that his husband was piloting unexpectedly crashed in the Atlantic and initial reports said that it might be a terrorist attack. Shaken by grief, she recalls the memory of their love affair and stable (yet cold) marriage and is convinced that her husband had been a good man, a doting father and a sensitive partner to her. Then out of the blue, the shocking news about the cause of the plane crash becomes public, and she learns about his husband’s involvement with the IRA, a nationalist rebel organization, fighting for the independence of Ireland. She finds out in the end that her husband had been a "runner" for the group and was having an affair with one of its members, a former stewardess in his plane. And not only that, he had two children by this woman and the second one was only six months old. The wife had the shock of her life and was flabbergasted by the "newness" of their affair as evidenced by the six-month baby. Piece by piece, the memory of their flawed marriage becomes apparent to her: How her husband could afford not to make love to her for more than three weeks time which oddly extended to months, something that she justified in her mind as a usual settling down of marriage life. How her husband would suddenly get enraged whenever she asks the simplest of questions, which includes, "Do you still love me?" Somehow, her rational mind banished these fears and mild questions, as during their marriage she couldn’t quite place her finger on what is exactly wrong or missing about their shared love. It finally dawns to her that his husband was leading a double life all along.
So the question in her mind (and my mind) remains, "Can a person who claims he loves you truly loves you when he also loves somebody else?"; "Are the things that you shared remain true despite the fact that he was lying to the whole time?" This question may seem fairly easy to answer with a definite no but, for a woman who believed and was satiated by the normalcy of a marriage, it is really difficult to answer. I guess this is so because people tend to live double lives all the time. For example, one can be a cruel husband but a respectable public persona at the same time or vice versa. Some people may feel obliged to hide their real selves for fear of a public rejection and as such may only reveal what they truly are to a few selected number of people. In life, particularly in these times, people feel the need to hide their true selves more often. There is a growing need to compartmentalize our selves into different parts and choose only which parts to show in public and which parts to keep for our self. However, if we do this, we will experience a sense of vertigo, a loss of a grounding or mooring, and we will question ourselves on who truly are more and more. "Which is the real me? Is it the loving husband or the hardcore criminal?" "Is it my public self or private self?"
My only resolution to this dilemma is to stay true to your "real" self as often as possible. One needs to try to stay out of a clear and definite dividing line between a public and a private self. For example, if you want to be on television playing the Johnny and the Sprites character, you better be a kid-loving and friendly person in real life. You better be sure you are not some crackpot junkie with a promiscuous sex life in your personal life. Otherwise, paparazzi’s may pick up this juicy bit of information and banner it on their tabloids the next morning. And how will you able to explain this apparent great divide between your public and private self then? Politicians and movie stars are the ones always prone to this sort of scandal. This is so because there usually is a huge disparity between their public and private selves. But you can’t really blame them, particularly the movie stars, as their main business is selling an image (which may or may not represent who they truly are) to the public; they merely represent something that the public fancies or desire. Sometimes though, you can lucky or just plain blessed, like Oprah Winfrey. She earns billions of dollars a year by showing her real self in the public and the people just simply love for her it. (She may even get to elect the first black president in the US just because of her influence.) Or be unlucky, like Martha Stewart for example. The public feasted on her stocks scandal years ago as they simply cannot reconcile her homey style living expert public self to the scheming business cheat presented by the prosecutors. But in the end, Martha accepted a plea bargain and was incarcerated for a year and two and the public has forgiven her since for her mistake. She is now back as the decorative home style genius that she is. However, one cannot just disregard the lack public of confidence that she has suffered and is probably still suffering. She may be back in business but people will always have that orange prison wardrobe clad Martha image embedded on their heads. There is now an undeniable crack or fissure between her public image and private self. People now know that she isn’t who she really is in public.
