Here in the Philippines, we figure that all politicians are on the take.

Politicians visiting the Presidential palace get gift boxes containing thousands of dollars in pesos; fertilizer funds are funneled to politicians to distribute right before an election (and many, but not all, of the politicians made money off the deal, by buying the fertilizer at inflated prices from friends, getting a kickback from the sale); the going rate of bribery is twenty percent of the deal (a broadband scandal got revealed because the go-between saw that the bribe was to be 40 percent, and blew the whistle about this act of “greed”). It goes on and on.

Only a few, like Father Ed, resembled John McCain in honesty: naive enough to take a bribe and  honest enough to repent that he did so.

One result is that when the opposition in Congress tries to investigate a scandal, the witnesses are clueless about the details, while the few whistleblowers usually find they are threatened with arrest for minor corruption charges, the implication is that if they spill the beans, they will end up in jail (or worse).

But now, the arrest of the governor of Illinois proves that the Philippines is not alone in their corruption. The governor has been arranging selling Obama’s senate seat in exchange for campaign contributions, and this is only the tip of the iceburg.

Yup. Sounds familiar.

Sounds like the Clintons, whose many shady deals in Arkansas (including some shady deals at Hillary’s Rose Law Firm) never were quite investigated because no one remembered anything, and the documents that might tell the truth were accidentally shredded and thrown out.

However, I have two questions about how the US press is covering the story.

One: Why are pundits suggesting that this scandal will not harm President Elect Obama?

“Obama had the good sense to stay far, far away from Blagojevich and all of his people,” said Democratic consultant Dane Strother….

Jay Stewart, director of the Better Government Association, a Chicago watchdog group, agreed: “This is all about Rod, it’s not about the president-elect,” he said.

This suggests that the press will frame the story as if Obama was aware not of the corruption.

Well, duh. The investigation has been going on for three years, so I am happy that Obama was politically savvy enough to stay away from a governor who was under investigation.

But … Was Obama aware of the corruption? Did Obama cooperate with the Federal investigation, encouraging whistleblowing by staff members and friends, or did he just stay clear of wrongdoing without trying to stop it?

Or was Obama so clueless that he managed to rise in Chicago politics without realizing that those around him were corrupt? If so, I shudder. A politician who remains clueless to what is an open secret in Chicago is not savvy enough to be President.

Thank God he chose Hillary Clinton to run the State Department. She has been up to her tush in Arkansas scandals, and knows how to play hard ball. She is unlikely to think Iran will give up their nukes just to make nicey nicey with a new president, or that Putin will suddenly become a pussycat and stop bullying Eastern Europe.

Of course, there is another interpretation on Obama’s claim that he knows nothing, nothing…that he is not “the One” but just another lying politician.

He could be like a lot of our politicians herein the Philippines, who claim they didn’t take any money, and weren’t aware that the money they were given was a bribe, and weren’t aware that their fellow politician took bribes, and besides, there isn’t enough proof that a crime was committed.

The difference? Here everyone laughs, since no one believes them.

Indeed, our Pinoy reporters are usually the first ones to write ironic stories reporting these claims, while call-in shows and TV discussions manage to get both sides of the stories out (while making sure anyone with an IQ over 90 knows who is spinning the truth).

But where was the US press in digging up these stories of corruption in those surrounding Senator Obama? Yes, the Chicago press–especially the Chicago Tribune— did cover some of the stories of the chronic problem of corruption in Illinois, but as a whole, the Illinois scandals did not get much coverage in the national press.

The Rezko trial was going on during the election, yet the media did not cover the story, nor try to link it with Senator Obama.

The US mainstream media hailed the huge amount of money raised by Obama’s campaign, but there were few stories that questioned why Obama, unlike Kerry, Bush, or McCain, did not take public financing that limited campaign spending. (The bipartisan McCain-Feingold bill was an attempt to stop corruption by limiting political contributions.)

Ah, but where did the money come from? Small contributions? Well, not quite: the story about all those “small donors” is now debunked.

Who is connecting the dots? Where are the reports about between the earlier contributions to his senatorial campaigns (Senator Obama $126,000) by Fannie Mae?

Who is checking if all this “automobile bail out” money is going to companies or executives that gave huge donations, or to pay back generous donations from Unions to protect the jobs of their overpaid members?

Will there be stories about ACORN’s misuse of charity funds for political purposes (a problem that was so serious that the Catholic bishops stopped funding ACORN as a charity)?

Will the press remember Obama’s “message man” David Axelrod actually wrote an editorial in 2006 defended the custom of trading political favors (including jobs) as being a normal part of American politic?

Was the press ignoring these stories because the press per se supported Senator Obama? (The bias in posting positive stories about Obama was documented by the Washington Post’s Ombudsman.)

Therein lies the difference between the Philippines and the US media (newspapers, networks).

Here in the Philippines, the press does not ignore the corruption of politicians. Indeed, many brave reporters lose their lives because they reported on corruption and upset certain politicians.

In the US, the debunking stories are only told in more dubious outlets such as talk radio (which I do not get here in the Philippines), especially when the story involves the Democratic party.  In contrast, in the Philippines, you just pick up a different newspaper or radio station to get a different side of the story.

Perhaps if the networks and the NYTime hired some of our Pinoy reporters the American people might regain trust in the press.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her blog is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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