A traveler accidentally discovers an island-state with a perfect political, social and economic system, this is the story that Sir Thomas More wrote in his book: Utopia.
The ideal form of society for the achievement of peace and happiness is what men have always wanted. We dreamt about perfection of laws, politics and more than anything else, life itself. But what are we really doing?
It has already been more than a decade since the Republic Act 7942 or popularly known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has been passed and inaugurated as a law. One of the objectives of this Mining Act is to open the Philippines to foreign investments; La Fayette Mining Corporation grabbed the opportunity of mining gold in Rapu-Rapu, an island municipality, enjoying all the rights and privileges granted therein. Barely five years had passed since La Fayette started mining, protests against such activity in Rapu-Rapu had rapidly grown in number, most of which are headed by the Catholic Church. These protests had long started but it was only after the fish skills and other very evident negative effects of the irresponsible large-scale mining that it was given due attention. The people of Rapu-Rapu complain about the destruction of the rivers, the sea and the mountains hence affecting their livelihood. This is because more than three-fourths of the population of the island-municipality relies on fishing and has an alternative source of revenue in the mountains when it is impossible to ride the waves of the sea.
Having been a part of Aquinas University’s College of Arts and Sciences’ two week immersion program in Rapu-Rapu gave me a chance to see how “concerned” about their environment and their fellow men the people really are. The fishermen blame La Fayette for the toxic wastes dumped in the sea for it kills the fishes and destroys the coral reefs; but, they never blame themselves when they use cyanide and dynamite while fishing which has the same harmful effect. The people of Rapu-Rapu blame La Fayette for the wastes dumped in the rivers, creeks and sea; but, they never acknowledge that they themselves have been throwing their wastes in these bodies of water. They blame La Fayette for the denuded mountains; but, they never blame themselves when they cut trees and never bother to plant a new one. They blame La Fayette for their lack of income that’s why they can no longer send their children to school; but, they never had shortage of money for their afternoon delights, “bingo” for the women and “sabong” (cockfighting) for men. They blame La Fayette for their fear that their children may get sick when they bath at the sea or at the river but they never fear letting their children roam around the barangay without shirts and slippers, touching and worst putting anything to their mouth. The only difference between what is being done by the people of Rapu-Rapu and by La Fayette Mining Corporation is the span of time and coverage of its effect.
I may have seen a lot of contradictions in the immersion program but I still managed to see a similarity. The people of Rapu-Rapu and the students of Aquinas University of Legazpi have something in common. If the people of Rapu-Rapu complain about what is happening to their environment, the Aquinian students complain about what is happening to the school. Aquinians would go restless when there is a possibility of a tuition fee increase. But when enrolled already, there are students who would frequently absent themselves which would later result to getting dropped. They would complain that classrooms are not beautiful enough but they vandalize almost everywhere. They would complain that rooms are not well ventilated but they would crowd themselves at the corners/ back in order to chit-chat with their seatmates. They would complain that instructors are not knowledgeable enough but they would never bother to lend them their ears.
I guess most Aquinians are already naturally like that. I guess most of the people of Rapu-Rapu are also like that. I guess most of us are. We tend to see the mistakes of others but not our own. We set standards but never follow it. We want what is good but we don’t act accordingly. I’m not saying that the people of Rapu-Rapu should stop protesting against La Fayette nor should the Aquinian students not go against tuition fee increase and complain about the classrooms and the instructors because these things are our rights protected by the Constitution. But it would be a lot better if we act as we desire. But how would we know if our desire is ideal? Is it through conformity?
Well, what is ideal to a good number of men may actually not be god. Goodness is one of the things that cannot be determined by majority vote. Thus, what may be ideal to the society and to the government may not be good. This is an insight I had proven to be true in my two weeks of stay in Rapu-Rapu; their social norms incorporate live-in relationships of girls ages fourteen to sixteen.