To live a double life is to live a difficult life. (Unless, you are CIA agent or something and get a
kick out having a multiple personality disorder, you will definitely not enjoy having a double life.) One way or the other your true self creeps back and gets hold of you again. Your wife may soon discover your philandering ways through the subtlest change in your manner, or you may have a Freudian slip in public that may shatter the image you are fastidiously portraying. Either way you cannot hide or run away from your "true" self forever. It will catch up on you and when it does it will demand an accounting of what is real and what is false. As such, Socrates did say, "Know thyself." The knowledge of one’s self is your best protection to the lies of your self and to the lies of the world. People may perceive you differently from you really are and as such say things which may not be true of you, but as long as you know yourself, you are safe. If you know yourself, then you can boldly say to yourself and to the world this is the real me and the only me for that matter.
I feel ambivalent about the PGMA resign movement. I strongly believe that she should be ousted and punished for every wrongdoing she has committed to the Filipino people but on the one hand, there is a creeping cynicism inside of me which says disposing her will not necessarily lead for the better. If truth be told, I am bitterly disappointed by her performance as a president. I had such a high expectation of her as she depicted herself as the moral, religious, family-loving opposite of the then philandering actor-president Joseph Estrada. I sincerely thought she was the one who could save this country from the vicious cycle of poverty and corruption. But she proved to be worse than Estrada in the end. She presented her flashy, respectable and dignified self in the public yet in reality, there was a Mr. Hyde lurking on the background. At least Estrada had the temerity to show his real face in the public and to challenge them to either take it or leave. It may be in bad taste and a step backward to feminism, with him having numerous mistresses around, but in the Filipino psyche his act is something that can be condoned.
I believe the public feels the same way I feel now. Although they feel strongly against the leadership of Gloria, they may not be too apt to act on the thought as they simply do not want to go through the whole ordeal of deposing and replacing a government again. I daresay PGMA killed and cheapened the spirit of the Edsa Revolution when she ascended into power and proved, or rather chose, to be the wrong leader. The first Edsa Revolution and the "real" People Power in my opinion was the one triggered by the death of a true hero, Ninoy Aquino. The second one, was right in the sense that most people really wanted Estrada out of power, and yet was misguided and outright disastrous in the sense that it paved the way for Gloria to claim the power and privilege that was not rightfully hers.
It was not rightfully hers as she was not voted as president the first time she took hold of the presidency. (And thing is, she probably never really was ever voted as president, as insinuated by the "Hello Garci" scandal.) Estrada was idolized and catapulted into power by the middle to lower class majority of the society. The elite class can whine and bitch about it but their vote is as good as the vote by the lowliest street vendor (as long as gets himself registered and does not sell his vote to an unscrupulous local public official for a measly hundred bucks). The poor and underprivileged class wanted Estrada and so he became the president of the land. His only mistake was that he got caught doing his own designs of graft and corruption. He was betrayed by his "compadre" and co-conspirator himself, Chavit Singson, when he readily admitted to the Senate that yes, they were doing jueteng collection and yes, Estrada was siphoning public funds into his own wallet through various means of malversation of public funds. And of course, just like the rest, Singson did not claim he wasn’t guilty of it either, its just that compared to what his "compadre" was getting, his share was just a small portion of the pie. And so off Estrada went, together with his legion of crooks, who haughtily announced that the people can erect makeshift houses in Edsa for all they care but no, Estrada will not step down as president. A few days after, when his favored senators danced and cheered their way to prevent a vital piece of information from going out to public, Estrada was eventually booted out of office. What they didn’t know was that their desperate and pathetic attempt to shield Estrada from his plunder charges was the last straw. The public became so furious because the farcical process of unseating a president was so deliberately rigged to favor then president Estrada. And so to announce their indignation as well as to let go of their frustration over the entire affair, they marched to Edsa via a text brigade to be later supported by opposition leaders, church leaders notably, Jaime Cardinal Sin, former presidents Cory Aquino and FVR, and lastly and they key of which was the military. Alas, another "compadre" of his was to betray Estrda. Then Chief of Staff Reyes and the nominal head of the military, turned his back on Estrada, saying he will listen to the voice of the people and protect the right of the people and not the president alone. Now, Reyes is gratefully serving PGMA as a vital government official, through various posts, a happy consequence of his mighty act of choosing public opinion over his personal benefits. He is infinitely happier with his choice indeed.
