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Bulusan’s lesson on corruption reflected in PH local politics

Ever since I arrived in Naga three weeks ago, talks of corruption in the city government have always been a hot topic my friends cannot avoid talking. Believe me, my friends are not the typical rabble-rousers. They are intelligent people who care. They are concerned citizens who abhor the way elected leaders are making a business out of their political positions.

What amazes me is that the names of city officials that my friends have identified as corrupt would always come up when the topic of corruption is discussed by other acquaintances, not necessarily my friends. The coincidence is too serious to ignore.

It’s hard not to comment on Naga politics these days. For one, there is going to be an election next year. What is at stake is the very survival of the city – call it the future of a city allegedly governed by inept and corrupt government officials.

I am reminded of a story by Carlos Bulosan, the great Filipino-American writer from Pangasinan who wrote about corruption in many of his writings.

In one of his short stories, The Betrayal of Uncle Soyoc, Bulosan discussed how exploiters become the victims of their own circumstances, becoming exploiters of each other and resulting in more acts of deception to remain in control.

Bulosan used the character of Uncle Soyoc to illustrate how the latter is willing to do the dirty job in a gambling scheme to get more gambling proceeds. As Uncle Soyoc basked in his crooked ways, Bulosan pointed out how, because of corruption, cheating has become a virtue.

Bulosan wrote: “It was very educational as well as inspiring to watch two men of the world outwit each other, and trying, of course, to take advantage of each other. In that bizarre world where I grew up, where cheating was a virtue, where lying was another virtue, and the play and interplay of chicaneries made me doubt the value of the other virtues, those that were preached in the schools and churches.”

As the title, The Betrayal of Uncle Soyoc, indicates, Uncle Sator, betrays Uncle Soyoc to the corrupt chief of police after he held up and robbed the gambling house. Bulosan would later point out that once corruption begins, it becomes contagious.

My wife would always ask me: What’s wrong with our leaders? We are the only Catholic country in Asia, she continues, and yet look at our leaders. They go to Church regularly. But they do not live according to the tenets of their religion.

I have no answer to my wife’s observations. The more I hear stories of corruption by our local and national leaders, the more I am convinced that God made a mistake creating these human beings. I am willing to debate with God to prove my point.

A Chinese Marxist economist, talking to an American, said, “In your past, most Americans attended a church or synagogue every week. These are institutions that people respected. When you were there, from your youngest years, you were taught that you should voluntarily obey the law; that you should respect other people’s property, and not steal it. You were taught never to lie. Americans followed these rules because they had come to believe that even if the police didn’t catch them when they broke a law, God would catch them. Democracy works because most people most of the time voluntarily obey your laws.”

What the Chinese appeared to be saying was that religion teaches or predisposes us to follow the law. As Catholics who believe in a just God, we should be predisposed to do the right thing and behave ethically. But the opposite is what seems to be happening.

Politicians and other government leaders go to Sunday Mass regularly and receive Holy Communion. Ordinary folks flagellate themselves during Holy Week and sing the Passion of Christ for hours. People go to confession and do their penance. But it seems that there is no desire to change. It is as if going to confession, venerating a saint, and praying the rosary give them the permission to commit sin again. It is a cycle that keeps repeating itself. We seem to have a wrong interpretation of how religion should be practiced.

Going back to our corrupt leaders, probably it is about time to crucify them this coming Holy Week to make them realize that the way to hell is paved, not with good intentions as the saying goes, but with bad intentions and actions.