There’s this absurd philosophy or school of thought that began in the United States during the 19th century. It’s called pragmatism. This philosophical tradition promoted the idea of non-absolutism and repudiated the notion that the purpose of thought is to identify, reflect and describe reality. The early pragmatists argued that the only function of thought is to predict and solve problems.
The early proponents of pragmatism (e.g., William James and John Dewey) didn’t actually reject the existence of truth, rather they argued that truth is not a stagnant property. According to their non-absolutist view, “truth happens to an idea.” This suggests that a particular idea is deemed true as long as it is ‘profitable’. In the world of pragmatism, there is no hard or existential reality. Instead, it’s us who create reality. This simply means that pragmatism argues there are no absolutes, no reality, no facts, no certainty, no fixed laws of logic.
No, I am not saying President B.S. Aquino is a conscious practitioner of pragmatism. Rather, based on his political programs and speeches he’s an unwitting, unconscious pragmatist. Consider his justification for rejecting calls to abolish lawmakers’ pork barrel or Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF). In my humble opinion, this scam will go down in history as embodiment of the Yellow regime’s failure to combat corruption.
Asked to comment on the renewed call to end pork barrel, the President told the press that it is the allocation process that needs changing and explained that while the PDAF can be abused, it can also be used for good.
“I think the premise [of people who want it abolished] is that all the ways pork barrel is used are wrong. But if you look at the COA (Commission on Audit) report, I don’t think that’s the case. There are some ways it was wrongly used but those cases, we investigate. There’s a case now against Mrs Napoles, there’s a warrant of arrest against her for something somewhat related to [the pork barrel],” he said.
“Maybe what we should do is that those who misuse the pork barrel should really face more serious punishment,” he added.
I give credit to Mr. Aquino for issuing a carefully packaged, almost cryptic statement to the press. If deconstructed properly, what B.S. Aquino is trying to say is: ‘Pork barrel abuse/misuse only happened during the term of my predecessor. Just look at the COA report.’ Indeed, CoA Chairman Grace Pulido released a 462-page report that has become the center of attention since alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles disappeared and became a high profile fugitive.
However, a number of government critics in Congress claimed the report did not include the period 2010 to 2012 in its audit.
Why is this the case? Well, perhaps we need to reread Aquino’s carefully structured statement above. This bears repeating: “But if you look at the COA (Commission on Audit) report, I don’t think that’s the case.”
The problem with the COA report is that it was obviously made to tell a different story via selective use of facts and incomplete reporting.
This is why Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz said the COA report was intended to divert public attention from bigger pork barrel irregularities under the President’s term.
“So, why has CoA not included the period 2010 – 2012 in its audit? Are they afraid to make these information public?” said Dela Cruz.
The party-list lawmaker claimed the report was “incomplete and half-baked”. “Why did it only cover the fiscal years of 2007, 2008 and 2009? Why did it not include the years 2010 up to 2012?,” he asked.
That is precisely the reason the reason B.S. Aquino urged the media, particularly the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star, to “look at the COA report”.
They say a fish is always caught by its mouth. B.S. Aquino is definitely no small fish.
This might sound like a conspiracy theory, but did the Yellow regime creatively, deliberately stage this controversy for some political gain or future plans?
Hostile, predatory politics needs victims, and political power thrives on either secrecy or the ability to neutralize political opponents, or both. This is part of the Machiavellian playbook and the philosophy of pragmatism.
Niccolò Machiavelli, the father of political pragmatism, stressed the value of using political strategies and methods to gain political control. The pragmatic and timeless “the ends justify the means” oversimplifies his political philosophy. Machiavelli wrote: “[A] prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.” Hence, the prince should know how t break promises, to lie and steal.
Bearing that in mind, I believe the this still developing pork barrel scandal that seemed to have mainly targeted a non-political woman dubbed by the media as the “pork barrel queen” has all the trappings of Machiavellian pragmatism. Let’s consider the following events or facts:
- The scam was first exposed by the Inquirer, a known corporate sympathizer of the President.
- There are two main targets of the scam– 1) Mrs. Napoles or the “sacrificial lamb”, and 2) some lawmakers (around 28) not friendly to the administration.
- The whistleblowers only implicated non-administration lawmakers, including five senators, namely, Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Bongbong Marcos, Gringo Honasan and Tito Sotto. At least two or three of these senators have ambitious plans to run for president in 2016. In other words, we were made to believe only non-admin lawmakers abused their pork barrel allocations.
- The president temporary distanced himself from the investigation and quietly moved away from the limelight only to reemerge today to tell us to “look at the COA report”.
- The COA report turned out to be “incomplete and half-baked”, as it did not include the fiscal years of 2007, 2008 and 2009.
- After telling us to look at the COA report, the President rejected calls from various sectors to abolish the pork barrel.
Here’s a very interesting question: Who is the instrument and who or what is the main target of this manufactured political crisis?
This brings to mind Machiavelli’s power-keeping strategy, which involves two crucial variables– 1) means and 2) ends.
Every dictator in the past used this strategy to perpetuate his stay in power. For instance, Hitler staged what we know today as the Reichstag fire to justify his banning of the communist party or his opponents. The means here is the Reichstag crisis, while the ends is to advance political power by neutralizing opponents.
Another good example is the fake ambush (the means) of then Prime Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, which was used by former President Ferdinand Marcos to justify his declaration of Martial law (the ends).
