The latest reports is that our beloved President has breathlessly announced to Davos that he has eliminated corruption here since taking office, so come and invest your money here!

From a headline in the Manila Bulletin:

Aquino: PH Corruption Over

With the days of corruption and mismanagement of the past administration finally over, the Philippines has finally turned the corner and now enjoys a “virtuous cycle” of growth driven by good governance, President Benigno S. Aquino III declared yesterday.

Yes, the Philippines is no longer a land where bribes are given “over the table, under the table, and with the table”. We are now HONEST.

That old lefty, retired Archbishop Cruz, is a bit cynical at this

Sponsorship of many activities – from the celebration of community feasts days to the funding of basketful tournaments – are being scheduled. Beer plus cigarettes are expected to flow and abound respectively – notwithstanding the “Sin Tax” law. Money and more money are earmarked for multi-media advertisements, for paying supporters, for eventually buying votes – included….

By the way, considering the truly great amount of money needed to run for a political office, the elementary question is where will the money come from? Answer: This time around, it is not only jueteng (the illegal numbers game) money but also drug money that will be available to fund the forthcoming elections

Yes, follow the money.

Our province is being pressured to put in a huge casino, even though we are not a very photogenic area (too many rice fields and most of the photogenic water buffalo are now replaced by handplows for plowing and motorcycles with side cars or trucks for transporting the rice).

Ah, but what we have is a compliant government that will look the other way when the casinos result in a zone for drug taking and prostitution. Lots of kids here, and lots of poor people who are desperate for work.

Sigh.

The real problem is not just corruption, but that the country is run by political dynasties. If you want to get ahead, it’s who you are related to that allows you to run for office, not if you are competent or not. This also extends to business opportunities.

From WhyNationsFail blog:

But the extent to political dynasties in the Philippines is off the chart compared to any other country in the world. 60% of congress-people elected in 2007 had a previous relative who were also in congress. To give some sense of how high this is, the analogous figure in the US was 7%. In roughly half of the 80 provinces of the Philippines the governor is related to one of the congress-people.

This affects everything.

It means that even the saintly Aunt Cory didn’t go after her corrupt relatives, and that election hit jobs will kill the opponant’s family members if they can’t eliminate him personally (which is how our nephew was killed: talking to the rival politician’s son).

Yet things are getting better: It’s been three whole months since the last suspected politically related hit job against a local radio reporter.

The present administration is indeed going after the corrupt: The problem is that their relatives and friends will use the creaky legal system to slow down the actual prosecution and court cases. So the Philippines is still trying to get Marcos’ fortune, and our lovely ex president Gloria was indicted but still sits in Congress.

So yes, the Philippines has declared war against corruption, but it might turn out to be a victory on paper, not reality.

One clue you should watch to check how things are going is to see if those behind the Maguindanao massacre that killed 58 people including the rival candidate’s wife and 30 journalists,  actually go to jail. So far, the three years of delays have allowed several witnesses to disappear or be eliminated “with prejudice”, as the saying goes, and of course a strict libel law here discourages investigation of what everyone knows was behind the mastermind’s belief that they could get away with murder.

So a political massacre, but behind it a clan feud (over who can control all that lovely money) and connections with other political dynasties and vote buying/stealing are suspected, but hey, if you write the names of the suspects in a blog, you can be arrested for libel. Raissa Robles has the backstory, one that makes the Borgias look like amateurs.

Please recall that the accused murderers and many of the slain victims came from two political dynasties which were both allied to the political party in power then. The refusal of one dynasty to give way to the other was the root cause of the carnage.

And the slain  media men and women? Pawns and victims of that conflict.

Sigh.

Three years, and still no court date.

So just how bad is it? Well, our province could be the poster child for the problem.

After a couple of high profile election related murders awhile back, the local bishop held a mass and required all those politicians attending it to pledge non violence. I don’t know if this pledge covered no violence by body guards or hired hit men, or the murder of local low level officials, but it was a start.

And no, I don’t think that the bishop was inspired to do this because our niece shook her fist in the mayor’s face during a local fiesta mass.

The violence here  is personal to our own extended family: It took several years after our nephew was killed to get the authorities to indict the mayor behind the political hit job that accidentally killed our nephew. He left office while under suspicion (and his wife ran but lost the race) but finally he was placed under arrest (and promptly disappeared, presumably somebody tipped him off).

Like the families of the Maguindao victims, like the families of the many reporters and low level officials who were slain, we want justice that might never come.

But maybe things are changing.

As this GMA article notes: The old political dynasties are being replaced by younger politicians who made their money in business.

Well maybe: but our governor is from a local clan, and now our ex mayor’s daughter is trying to get her father’s job back in the family, so colour me sceptical

Sigh.
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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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