Sunday, February 10, 2008

Greed has a name: illegitimate debt

By Emmanuel Hizon

Illegitimate debt is the result of an acquisitive or selfish desire for something beyond reason. It is the result of a hunger or an addiction that is without satisfaction and fulfillment. It is the outcome of the gluttony and the voraciousness of financial institutions and personalities who derive power and supremacy by using debt as an instrument to advance unfair socio-economic relations and the exercise of these relations to exploit and dominate.

This is also the new name of greed.

For what is greed but the naked acquisition of something beyond ordinary? It is the selfish desire to satisfy one’s caprice without regards for others. It is the rapaciousness to plunder without apprehension. It is selfishness in bold capital letters.

This is also the paramount message delivered by the recent revelation of whistle-blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada over the aborted $ 323 million ZTE National Broadband Network (NBN) project. Far from what it is, it is not just a simple issue of an obviously corrupt ex-Comelec official sucking the nation dry with his multi-million dollar commission. It is not just about Mrs. Arroyo and her First Family engaging in “dysfunctional” public procurement processes to further enrich themselves or is it a fair squabble between the Arroyos and their gang of new “power merchants” pitted against the old guard of patronage politics epitomized by Representative Jose De Venecia.

In truth, it tells about the sorry state of our nation still very much incarcerated to illegitimate debt. It exposes the weakness of our economy heavily reliant on debt to finance government projects and programs, many of which went unaccounted for or were wasted to corruption. It reveals the government’s insatiable debt addiction, its frivolity in acquiring new and yet unwanted debts, its subservience to international financial institutions, the vulnerability of our procurement processes for plunderers to use it as their own playground and the callousness of our leaders in seeing business opportunities and huge kickbacks amidst the heavy debt yoke our people are already carrying.

We salute Rodolfo Lozada not only because he blew the whistle on this overtly fraudulent deal, not only because he decided to do what is right and necessary, but more importantly, we laud him for reminding this nation that it is in fact our lingering debt problem that is one of the main reasons why we are poor, why our leaders are unabashedly corrupt and why we remain in this wretched condition.

Without a shred of a doubt, Mrs. Arroyo’s pronouncement together with her economic managers and neo-liberal apologists that the debt problem is over falls flat with the testimony of Lozada. The link between the NBN deal with the equally fraudulent $ 503 million North Luzon Railways Project, the South Luzon Railways Project and the $ 500 million Cyber Education Project (CEP) says it all.

Truly, the debt problem is far from over. It was never over.

The best way to honor the courage and selflessness of Rodolfo Lozada is not by merely extolling his good deeds. The best way to honor and give meaning to his bravery is by replicating it with the same act of daring and courage brought about by our collective struggle to liberate ourselves from debt domination.

Let us pay tribute to the bravery of Rodolfo Lozada. Let us build the necessary conditions to rid our country of greed and illegitimate debt. Now is the time.