Political power is sometimes gained or perpetuated by one’s ability to manufacture crisis and/or to not let a crisis go to waste. Hitler’s Reichstag crisis and Enrile’s fake ambush are good examples of manufactured crisis. The second method is called the crisis-opportunity strategy (my own term), which describes a situation wherein a crisis gives rise to an opportunity to expand political power or to fundamentally change an existing system. One good example of this method is the recent global recession that justified Obama’s passage of more regulations and statist laws.
Now the multi-billion peso question is– Was this pork barrel scam manufactured or did it naturally occur?
Yet whether this crisis was manufactured or not, it nevertheless shows signs of Machiavellian pragmatism. And this leads us to the case of Napoles, who is obviously a sacrificial lamb.
Here’s one universal fact every Filipino should know: every crisis has or requires victims. Hitler’s Reichstag had victims– first, the political enemies, then some social sectors, then the Jews, and finally the Polish and war enemies. Marcos’ fake ambush of Enrile had victims, too.
Whether your intent is to manufacture a crisis or to take advantage of an existing one, you still need to carefully identify and choose your victims. In every manufactured or exploited political crisis there are always two types of victims–
- the means-victims: the instruments or tools one has to choose to achieve one’s goal.
- the ends-victims: the main, indispensable target.
Any scheming politician or potential tyrant who seeks to manufacture a crisis must be able to secure he has full control of things and that he has the capacity/power to manage resulting events and deal with adverse situations. Otherwise the crisis might backfire on him. In other words, everything has to be in the right order. Think of a play that is divided into several acts or scenes. There must be some reason why COA released an incomplete report and why the President urged the media to look at the COA report.
What I’m trying to say is, there are certainly men behind the curtain giving orders and writing the script. Perhaps justice secretary Leila De Lima, COA head Pulido and others are part of this political play.
And speaking of victims, the means-victims have to be powerless and instrumental at the same time. I think Napoles perfectly fits the bill. She’s powerless, as she’s neither a politician nor part of the political elite, and she’s politically useful. But this doesn’t mean she’s not morally and legally guilty.
What makes Napoles an ideal means-victim– or a sacrificial lamb– is her usefulness to the political agenda of the people pulling the strings. She must have known and served some people in power (lawmakers) who must be eliminated or gotten rid of at all cost. In other words, she is an indispensable instrument. She is the perfect means-victim by virtue of what she knows and did (e.i., she operated pork barrel business and fake NGOs that served some political targets that need to be exposed or silenced).
Now who are these people– the main target– who must be neutralized? Again let me remind you what the President told the media today: “I think the premise [of people who want it abolished] is that all the ways pork barrel is used are wrong. But if you look at the COA (Commission on Audit) report, I don’t think that’s the case.”
I downloaded and then read the COA report. However, not a single sentence of this thick document changed my view about pork barrel. Obviously, B.S. Aquino wanted the media to identify the people who abused their PDAF via said report prepared by his appointee, Grace Pulido.
The COA report did not just expose cracks in the PDI partisan reporting, as this blogsite claims; it also implicates a number of administration lawmakers in the pork barrel scandal. Some of these influential lawmakers and Aquino allies not named in the Inquirer ‘investigative reports’ include Sen. Edgardo Angara, party-list Rep. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva and Rep. Neil Tupaz. Other familiar names on the COA list include Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano, Rep. Laarni Cayetano, now Bureau of Customs commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Rep. Naptali Gonzales II, Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Here’s a related report from Tribune:
Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz said the CoA report which was released by CoA Chairman Grace Pulido Tan herself last Friday was intended to divert public attention from bigger PDAF irregularities under Aquino’s term.
However, during the deliberation for the 2011 budget sometime in 2010, Akbayan partylist, a staunch ally of Aquino, got its pork complete with gravy, the trimmings and the side dishes, as it was granted a P4.05-billion fund for its marginalized constituents in agrarian reform communities.
The fund, which came from the Public Works Department’s P110.6-billion budget for 2011 and was covered by an “erratum” in the department’s spending plan, was granted to the group after an intense lobbying from then Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-ao.
According to Bag-ao, the P4.05 billion was to be used to provide support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries, agricultural credit, and initial capitalization for new beneficiaries. Then, in 2012, Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, wife of DBM Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, got P22.5 million excess funding over her P70 million pork when the DBM released her P92.5 million for her district.
B.S. Aquino knows he’s got the final word when it comes to the fate of lawmakers’ pork barrel. He knows as well that ending pork barrel isn’t good for his boys and girls in the legislature. That would be like ending narcotic supplies to drug addicts. They say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Remember the time when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was banned by her own allies from impounding their pork barrel? Creatures in both houses need it, and the President knows he needs it as well to control and gain political power. This is because the executive branch and the legislature are in a parasitic relationship.
This porky scam is not about Napoles but about the entire bureaucracy or our failing government as a whole. Let’s not allow any political group to exploit this issue to expand its power or to advance its sinister political agenda.
A political pragmatist, B.S. Aquino wants us to believe his words and the COA report reflect and represent political reality in this country. This strategy indicates the President is simply trying to construct reality according to his whims and political agenda. By denying the fact that too much political prerogative (e.g., pork barrel and lack of oversight) corrupts, he has in effect declared war on reality and reason. Thus, his goal is not to combat corruption, but to help perpetuate it with his non-absolute, anti-reality politics of pragmatism.
It looks like I was right. Read…