Based on a news report written by Dominic Dela Cruz and published inconspicuously in an inside page (meaning: treated as a story of little significance) in last week’s issue of the Ilocos Times, city officials explain that the resolution “seeks to recognize Arroyo’s assistance to the marginalized sector of the city through his endorsement of their medical cases to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) which in turn granted medical and social services to the needy constituents of the city”.
The sponsor of the said resolution is Laoag Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president and city council ex-officio member Chevylle V. Fariñas, who is strongly convinced of Arroyo’s worthiness of said recognition.
According to the feng shui-guided Fariñas, also the city’s first lady, the PCSO would not have denied the people’s request but that the Pampanga solon’s recommendation—being a son of the President of the Republic—made it easier and faster (emphasis mine) for those who need help to be granted their requests.
Voting unanimously, the council then approved the resolution adopting Mikey Arroyo as a son of Laoag. He joined the ranks of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Architect Rex Hofileña who had likewise been bestowed such honor recently.
I would understand, karikna, if you don’t immediately grasp my disgust for the said resolution. Helping the sick and needy is a perfectly moral thing, and recognizing Good Samaritans is, in no small measure, praiseworthy.
But in approving the said resolution, Laoag City councilors have legitimized one of the hideous evils in Philippine government—the palakasan system, roughly translated in English as influence-peddling.
In the case at hand, this is what it means: PCSO would not act as quickly and efficiently in helping the poor if influential people like Mikey Arroyo would not give the push. The needy people of Laoag get quick help not because they deserve it, not because PCSO has a heart for them, but because Mikey Arroyo, the alleged coddler of Jueteng protectors in Pampanga, gives the word.
This is sad because when relatives and friends of government officials get in the way of governance, our democratic institutions are muddled and compromised. This is also related to the Padrino system and Transactional Politics, wherein favors and opportunities are given not on account of meritocracy but by virtue of political loyalties and accommodations. This is an art that has been mastered by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and, as heredity now unfolds, his son Mikey.
I ask hypothetically: what if our city officials were principled enough to stand against the anomalies and abuses of Malacañang, will Mikey Arroyo still come rushing to sign endorsement letters for Laoag indigents? Or, if Arroyo would offer heaven and earth, will city officials then keep mum?
By forwarding such endorsements, Mikey Arroyo, a manipulative architect of his mother’s prolonged stay in power, confirms what all of us already know: PCSO is a political machine masquerading as a charitable institution.
And the story does not stop here. Councilor Vicentito Lazo suggests that the PCSO chairman be accorded the same recognition as well. If so, the Laoag City council would then honor a man who, going by the logic of Chevylle’s statements, only acts expeditiously when prodded by the relatives and minions of the bemoled.
Of course, am not naive. I know, that’s the way the political cookie crumbles. But to pass a resolution honoring a perpetrator of the palakasan system is more than what I can stomach. (This is not to say that our city officials have larger and more complex tummies.)
If it is any consolation though, I am relieved that my discomfort over Mikey Arroyo’s adoption is shared by many legitimate sons of Laoag, both here and in exile. They sent me messages, some of them unprintable, condemning the move. But this does not come as a surprise. Many Bacarra natives were also irked when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the I-am-sorry girl no less, traced her roots in the said town. It does not take a political scientist to understand why. Bacarreños know very well that their town is no breeding ground for callousness, hypocrisy, avarice, and greed—moderated or otherwise.
It would have been easier to bear if Mikey was adopted on account of his being an excellent actor. Yes, the comedy-action star is yet to win any acting award, but his films are national legacies, true works of art that imbibe golden lessons and universal values among the youth. The 40-year-old Arroyo’s filmography includes the movies “Sablay ka na, pasaway ka pa”, “A.B. Normal College”, and “Masamang Ugat”, which is not-true-to-life and does not refer to his parents as you may be tempted to think.