Time was when South Korea was an extremely poor country while the Philippines was rich, its robust economy second only to Japan’s in the region. So what happened to us? Why are we now lagging so far behind South Korea’s fast and smooth running economy? What follows could be a big chunk of the answer.
Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bac was recently sent back to prison to serve the remaining 16 of a 17-year sentence after an appeals court upheld his conviction on bribery and embezzlement charges. All four living South Korean ex-presidents are now either in jail or have served time for corruption. Their respective successors, political enemies, instigated the investigations and charges of corruption, helped along by student protest actions.
This is in stark contrast to the ambivalent way we treat our corrupt officials. Like, not one former Philippine President, living or dead, has landed in jail on corruption charges with the sole exception of President Estrada who was in no time pardoned by his successor President Arroyo. Worst of all, we not only have not charged the most corrupt of our Presidents but we have also buried him as a hero. President Duterte’s recent announcement of sending corrupt officials to prison does not quite square with his unabashed partiality to a known corrupt political family.
Marcos cronies have not been brought to the bar of justice either, and his family is firmly back in politics. As I write, the air is rife with speculation that Bongbong Marcos might yet win the vice presidency; and senators are now poised to enact a law declaring a Marcos Day for Ilocanos, thus provoking ugly and destructive tribalism instead of uniting us into one nation of Filipinos.
South Koreans are not ambivalent about corruption the way we are in the Philippines where we allow it to pay big dividends. Their politicians do not protect one another from charges and mass protests to get the other politician’s followers’ votes. In the Philippines, however, decency is for sale, payable with the votes of the corrupt politician’s equally indecent followers. The Senate, against all norms of decency and respect for the rest of us, is giving Ilocanos a Marcos Day for no other reason I can think of than the solid Ilocano votes in the coming elections.
The price for our ambivalence towards corrupt politicians is the poverty of the majority. We cannot be simply changing factions of one and the same party of the oligarchy which under the system behave in a uniform corrupt and incompetent manner. If we hate being caught between the devil (oligarchic rule) and the deep blue sea (communist rule), we have to aggressively push for the new constitution of a truly representative democracy.