‘No pork, no rice!’–or how society behaves around plunder suspects | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Some may call it gossip or just loose, isolated observations. But, I’d rather see this as a sign of the times—a sign that, at the very least, the Filipino feels again a sense of shame, or is beginning to retrieve his sense of values.


Or, then again, to the cynical, what all this could only mean is, if you’re out, you’re out. That’s just how snooty elite society is. No reawakening to traditional values, really.


In an exclusive membership club in Metro Manila, some racket sport players would avoid playing at the same time as the lawmaker accused of plunder. They would ask if the lawmaker had a reserved court and what time, and they would stay away at those hours. This was so unlike the time they were so eager to join him in his game, and would even anticipate his arrival on the court.


Another racket sport member, a feisty matron, refused to start playing with her instructor until he took off his shirt that bore the image of another trapo accused of plunder. And she made sure he did, and didn’t care if the other people nearby noticed it.


In a gym, the atmosphere would turn icy each time another plunder suspect would work out—a great contrast to the days when his gym mates would hover around him and make small talk.


Piercing stare


One evening, after dinner in our country club, we were having a raucous talk in the lobby when I noticed my friends turning silent all of a sudden, and staring in one direction. I followed their stare and recognized its object—the plunder suspect and his spouse were heading toward the lobby. No doubt, the couple felt the piercing stare, too, and tried hard to ignore it.


Could all these be some signs of social ostracism? Of course, they are, for whatever reason—a reawakening of our sense of right and wrong, our sense of delicadeza, or just sheer bigotry and self-righteousness?


Where this long-running Napoles/plunder episode is concerned, social media has become a heaping ground of public ire and opinion, and that’s another story.


It’s still different and becomes all too real, however, when ostracism is done and felt in physical reality. You can’t simply log out, like you can in Facebook. How do you “unfriend” physically?


Apparently, in private clubs and other social milieu, social ostracism could be felt against those accused of plunder. Owning a Birkin bag—or any ostentatious display of ill-gotten wealth (our apologies to such an esteemed heritage product as the Birkin)—apparently exacts a social price, particularly if you use the tax money we pay to buy it.


“My god, billions! And here we are scraping for a decent living. I just don’t want to be in the same space as him, for now. If he asked me how many in this club believe the news, I would tell him the truth—99 percent,” a club member told us when I asked her if she had greeted the plunder-suspect member recently.


People now frown on the trapo’s tacky display of wealth and power. People at the airport, for instance, can’t stand it if one jumps the queue, as if one is exempt from it, or if a bigwig parks the car in the no-waiting zone. Facebook and Twitter teem with posts of license plates and cars of bigwigs who do just that.


‘Trapos’ on tarps


People can’t stand it when the trapo’s face is all over the tarps on the road. They’re turned off by this age-old political exercise. P-Noy is one president whose face you don’t see on tarps all over the country. On the contrary, many of the ambulance vehicles zooming around still bear the image of GMA.


More and more people are turned off by the flaunting of the trappings of power. Flaunting trapo power, it seems, is suddenly not cool, especially if you’re suspected of living it up on plunder money.


Apparently luxury retail is somehow feeling it in its sales. The consumers of luxury goods (can I not specify which?), who used to pay for their must-haves in cash, have grown scarce. According to my source, these are usually politicians and their kin from here and the provinces who carry cold cash to make their purchases.


Another source said that KTVs or such places of “girlie” entertainment also have seen their business somewhat affected by the reluctance of many government operatives (especially the BIR) now to be seen being entertained in public. You can say it’s relatively harder now to enjoy a “free lunch.”


But more than all of the above, what surprised me was what my beauty industry source said—“No pork, no rice!” What he meant is, since the pork barrel scam exposé, many of their politician clients have assumed a low profile and don’t frequent the salons anymore to have all kinds of procedures done.


This has affected the beauty salon revenues somehow. Politician clients now even ask for a discount. Liposuction can wait. But Botox? No wonder we see quite a number of lumpy faces around. Botox long overdue.


While his critics (the paid or the unpaid) belittle President Aquino’s anti-“wang wang” policy and his “daang matuwid,” you must be so dense as not to sense that somehow people are feeling again a sense of shame, where corruption, plunder or stealing is concerned. You concede that, since the country’s leadership is not a kleptocracy, then perhaps corruption is not in the Filipino’s DNA, after all.


With more and more people frowning on the lifestyle that corruption enables, then perhaps it is true, the Filipino can still retrieve his sense of values.


If not that, at least, the Filipino still remembers how it is to be decent—because the leader is decent.


That is an intangible state of the nation.



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