NEW YORK—Now that there has been a colorful public display of outrage against the abuse of pork-barrel funds, with Janet Napoles accused of being the conduit through whom legislators diverted billions of pesos for their own enrichment, now that people have marched with their porcine masks and witty banners, and have had their fun, what next? We have been down this road before, haven’t we?
EDSA I and EDSA II proved that a people aroused can effect immediate change, at least on the surface. But those tumultuous events, as dramatic and wonderful as they were, did not really change the fundamental nature of the body politic. The Marcoses are still with us. Erap reigns supreme in the (not so) noble city of Manila. Corruption is as deeply entrenched as ever, and the majority of people who run for public office view it as a chance to feed (like pigs) off the trough of taxpayer monies.
What to do? I often think, in my more bloodthirsty moments, that the guillotine should be revived and put to use in cleaning up corruption in the public sector. The crisp declaration, “Off with their heads!” and the sight of public servants’ heads rolling in the dust should focus with remarkable alacrity the minds of those intending to screw the taxpayers on the perils of doing so. When someone is found guilty of rape and is then meted out a severe penalty, shouldn’t the punishment be greater for those who betray the public trust and violate the livelihoods and dignity of countless families?
But perhaps a beheading is too quick, too expedient; it probably looks more painful than it actually is. I hope never to find out, of course. Instead, let’s consider other forms of punishment. They could be buried up to their necks, their heads exposed to the elements and for ants to feed on.
Or we could bring back garrotting at the Luneta, and have the executioner turn the device very slowly as the roster of crimes they have been found guilty of are read aloud to the onlookers.
For lesser crimes, say, a customs official or a cop taking bribes, the guilty party could be placed in stocks, popular during the medieval ages and in colonial America. These were large wooden boards through which the legs were thrust, and sometimes the arms as well. According to Wikipedia, those in stocks were subject “to the scorn of those who passed by” who could “throw mud, rotten eggs,” even “offal and excrement (both animal and human) at those being punished.”
These betrayers of the public trust could be segregated as lepers were in times past, bells hung around their necks to announce their presence, forbidden from mingling with the rest of society, cellphones and computers taken away and forced to forage for their food.
Or, as in the days of the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, they could be paraded through the streets, bedecked with placards that announce to the world their crimes, dunce caps on their heads, and then be subjected to a public haranguing. Their residences would be reclaimed by the authorities, possessions destroyed or distributed to the needy. They could then be sent to re-education camps, for rehabilitation.
But then again the punishment should fit the crime. A lá The Prince and the Pauper, or the film Trading Places, their bank accounts would be confiscated and palatial residences, whether in Forbes Park (Pork?), Corinthian Gardens or Dasmariñas [Village], exchanged for a squatter’s hovel. No indoor plumbing, electricity pilfered from streetlights, housing materials scavenged from scrap wood and metal, insufferably hot in the summer and easily flooded during the rainy season, living in a fly- and rat-infested environment, forced to take crowded buses and jeepneys to work instead of being ensconced in air-conditioned Benzes.
Such are the fantasies that crowd my brain, like an agitated lynch mob baying for blood. Then again the better angels of my nature (by now severely tested) surface and, along with several deep breaths, restore my moral compass. The disgust that renders me from time to time a Simoun-like figure becomes muted, and once again my more contemplative, inner Ibarra emerges.
Isn’t it also time to rethink the comparison that is so blatantly unfair to pigs? Let us stop insulting them. Pigs suffer a terrible reputation; not their fault corrupt lawmakers are the way they are. Besides, we fatten up pigs so we can slaughter them for our benefit. (Hmmm, this could be a rationale for slaughtering grievously errant politicians. But who would want to dine on roast traditional politicians?) Filipinos love pigs so much they consume them every day. If we are what we eat, then those of us who enjoy lechon and pork barbecue, are pigs, too.
An animal better suited for this invidious comparison is the crocodile, the buwaya, no one’s idea of a domestic or farm animal. A legislator might think twice before availing her/himself of public monies labelled crocodile funds. In fact, greedy lawmakers have often been pilloried in the press as buwayas. The Free Press, if I am not mistaken, favored this unflattering portrayal.
Corrupt legislators aren’t the only ones who can be viewed as buwayas. The voters too are buwaya: voracious in their masochism, to have inflicted upon them time and time again, willingly and knowingly, the kind of behavior—reckless, immoral, selfish, boorish, idiotic, — they then bewail. If the mindset of many elected officials is decidedly reptilian, might it not be because ours is too?
Copyright 2013 – Luis Francia