Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Relevant Filipino columnist - Tony Abaya

Tony Abaya attended Ateneo de Manila and earned an A.B. Journalism degree. Before continuing his studies Tony decided to see several European countries aboard a Vespa Scooter. Then, Tony took up another course in America's Northwestern University and got a degree in Chemistry.

Over the years, Tony has written a column that appeared in several newspapers consecutively. These days he writes a column ON THE OTHER HAND for The Manila Standard. In his incisive clearly written columns Tony sees through the terrible “chemistry” of corruption and immorality affecting our government officials and their interaction with the citizenry, the Philippines.

From the way he attacks issues concerning our government officials and others supposed to work for the people, the chemist continues to conduct his social laboratory experimenting and offering candid suggestions with all elements hoping to make a difference with his writings that could be adopted towards good governance.

A fellow schoolmate from Ateneo de Manila, Tony thinks and argues like a Jesuit, whatever that means. I for one enjoy any moral columnist to openly take a stand, and makes it a point to do a thorough research on his data before doing anything or recommending any action.

Considering the role of major newspapers operating in Manila, The Manila Standard should be proud, I assume, to have Tony Abaya as their premier columnist – or so I think.

Sure, there are quite a few brave veteran Filipino columnists in Manila dailies with a colorful track record and write with distinctive style and vigor not to mention courage. Tony has indubitably a lot of that – consistent fearlessness.

Once, I even recommended to Tony (who regards phoned or emailed commentaries and threats about something he had written in his column a pleasure and vital to his column writing) to tap a private agency who could compile and duplicate some of his hard hitting columns and distribute copies to all high schools and colleges in Greater Manila and those in key cities in the archipelago for our youth to discuss for these facts would impact their future.

I feel that our youth NEEDS to be aware of these corruption, as Tony carefully comments on what is going on in their government. Our youth, as up coming Filipino adult citizens, should be able to react properly and learn what action to take vis a vis the points mentioned by Tony.

I do hope and pray that Tony continues to write his fearless analysis and proposal for public officials to return to accepted moral values and be cognizant of their delicate role as leaders of the country.

One major contribution of Tony Abaya to equally courageous citizenry is his creation of TAPATT [Transparency and Public Accountability Today and Tomorrow,]

A foundation, Its Mission Statement is phrased thus:

We look at our country and we are saddened. We see a country being ravaged by the greed and avarice of many of those who are supposed to lead it.

We look at our country and we are troubled. We see an otherwise talented, hardworking and infinitely patient people being wasted and demoralized by the insatiable cupidity of many of their leaders and their leaders' relatives and cronies.

We look at our country and we are infuriated. We see many politicians and public officials, and their relatives and cronies, who view public office, not as a vehicle for public service, but as a passport to private wealth, enormous private wealth, in the shortest possible time, and to hell with morality and public opinion.

We look at our country and we weep. We see the perpetrators of the vilest form of graft and corruption and the beneficiaries of untold stolen wealth parading in opulence and lionized by society, while millions of hapless citizens rot in grim conditions of devastating poverty.

Here is one of his latest columns on Idiot Candidates.

"Whoever invented that phrase – I first read it about two weeks ago on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer - deserves to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Eminently Correct Political Incorrectness.

"Idiot Candidate – a candidate who aspires for an elective political office purely on the basis of his/her popularity with the squealing masa, with absolutely no experience in public service or in managing anything other than his fighting cock, if that at all, and with absolutely no idea on what he or she intends to do if and when that office is won.

"The most recent example of an Idiot Candidate is the boxing champion Manny Pacquiao. At first, he was going to run for vice-mayor of the City of Manila, in tandem with the dynastic son of the incumbent Lito Atienza.

"But why should we be surprised? In the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections, Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ – may he rest in peace – campaigned for the presidency without ever revealing - probably because he also had no idea himself - what it was he was going to do if and when he became president…..and he almost won.

"FPJ studiously avoided being interviewed and asked hard questions on the issues of the day, almost certainly because he did not know what to say. No talk, no mistakes. Less talk, less mistakes. When he consented to speak before a gathering of foreign diplomats, the media was pointedly excluded.

"So the public never knew what his ideas were, if any, on the topics which the diplomats no doubt raised or wanted to raise: investments, official development aid, foreign debt, the Spratly Islands and China, the war in Iraq, the peace talks with the MILF and the MNLF, the Abu Sayyaf, the communist insurgency, free trade and globalization, etc.

"His speech was no doubt ghost-written, but what about the question-and-answer forum? Was there one at all - or did he have to rush out conveniently to “another appointment” - and how did he respond if there was one? Well, diplomats would not be diplomats if they did not know how to keep their mouths shut and shield a possible president from embarrassment

"Just as there are no masters where there are no slaves, so also are there no idiot candidates where there are no idiot voters."


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