WHY THEY STEAL

The eight commandment does not mean anything to a Pinoy public servant. More often, it is just a reminder by the jolly pastor. Public funds have no ownership. Government position is one big picnic.

One hears that a government salary is an anchor against the time’s uncertainties. Going private means one has reached a dead end. Getting elected is like winning the Gordo Lotto.

One proposal floats where a congressman should be considered as one business entity. Anyway this bunch of brigands treats their pork as compensation for getting elected. Why not then categorize their annual privies as taxable income? At least something really gets back to us by way of cuts from their gargantuan SOPs.

Plunder was added to our vast lexicon on thievery. We started off in the simple and innocuous delegencia, sideline, isang kahig, isang tuka. Soon we graduated to kotong, supporting pera, and kickback. SOP becomes a part of any government contract. There is that popular expression, “everybody happy, eh paano naman si Eddie?” Asked who Eddie is, the coy answer is “Eh ‘di ako.”

Paano si Eddie reverberates in all government agencies. This is a catch phrase on                                                             taking care of everybody akin to the oath of omerta of the Mafiosi. Spreading the sunshine is its equivalent. By missing one factotum in the transaction, the big boss suffers some sleepless nights afraid that some one in the vast network might rat on them claiming, “nabukulan ako.”

That is why there are layers upon layers of mark-ups in any government contract. There is that provision for the Commission on Audit, the Ombudsman (Oy huwag mong kalimutan si Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, napakatakaw n’un) and myriad others on top of the lion share reserved for the pen holder.

Stealing in government is an art. One congressman was heard saying, “doling out is an art.” Winning in politics in this third world country is a crude rendition of Salvador Dali’s surreal art. Their staying power is proof of their mastery in this field. One socialite expressed her awe on Ferdinand Marcos when she said that he would not have lasted that long were he not a smart thief.

We hear accolades from their henchmen, “matibay ang maglulupa, ika.” “Durable”. “‘Yan ang liderato!” “Kung saan ka, naroon kami.” “Hawak niya ang kahariaan niya.” A national leader invariably has this prized information before embarking in the costly and nerve wracking nationwide campaign. “Sino ang bata natin doon…?”

Keeping a hardcore group of followers requires the wherewithal for daily square meals.
To Pinoy politician, he credits the gods for his political fortunes. His divine luck prods him to raid the public coffers. Being public, nobody owns the discretionary funds, the pork barrel, the extra-school board fund, the ad valorem tax, and the value added tax. Where his conscience bothers him, there is that sacrament of penance, the confession. Remember the movie the Godfather? The Bishop humoured Michael Corleone to try again the sacrament of confession and see the effect on his guilt-ridden conscience. “There’s no harm in trying.” That’s why Catholicism is such a great hit in third world countries. No sin is so heavy that doesn’t deserve absolution. There’s always that confessional box to go to once a faithful breaks any of the commandments.

In this country, beating the odds is what it takes. FM’s heirs (and cronies) are all off the hook. Cory’s relatives were never bothered by any subpoena. FVR was wise enough to think ahead by naming a gofer in the anti-graft body. Erap is having a grand vacation in his Tanay Villa, his son Jinggoy enjoys the perks of a senator and is out on bail from plunder charges.

In other words, the odds are great in favour of stealing. Taking ones’ chances filching billions at his political heyday is the wise thing to do. Three generations removed, the thief’s issues extol their ascendant to high heavens for having the gall of providing for a stable posterity.

Given this track record, stealing becomes a matter of course. Facing plunder charges, a capital offence, Erap at one time showed apparent anxieties. Now that the death penalty has been revoked, thanks to our religion again, Erap regained his usual swagger.

Five centuries ago, Fernando Magallanes once named these islands the Ladrones.

Incidentally, we saw the familiar smirk sported by Erap similar to that of the First Gentleman. Since the Tulfo brothers were nabukulan, this  bunch of extortionists is now on the war path.

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