The revenge of the bobo-tante and tanga-suporta

I HAVE learned two new terms from reading the postings of self-anointed social media vigilantes and reformists: bobo-tante and tanga-suporta. These are a play on words, meaning stupid voter (bobo for stupid and botante for voter) and idiotic supporter (tanga for idiot and suporta for support).
These are supposed to describe the Filipino masa who, in spite of all the mass media exposés and social media criticism concerning the alleged corrupt record of certain public officials, continue to express support for them.
A recent posting on FaceBook, parodied a Time Magazine cover with a headline that described Filipinos as winning the prize for most stupid voters. The person who created that piece was apparently a Pinoy. It elicited a lot of approving comments from – you guessed it – fellow Pinoys.
One hopes that their parents, uncles, aunts and assorted relatives had no FaceBook access when the piece was posted. I’m sure these family members would not have relished being called award-winning nincompoops.
The social media vigilantes and reformists should read the poem of John Donne which states, “No man is an island entire of itself…therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’
In other words, do not insult the Pinoy masses because, as a fellow Filipino, you would also be insulting yourself. It’s called spitting in the wind or cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Unfortunately, with the emergence of social media as an outlet for expressing one’s opinions, this patronizing attitude towards the “unthinking masses” has become de rigueur.  I understand that mouthing clever pejoratives is supposed to upgrade one’s stature, making the insulter feel more intelligent and holier than the insulted.
In fairness, some of those who engage in this emasculation of the bobo-tantes and tanga-suportas are sincerely trying to “educate” the masses, to impart to them a clearer understanding of right and wrong, and to persuade them to vote more wisely in the forthcoming elections.
Indeed, one cannot quarrel with that laudable objective, except for the unnecessary arrogance and self-righteousness with which it is propounded. If these apostles of change were perceptive enough, they would realize that it is not easy to discuss morals with someone struggling with an empty stomach.
One could insist that there is no excuse for corruption, even granting a Robin Hood type of situation, and there is no justification to accept “dirty money” even for a worthy cause. But try telling that to the recipients of badly needed assistance. Philosophers and moralists can argue this point till they are blue in the face, but the impoverished recipients will likely tell them to go stuff their ethical standards up their you-know-what.
This is not to say that morals and ethical standards are irrelevant. But there is a time and a place for them. When bishops and archbishops, who hardly qualify as starving, unblushingly accept SUVs from a president of the country in exchange for their “blessings,” there is reason to vehemently protest.
But when a gambling lord subsidizes churches, schools and public services in a province, one can only protest if the same support were being adequately provided by the government. Lacking that, civil society leaders and reformists should, instead, protest the inadequacy of government and the ineptness of the police authorities.
We could learn a lesson from Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga. Meloto is a bona fide do-gooder who does not presume to be holier than the thousands of slum dwellers and impoverished families whom GK has been helping. He is also non-judgmental, accepting the support of everyone who offers to help, including those whom civil society and the social media activists would brand as corrupt.
I once asked Meloto about this. His response was that he was in no position to judge other people and that, what was important to him was the help being offered and how it would help Gawad Kalinga beneficiaries.
It is in this context that those who would reform society and transform the Philippines into the next graft-free Singapore should view their admittedly noble mission. Unless they are prepared to provide a palpable, consumable, sustainable alternative to the good work being undertaken by those whom they condemn as “bad,” some humility on their part is called for.
Recently, we learned from Nene, the young woman doing the laundry at our home in Parañaque, that her sick mother had just died. The old lady was seriously ill and needed oxygen. Her family did not have money to pay for it. Instead, they had to manually pump the oxygen themselves, with tragic results.
“Perhaps if we had money, Inay would still be alive,” Nene told my wife.
In contrast, I think a piece written by Philippine Star columnist and former advertising colleague, Boo Chanco, is worth retelling. In his column of October 13, 2014, Boo quoted a resident of Magallanes Village telling about his experience as a Makati resident:
“My former maid got sick of kidney disease.  Fortunately, she had a yellow card.  She run up a bill of half a million pesos, but she didn’t pay a single centavo.  My driver got a stroke recently.  His family brought him to OsMak (Ospital ng Makati) and treatment was free. So too for the driver of my sister, who contracted dengue and didn’t have to pay a thing.
“Even on Saturdays, the barangay office, including the clinic, remains open to offer services to the residents. I don’t have to worry too much about my household help getting sick and I have to personally pay for their medical and other needs.
“So there. Call me uneducated, but the government works for me in my tiny village in Makati. It’s not the birthday cake, the P1,000 every six months for senior citizens, and the free movies.
“You may say that Binay has nothing to do with the prosperity of Makati. I don’t care. My wife doesn’t care. All we see is the service we are getting as residents of Makati.  At least we see some of that prosperity trickling down.  Narrow-minded, maybe, but I’m just relating to you my personal experience.”
It makes you think: If Nene and her mother had been residents of Makati, perhaps the old lady would still be alive. She would have been provided the oxygen, along with other necessary medication and hospital care for free.
Free health care, as well as free education and other privileges, are among the benefits that residents of Makati have been receiving in the years that the Binays have “ruled” the city.
I know I’m risking the disagreement of some friends and colleagues who find it unacceptable that someone accused of enriching himself in office (although still unproven) should enjoy high approval among the voters because of benefits he has provided to his constituents.
But, unless they and the candidates they  are supporting, have also been offering meaningful benefits and services to their communities and constituents, particularly the poor and the needy, they should be careful about calling the voting masses bobo-tante or tanga-suporta
These “stupid voters” and “idiotic supporters” could get exact their revenge in 2016.
(gregmacabenta@hotmail.com)

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