Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

What’s the proper reaction if confronted with the odious task of manipulating public resources for personal gain? The honorable thing is to immediately reject it and bravely face the consequences. But others condone corruption while some even try to justify it. Then there are bureaucrats like Romulo Neri who simply prefer to ‘moderate the greed’ of their recidivist superiors. So the fight against evil has been reduced from active resistance into mere tweaking of highly malevolent and illegal behavior. Greed, it seems, is not a sin if practiced in moderation.

Isn’t it disturbing that greed is considered not excessive enough and that there is a level of greediness which the public can allegedly tolerate?

Senior civil servants like Neri are unique moralists who think they are still doing a good deed even if they barely scratch the fundamental evils of the hopelessly bankrupt system. Their life goal is no longer to fight the system from within but to collect their fat paychecks every month while diligently doing grand favors for their powerful patrons.

But if we were scandalized by Neri’s ‘moderate their greed’ dictum, General Angelo Reyes shocked us even more with his epic fail attempt to defend his dishonorable performance in government: “I did not invent corruption. I walked into it. Perhaps my first fault was in having accepted aspects of it as a fact of life.”

Maybe it’s a disgraced warrior’s desperate plea for compassion but it essentially captures the attitude of good individuals who decided to compromise their virtue by benefiting from corruption instead of exposing it.

Neri and Reyes were publicly condemned even by lower life forms in government not because they violated the law but because their reckless behavior exposed the imperfections of the system.

As high ranking subalterns who blindly implemented the brutal directives of the system, Neri and Reyes must be seen not as aberrations but authentic representatives of the decaying political system.

Their refusal to act decisively against clear transgressions of the law and public morality is their original sin but it’s also at the same time the preferred political stance of conservative liberals. Sadly, this impotent political posturing is often glorified in the mainstream discourse which allows politicians like Noynoy Aquino to brag their non-involvement in radical politics without generating any political backlash.

Reminiscing his Ateneo student days, Aquino explained why his friends rejected the League of Filipino Students: “There was already a dictatorship outside the university and yet we are going to join an organization that will dictate to us what we will do.” (Chief Justice Corona also uses the word dictator to describe Aquino today)

The revelation here is not Aquino’s anti-LFS sentiment but his rejection of the radical student movement at a time when the clear political choice was to actively oppose the dictatorship. Unknowingly, Aquino confessed that his actual political engagement during the Marcos years was to be a mere passive student leader. He ignored the chance to be part of a group which later became the most militant anti-Marcos student force in the country. It was Aquino’s opportunity to create history without the protective shadow of his family but he rejected it.

How could someone who claims to be the heir of People Power boast his non-action, his passivity, his non-involvement in the student movement during the Martial Law years?

Aquino’s rejection of LFS is similar to an Ilustrado’s refusal to join a Katipunan cell in 1896 or a Makapili’s non-membership in the Huk during the Second World War.

But Aquino only exposed the real kernel of liberal politics: Non-action is still an acceptable option to resist evil.

The alternative to the disappointing political behavior of Neri, Reyes, and Aquino is to embrace the political morality of revolutionaries and genuine dissidents. A revolutionary will not moderate greed; he will punish the greedy. A revolutionary will not tolerate corruption; he will jail the corrupt. A revolutionary will seize the moment by being part a political collective.

Related articles:

No country for young politicians
Corrupt nation

One Response to “Political Morality”

  1. […] ignoring the Left. He ridicules the Left from time to time and even tried to link activism with dictatorship. The aim of his propagandists and the pseudo-Leftists around him is to obscure the legacy of the […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » The Left as Alternative

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