Prints and Traces

By Don Pagusara
Davao Today

A blind musician, Willie, who was a student of the Davao School for the Blind, visited me the other day.  He is a good musician, as he could play the guitar, keyboard and could sing.  He played the guitar for the theme song of a film I wrote two years ago, which was beautifully sung by his classmate Gaga.

We talked for a half-hour or so, our conversation randomly swung music to stage plays to politics.  Then at one point, he shot this question, “Sir, unsay tan-aw nimo?  Unsay mas angayan o mas maayo para sa atong katilingban — ang unicameral Parliamentary System o kining bicameral Congress naton karon? (Sir, in your own opinion, which do you think is ideal for our kind of society — a unicameral Parliamentary System or this bicameral Congress we have now)?”

My answer:  It doesn’t matter whether our government adopts a unicameral, or a bicameral or even a “multi-cameral” legislature.  The consequential question is:  who holds the economy of the country?  Who controls the material resources of society? Who owns the means of production?  This is because whoever holds the economic power holds the reins of government.

This is as good as saying that “economic power begets political power.”

In our society, the economic elite consisting of the landlord class and the comprador capitalists, owns or control the country’s economy– from resources to products.   The 40 richest individuals in Philippine society, as identified in the latest news, belong to this group.

Whether the legislative body is unicameral or bicameral, the crucial fact is that the personalities occupying the seats in this lawmaking body ably and doggedly represent the interests of the economic elite.  Even the recent deceptive ‘reform measure’ that intends to accommodate as many partylist groups as possible does not alter the essential composition of our legislature. In fact, this really bolsters or entrenches more the TRAPO system institutionalized by the economic elite.

“Pero Sir, di ba naa may executive ug judiciary branch para matuman nang giingong check and balance  tali sa tulo ka sangay sa gobyerno?(But Sir, don’t we have the executive and judicial branches to effect the so-called check and balance among the three branches of government?)”

You know what, Willie, the so-called check and balance can only go so far as to monitor if “fair is fair” is observed by the players in safeguarding the wealth of the economic elite.  That is to say that the Code of Ethics of the “free enterprise” system is followed.  If there are lapses in the exploitation, utilization and appropriation of the national wealth (the elite’s wealth), a realignment of representation among the players may be done.  Such is the function of mechanisms like “impeachment,” and other processes to reshuffle leading positions, including electoral exercises.

But all these are stop-gap measures or face-saving devices to maintain the smooth operation of government functions.  Nothing truly alternative, nothing truly revolutionary as to effect a shift of political power-sharing that could disturb the concentration of material wealth and resources in the economic elite.

In short, nothing ever changes.  Not with the change of personalities in the Presidency, in the Senate or House of Representatives, or in the Supreme Court.

“Naa pa koy laing pangutana, Sir.  Unsa man diay ang nahimong dugokang tampo adtong EDSA Revolution nga gipangulohan ni Cory Aquino, Sir?  Di ba nakahimo tog dakong papel sa pagpalig-on sa demokrasya sa nasud (I have another question, Sir.  What has been the essential contribution of the EDSA Revolution led by Cory Aquino, Sir?  Has it not played a big role in strengthening democracy in our country?)”

Okay, the Edsa Revolt demolished the dictatorship of Marcos.  But that is about the only accomplishment it made.  Strengthening democracy?  As far as “democracy” of the ruling class is concerned — Yes, it has done a big role in reverting the social order to the pre-martial law era which was the “paradise lost” of the traditional economic and political elite.

As far as the economic elite is concerned, the Marcos dictatorship was a shameful aberration or a bizarre form of the “free enterprise” system otherwise called a “democracy.”  As a matter of fact, a faction of the economic elite was in cahoots with Marcos in maintaining martial law.  So, it doesn’t matter really what type of political system prevails, as long as the economic control remains in their hands.

This set-up should be called for what it is — an oligarchy.

“Sir, lain pang pangutana – – Pabor ka ba nga  wad-on nang pork barrel?  Sir, unsa gani toy tawag anang pagbalhin og ngalan sa usa ka butang, sama anang gihimo nilang PDAF ang ngalan sa pork barrel? (Sir, another question — Are you in favor of scrapping the pork barrel?  Sir, what do you call that manner of changing the name of something, such as changing to PDAF the name of the pork barrel?)”

Oh yes! I am 200 percent in favor of that move of scrapping the pork barrel. Changing PDAF to pork barrel– you call that euphemism.  But that does not change the nature or essence of a thing or a phenomenon.  Whether you call it with the most pleasant-sounding name, if it stinks, it still stinks.

They always resort to this technique of deodorizing or glamorizing the name of a state of affairs — what they think would be derogatory to their image as functionaries of government.  Deception is still the bottom-line rationale for this act or practice.

If you have to scrutinize it more strictly, the “free enterprise” system should not be called a “democracy.”  What is so democratic about the scandalously great gap between the very few rich and the teeming millions of the doubly poor in our society?  The term “democracy” as a tag to this free enterprise is a nauseating euphemism.

Sir, kun mao na —  Unsay kaugmaon ani nga katilingban?  Mausab pa kaha ning “free enterprise” nga sistema o magpabilin hangtod sa hangtod?”(So, what is the future of our society?  Is there a chance this free enterprise system will change or will this remain for eternity?) ”

Only the Filipino people can answer that question, Willie!  But the premise is, for as long as the ownership and control of our economy are in the hands of this very few economic elite, nothing will change in the political as well as in the cultural state of affairs of our society.   They — the economic elite will always see to it that this legacy of the TRAPO (Traditional Politics) will remain for generations and generations.

And what constitutes this Legacy?  Continuing poverty, dire deprivation, unabated social injustice, and scandalous inequality.

Then there is also the double oppression and exploitation.

In the concrete,  this  TRAPO Legacy manifests in the  lack or failure in delivery of social services such as education, health, shelter; rise in criminality (theft  & robbery, crime syndicates, worsening drug problem, prostitution), graft and corruption, continuing militarization to protect foreign mining corporations and other foreign industries, dispossession of the Lumads of their ancestral lands, rising prices of oil and prime commodities, rising unemployment and underemployment, serious environmental despoliation or devastation, calamities, and so forth and so on.

And so, Willie, the Tatsulok of Bamboo will be a relevant song for many generations to come, unless the Filipino People themselves opt to sing an alternative song. (Don Pagusara/davaotoday.com)

Don J. Pagusara is a ative of Mindanao, a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.

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