This is what essentially what the opposition leaders are asking the public again to go through. To experience once again the hysteria and mob of deposing an unrighteous and according to Lozada’s word (told to him in confidence by CHED Chairman Romulo Neri) "evil" president. To what extent the current sitting president is evil, we might never know as Neri himself claims he does not recall ever naming the president as such or even being in such a position to have him say those words. But interestingly, when the press people pressed him further to describe PGMA in one word, he says that he could not and when pressed again to elaborate and to use more than a word if he must, again he seems to be at lost for words on how to describe his own boss. Was it fear that stopped him to utter any potentially politically incorrect word that might come out of his mouth? Is it fear now that is stopping him to go the path that Jun Lozada has taken? Just like Lozada said, Neri was concerned about his financial and physical security, the top two things he will invariably lose once he goes against the president (and who in his right mind wouldn’t be really?) Lozada was reluctant to go the Senate precisely on those reasons and yet, in the end, he chose the more difficult path as he was more concerned about saving his morality, about losing his soul more than the physical comforts of this life.
What is the lesson we can learn from all of these? I personally learned that good intentions do not necessarily lead to good results. The intention of Edsa, both I and II, were definitely aimed for the greater good and yet, the results were not all satisfying, especially with the latter one. Filipinos are clamoring for change and genuinely want reform from the government and yet sadly, their leaders have failed them one after the other. The spirit of the first Edsa still burns alive in the memory and hearts of all Filipinos and this is what led them to again dream of change and a break of the status quo when they marched to the streets once more for the second Edsa. The Filipinos spirit is always pure and strong, always searches for the truth and never settles for what is only second best, and yet it is their leaders that are found wanting. This particular Jun Lozada expose might not go anywhere, his wave of truth might not be strong enough to topple down a greedy and evil president firmly entrenched in her hold of power, but his lesson will never be lost, his courage in the face of danger and evil will never be forgotten.
In the end, the choice is ours to make. We could choose the path that Lozada has taken, a path towards the greater good, the path that will save our souls. Or we could take the road Neri has taken, a path towards personal good and security, but a path that might make us lose our soul. In his unusual display of both courage and fear, Lozada, has emerged the moral victor in this quest for truth. His unmasked sincerity and surprising wit, as shown in his Senate hearing appearances, struck a chord in this nation’s soul still hoping for the realization of the spirit of Edsa. Like he said, "In my choice to come out for the truth, my only intention was to save my own soul. I didn’t know that in the process, I will also touch our nation’s soul as well." As long as there is still one man (or woman) standing and bravely defying the odds for the higher good of this nation, all is still not lost with the Filipino’s quiet quest for idealism and good governance, and as such the true spirit of Edsa remains.
Memorable Quotes resulting from the J Lo Expose:
"Moderate your greed. Exterminate your breed." – from popular poltical slogan these days as lifted from Neri’s instruction to Lozada to moderate the greed for kickback of Abalos and FG Arroyo.
"I thought I was merely standing up for the truth. But now, I learn that the truth is the one standing up for me." –Jun Lozada from his Tagalog version (Akala ko, gusto ko lang maisalba ang katotohan kaya ako nagsalita. Pero ngayon ang katotohanan na ang sumasalba sa akin.)
"I simply cannot recall saying those words." –Romulo Neri, when asked about the veracity of Lozada’s testimony that he called PGMA evil. It is important to note that he did not categorically say, no, I never said it, but only no, I do not recall saying that. This saves him from the accusation of being a complete liar as in effect what he was saying is that he might or might not have said those words. Nevertheless, oppositionist Senator Ping Lacson, after hearing Neri’s answer, immediately called him a liar, telling he was there when Neri said those words just December of last year and further accusing him of having selective amnesia.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Today we are celebrating the Day of Hearts. A non-event really for a person like me who considers such occasions as a mere ploy to trick the middle classes of divesting the hard-earned and depreciated peso from their pockets. In the light of the current economic situation this country is experiencing, such unnecessary and mindless commercialism is uncalled for. Down with Valentines Day and all the overpriced chocolates and roses it entails! Down with the lovey-dovey couples ostensibly holding hands and making other questionable displays of physical emotion!
