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Honorable Gentleman’s Agreement? March 20, 1971


Honorable Gentlemen’s Agreement?

March 20, 1971–WHATEVER happened to the list of Delinquent Oligarchs released by Malacañang in its frantic effort to project an image of President Marcos as the leader of a Revolt of the Masses against the Rich, working, idle or profligate? That the little Goebbels of the Military Kickback Complex would succeed in their propaganda gimmickry is too absurd to consider even for a moment. Marcos as Man of the Masses—who can swallow that? Only the Insecure Oligarchs were bothered, but only for a moment.

Just the same, the release of the list was a good thing. The people knew who, among the Rich, owed them—and how much. It should also have served to prod the honorable members of Congress to look into the alleged delinquency and enact remedial legislation to prevent its recurrence and salvage what could be salvaged of the government’s, that is, the people’s investment in the controversial enterprise.

This is to assume that the senators and representatives give a damn about what happens to the people’s money.

The question is: Do they?

So far, there has been only deafening silence and utter passivity on the part of the so-called servants of the people in Congress. Correction, please. The silence was not unanimous. A congressman, Gaudencio Beduya, delivered a speech “exposing” the state of the people’s investment in the Iligan Steel Mills, Inc. And a senator, Salvador Laurel, came out in denunciation—that’s right, in denunciation—of the Malacañang release of the list of rich debtors of the people. It would weaken them, the senator said, in effect. The debtors, not the people, that is.

Other members of Congress have kept their mouths shut. Sen. Benigno Aquino, who had denounced the government investment in a new sugar central, AIDSISA, and moved the Senate to a Blue Ribbon investigation of the case, had nothing to say this time. Cat got his long tongue? Sen. Jovito Salonga, usually so eloquent in defense of the people’s interests, was similarly silent. Sen. Lorenzo Tañada, champion of citizen’s rights, had nothing to say, either. And so forth and so on. Yet, the issue is a grave one. As the FREE PRESS said in an editorial:

“Since neither the Socialists nor the Communists are in power, Socialism, with or without the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, remains a dream, and we must make the most of what we have, a non-Socialist regime, by making it as progressive as possible. In its most advanced sector, the economy is Capitalist in nature and motivation. Capitalism and Oligarchy are, however, inseparable, one leading, inevitably, to the other; Capitalism ends in the concentration of the capital in the hands of a few as the big eliminate the small in the name of free enterprise and competition. But under whatever regime, delinquency in the payment of obligation is not to be tolerated, it is generally agreed. Debts must be paid, whether by Oligarchs or the most modest of entrepreneurs. The alternative is total economic dislocation. President Marcos may or may not effect a reconciliation with the Oligarchs, ‘oppressive’ or ‘enlightened,’ to suit his purposes and conveniences, but has he any alternative but to go after and collect from bad debtors who owe government financial institutions, that is, the Filipino people, so much and have not settled their accounts for so long? If he cannot do this, what good is he as President? Is he good for anything at all?”

In the face of the failure of the President to do his duty and protect the interests of the people, what will the honorable members of Congress do? Will they just do nothing themselves? If they do, the people should not be blamed if they thought their government utterly hopeless, that is, utterly indifferent to their welfare.

What should the people do if Democracy—Philippine Style—is finally exposed as merely an Honorable Gentlemen’s Agreement, to protect each other’s vested interests, that the unspoken rule in House and Senate as well as in the Executive Department is “You lay off my oligarch and I’ll lay off yours”?

What should the people do, then? Still go on believing in “democracy,”? still go on just voting—for what?