DE LA ROSA: People Power impractical this time.
PHILIPPINE democracy has become so “rotten to the core” — with the country ruled by politicians who are only surrogates of power brokers — that a cosmetic change of leaders won’t solve its ills.

“If we want to restore integrity and honesty in government, the best way is not through a rigodon of leaders who are forcibly removed through People Power, but through an enlightened, educated, and conscientious electoral process,” UST Rector Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa said in his homily during the Mass for Truth last March 2.

The Mass was held in support of UST alumnus Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, who blew the whistle on the corruption-ridden national broadband network deal involving more than $300 million.

As a result of the expose, there have arisen calls for President Macapagal-Arroyo to step down and for another people power revolution to oust her.

But like the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Father de la Rosa cautioned against another revolution.

“The two previous People Power events have not produced this desired result,” he said.

What is needed, he said, is an educated electorate.

“We have 26 months before the next election. We have enough time to prepare ourselves so we can vote wisely.”

Referring to the elections of Gov. Grace Padaca in Isabela against the well-entrenched Dy political dynasty and of Gov. Ed Panlilio in Pampanga against traditional politicians fueled by illegal gambling money, Father De la Rosa said an enlightened electorate could overhaul Philippine democracy.

“Let us use People Power during election time, not only before or after,” he said. “It has happened in the past, in Pampanga, in Isabela, and in other less known places in our country. We can make it happen again.”

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Trenchant analysis

Although the media played up Father De la Rosa’s caution againist another people power revolt, his homily served as a trenchant analysis of the Philippines’ “flawed” democracy. (Read full text of homily, “The Roots of Our Eyes are in the Heart,” www.varsitarian.net.)

Father De la Rosa said Gore Vidal’s criticism of the American election system also applies to the Philippines:

“Our system of electing politicians to office is rotten and corrupted to its core, because organized money has long since replaced organized and enlightened public opinion. And most of it comes from rich people and corporations, who now own our political process — lock, stock, and pork barrel.”

The Rector said the “deeply entrenched system of patronage” easily captures honest officials into the “despicable practice of graft and corruption.”

He added that the country’s democratic woes is worsened by the integrity crisis.

“The crisis of integrity involves us all,” the Rector said. “If we want to restore truth and integrity in society, government, and the churches, we must stop looking for scapegoats to ease our burden of guilt and failure.”

He said voters must vote wisely and make those elected accountable.

“What our country needs at this crucial stage of our history are voters with an enlightened will, voters who will not elect officials who will treat them like doormats, citizens who will not exchange their conscience for convenience, nor their principles for monetary gain.”

But apparently distancing himself from calls for another revolution, he said reforming democracy and governance will take time.

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“Quick successes usually are a fluke,” he said. “Real and lasting victories take time.”

Cory, Lozada

Apparently taking her cue from UST’s top Dominican, former president Corazon Aquino said after the Mass that the “fight might take longer,” as more Filipinos needed to be convinced to join anti-Arroyo protests.

Aquino had called for the President’s resignation following Lozada’s testimony before the Senate that the $329-million NBN deal with ZTE Corp. of China was overpriced by as much as $130 million to make room for kickbacks.

Aquino vowed to stick it out with Lozada until the end. “Jun, I will be there with you for as long as I can,” Aquino said.

Lozada, a 1984 UST Engineering graduate, also spoke after the Mass and said the Arroyo administration was trying to destroy his credibility.

He said he has owned up to the charges against him, including corruption and philandering, and has expressed his sorrow for them. But he would stick to telling the truth.

“They always attack my credibility,” Lozada said. “They do not want the nation to rise from the darkness, because in the dark, one can easily fool people.”

Earlier, Father De la Rosa defended Lozada in his homily, saying that the truth comes out from someone who has humbled himself before God by confessing to his own sins.

“God chooses people to witness to the truth, not because they are blameless but because something has happened to them,” the Rector said.

Meanwhile, Thomasians lead the weekly national noise barrage at the España gate and candle-lighting for truth and accountability before the Arch of the Centuries. Armbands and pins worn by students during the Mass (extreme right) denounce “greed” and “evil.”

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