I am just sour-graping of course! Hehehe.
Now, let us go back to the more important issue of the hour. The J Lo or Jun Lozada expose.
There is only one weapon you can wield to fight off the siege the armies of the night will lay upon you when you take the witness stand, that will leave you standing when the smoke clears, proud and victorious: The truth. ---Conrado de Quiros
One thing is clear from all of this. The government is lying, and not only that, they are doing quite a bad job at it. The Senate hearing on the ZTE-NBN deal makes all the high-ranking government officials sound like a bunch of nincompoops. It really makes you wonder why they occupy such prestigious government positions in the first place. Lying in the Senate hearing is really much more difficult than lying in the ordinary courts. In the Senate, you have like half a dozen senators tediously asking you to repeat every little bit of information you have just stated. They are patiently waiting for the inconsistencies to surface as go along your prepared speech. So if you are not telling the truth, or if you have not 100 percent memorized your concocted story, you will definitely look an eejit in front of national tv. In this case, you don’t need to be the proverbial rocket scientist to know who is telling the truth. Thank God for Lozada.
Jun Lozada or J Lo for FG Arroyo, is what you call the classic unwilling hero. He is not clearly the saint that senators Joker Arroyo and Miriam Santiago are looking for, which is almost non-existent, but he is a hero in my opinion nonetheless. It takes an enormous amount of will power and gumption to go against the powers that be in the government. Not everybody is willing to risk his life and limb just for the Truth to come out. Just think of Neri, Atienza, Defensor, Razon, Bunye, et al to know how difficult it is to tell a simple truth to the public. These government henchmen’s resolve to protect their “boss” far outweigh their desire to help the true ones, “the people,” who provide them their salary and all the other perks they enjoy. It is so easy indeed to be seduced by the dark side. The path towards becoming a Master Jedi is the least road taken. But it is the path that Jun Lozada has taken. As Sen. Mar Roxas said, “May the Force be with you.” And may the force be with us all.
This is not the first time (and I bet you it won’t be the last as long as they remain in power) for the Arroyo government to be caught with its hands on the cookie jar. Who can ever forget the Hello Garci scandal? My officemates (in the government!) had cellphone ringtones in that tune. I listened to the downloadable version of that conversation on the net regardless of what the moldy DOJ Secretary Gonzales was then saying. He threatened to prison everybody who will bother to listen to it as he argued that it was an act against national security. It was an act against the security of PGMA, her questionable tenure of power, but when did she ever represent the nation, the communal interest of people? PGMA does not exactly constitute national security especially since she primarily serves the interest of the elite and chosen few who fight to keep her in power. It is the right and duty of every citizen to know. The government’s main responsibility is to bolster that right and not to smother or downright kill it. Just recently, I heard in the news that the Supreme Court upheld in its ruling that that “illegally” wiretapped sound file can be legally played in Congress for everybody to hear. But that is beside the point of course, as every Dick and Harry, or rather to be more culturally correct, Pedro and Juan, in the country has heard it and knows what that fuss is all about.
Which brings us to the point, what has Comelec Chairman Abalos got to do with a government broadband connection deal? Why is he even a part of the picture when he cannot offer any technical expertise on the matter? And why is he so adamant on his demand for a kickback according to both Jun Lozada and Joey De Venecia’s expose? This was even corroborated by Romula Neri’s damning statement in the Senate, “Sec, me 200 ka dito.” Neri said he understood that statement to be his Php 200 million share of Abalos’ kickback. I can only logically surmise that Abalos possesses such a clout on the government for one reason alone: they owe him something. And what favor can you possibly ask from a Comelec Chairman whose main task is the counting and calculation of votes come election time? You tell me. It isn’t hard to connect the dots after all.