“Let’s not be like the government [of Arroyo]. It pushes for a Charter Change because it believes that the unicameral-federal and parliamentary forms of government are more ideal than that of what we have at present. But the truth is, there is no such thing as ideal form of government. Whether it is unitary or federal as to the extent of powers exercised by the national government, presidential or parliamentary as to the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government and monarchial, aristocratic or democratic as to the number or persons exercising sovereign powers, the success of the government lies on the people who govern and the people being governed.” This is a summary of the discussion of the people of Carogcog, one of the thirty-six barangays of Rapu-Rapu, regarding Charter Change.
One of the reasons why there are people who believe that a unicameral Congress is more ideal than a bicameral one (as incorporated in the Charter Change) is because, in a unicameral Congress, good bills can be passed faster. “The things that make Carogcog beautiful are also the things that make it ugly. If you look at the two sides, you’ll know that the beautiful has its ugliness and the ugly has its beauty.” This is the idea shared to me (in Bicol) by an old lady I met in Carogcog. It may be true that good bills can be passed faster but looking at it on a different angle, it shall be faster in this form to pass poor bills that are later on to be enacted as laws. Poor bills can only turn into poor laws…poor laws such as the Mining Act of 1995 (opinion of the people of Rapu-Rapu).
I shall sum up the people of Carogcog’s ideal society and government into this: A just and humane society having a government that embodies their ideals and aspirations, promotes the common good, conserves and develops their patrimony and secures to themselves and their posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and the regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace. These lines should have been familiar; I made use of the words of the preamble of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
So how near are the people of Carogcog from attaining these ideals? I guess they are still very far. Excluding the fact that they have a lot of problems caused by an external factor which is La Fayette Mining Corporation, there is almost no “justice is fairness” (a political-philosophical theory) in Carogocg; People share their foods with each other. You may say that it’s good but it’s not. Because it is not fair. There are people in the barangay who have the capacity to work but they wouldn’t, thinking that anyway they shall be given food.
The Iron Law of Oligarchy (another political-philosophical theory) on the other hand is very evident in Carogcog. The family of the barangay captain has power over all internal affairs of the barangay because they known almost the whole of it. The right to suffrage is no longer a right but an obligation…an obligation to vote the family members during the barangay elections. The freedom of speech and of expression is no longer asserted; how can you say something negative against the person(s) who own(s) the land where you live? In this sense their local government (not of the same meaning as to Political Science; in reference to the barangay alone) is not ideal. But how do the people of Carogcog look at the national government?
The national government for the people of Carogcog is ideally imperfect. They have lots of complain against the national government especially against the present Arroyo administration. They may not be knowledgeable enough about the provisions of the present Constitution, but their complains are, if analyzed, the failure of the government to abide by it.
Article 2- Declaration of State Policies and Principles, says that the prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people… (Section 4). The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all (Section 9). It shall also promote social justice in all phases of development( Section 10), value the dignity of every human person, guarantee full respect for human rights (Section 11), protect and promote the right to health of the people, instill health consciousness among them (Section 15), protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature (Section 16), give priority to education…to foster patriotism and nationalism…(Section 17) and develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by the Filipinos (Section 19).
But this institution called Government which is supposed to do the above responsibilities is the same institution that sold our territory to foreigners, the reason why there is so much agony felt by the people of Rapu-Rapu in the first place. It allowed the propagation of poverty, obliteration of dynamic social order, worsened quality of life, loss of health, destruction of healthful ecology, development of dependent national economy controlled by foreigners and propagation of poverty and unemployment; La Fayette hired people from Rapu-Rapu as contractual workers but after the expiration of the contract, they did not renew it anymore and hired Visayans instead. These are definitely the opposite of patriotism and nationalism; so, how can the government instill it to the youth if they themselves don’t know it. A Filipino saying goes: Ang maling gawa ng matanda, sa paningin ng bata ay tama. I say: Ang maling gawa ng gobyerno, sa paningin ng mga walang pakialam na mamamayan ay tama. The people of Rapu-Rapu in particular, and the Filipino people in general, does not expect for a perfect government. For them, for the government to faithfully do its errand is already ideal.
We all want the ideal. But how do we attain it and make it real?