JDV in his final speech as House Speaker insinuated about the cheating in the 2004 elections. However, he safely followed it up with a statement that he will reveal what he knows in a more proper forum. He also mentioned another government project that was supposed to be overpriced. Relatedly, during the questioning of Lozada he also brought up the North Luzon Railways project as another overpriced government that he knows of. According to him, it was overpriced by at least US$70 million dollars. However, it was pushed through without any hitch as it falls under the category of what he termed as “moderate greed.” What Abalos was asking for almost constituted 50% of the entire amount of the deal itself which was originally pegged at about US$150-200 million dollars. Therefore, what Neri tasked Lozada to do was to simply ask Abalos to lessen his amount of kickback to half of his original demand. To which Abalos angrily retorted, “Ang hirap nyo’ng kausap. Kalimutan nyo na lang ang usapan.” (You people are hard to talk to. Just forget about our deal.) Lozada also matter of factly stated that all government projects are overpriced by about 20% of the total amount of the project to accommodate for the kickbacks.
The last statement did not surprise me at all. What did surprise me was Senator Gordon’s reaction to Lozada’s allegedly marvelous claim of corruption in the government. He claimed that Lozada should have been outright indignant about the corruption as even as single centavo or peso of stolen money is valuable and that he should have not accepted the proposition of Neri in the first place out of the purity of his conscience. I am surprised and a little bit disturbed by Gordon’s sentiment as I know that he has been a public servant for such a long time. Surely, he knows how government conducts its business. That corruption is part and parcel of government affairs is a common knowledge. In fact, the people almost expect it, what they simply do not want is for the government to be intemperate in its greed to the point of robbing them of all of the public resources. Just like the memorable Malaysian leader, Mahathir Mohammed, once said (in reference to the
This is precisely why the government’s act of discrediting Lozada via Senators Miriam Santiago, Joker Arroyo and others will not hold water. The insufferable Sen. Santiago accused Lozada of being culpable of corruption himself as he also enacted government projects without proper bidding during his term as President of Philippine Forest Corporation,( a semi-government entity to which Lozada tendered his irrevocable resignation before his expose) and that he had unduly used his influence when he chose his own wife as the agent to supply his own government funded insurance amounting to Php 5 million pesos. Lozada did not flinch when he admitted to his own mistakes and acts of corruption.
Another tale that I won’t forget out of this sordid revelation is Lozada’s brief recollection of a farmer’s tale of simplicity and kindness. He said that on his one sojourn in the province, he saw a tree burdened of ripe guavas and asked the farmer who owned the tree why he didn’t harvest it to sell those produce in the market. The farmer, in his battered rubber sandals (tsinelas) and hole-ridden sando, answered, “Sir, we just leave them there so that the birds could eat something.” You may accuse this farmer of lack of ingenuity and creativity but you cannot accuse him of greed and corruption. Simple folks such as this man may lack all the trappings of the “good life” but it doesn’t mean that that he won’t be able to live a good life. In fact, he may live the best life of all as he is happy and contented with his lot unlike our government officials who squabble and are never contented with their share of millions of pesos and dollars. Do they sleep fitfully at night knowing that they took away all that money that could have been channeled for that farmer’s health care benefits, his children’s education, the livelihood projects of his community, for the construction of roads, hospitals and bridges that could benefit that farmer's life and all the people like him for the better? They may have the grandest and most plush beds that money could buy but one thing they can never have is that simple man’s good sleep. That is, if they still have some conscience and soul left in their systems. Sadly, as exemplified by the recent turn of events, most of our government officials have lost theirs beyond redemption.
In his interview just this morning, Mr. Jun Lozada was asked about his message to PGMA, the mover behind it all, and he exhorted her to “please step into the light.” When one sees the light, will we have the courage to embrace it and do the right thing just like Lozada did? Or would we hover around the corners of darkness just like most of our government officials out of fear for their own behinds? Or worse still, will we choose to order the light out and have it quashed just like PGMA did when she sanctioned the kidnapping/joy-ride of Lozada? I sincerely hope that in our own little moments of reckoning we may have the same courage that Jun Lozada has and still do the right thing in the end.