On short memory and unfinished business


Natural and man-made calamitiesDo the names Flor Contemplacion, Atong Ang, Kuratong Baleleng, Jose Velarde and Ondoy ring a bell?  How about Andal Ampatuan, Jose Pidal, Gen. Carlos Garcia, Capt. Rolando Mendoza and Janet Napoles?  Yolanda, perhaps?

These names were once headline news for weeks due to their association with scandals and tragedies that caused public outcry and/or mourning.  They also represent “unresolved” issues and pressing reforms that keep coming back to haunt us over and over like recurring nightmares.

These “instant celebrities” and many others like them are no longer newsworthy today.  The unfortunate events associated with them have also been relegated to the back burner of public interest and concern as we move on from one “flavor-of-the-month” issue to another, each time leaving an issue without a proper closure.

We cannot go on forever allowing crimes in high places to go unpunished; mediocrity and impunity to be the norm in public service; apathy and resignation to be the attitude of the general populace.  We have far too many unfinished business weighing down on us that we are unable to move forward fast and far enough.

We simply must resolve and put closure to the baggages of our past.  If we keep on taking them for granted, we shall learn even more vividly that a nation that sweeps its problems under the rug is bound to be “repeatedly” visited by the ghosts of its past, each time bringing with them even more terrifying and tragic consequences — from Ondoy to Yolanda, Kuratong Baleleng to Andal Ampatuan, Jose Pidal to Janet Napoles.

The “Great Malayan” Jose Rizal (our national hero!) left these prophetic words for us to contemplate upon: “To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book that tells of her past.”  More to the point: “A nation that forgets its past is doomed to repeat it (Winston Churchill).

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 14 February 2014
Pasig City, Metro Manila, PHILIPPINES

Related photos

Flor Contemplacion

The late domestic helper Flor Contemplacion who was imprisoned and executed in Singapore, and the issue of government protection and social safety nets for the millions of Overseas Filipinos Workers (and their dependents) whose annual remittances keep the Philippine economy stay afloat (photo credit: allvoices.com).

Atong Ang

Atong Ang (jueteng consolidator and crony of former Pres. Joseph Estrada) and the issue of unabated operation of jueteng (illegal number game) all over the country and payola to police and government officials in high places (photo credit: hollywoodbollywood.co.in). 

Former police officer Rolando Mendoza, who took a tourist bus hostage, looks through the window of the vehicle in Manila

Disgruntled police captain Rolando Mendoza peeping through the window of the tourist bus that he hijacked in what is known as the “Luneta Bloodbath” (photo credit: RC goes online).

Rolando Mendoza-2

Slain body of Mendoza after a “botched” police rescue operation that left 9 people dead and 8 others injured, mostly tourists from Hongkong (photo credit: RC goes online).

Maguindanao Massacre

The “Maguidanao Massacre” — gruesome murder of 57 civilians carried out by some 100 paramilitary thugs under the control of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, and the issue of political violence and impunity (photo credit: indibay.com ).


Kuratong Baleleng gang members nabbed by the police

Photo shows some of the 11 members of the notorious Kuratong Baleleng holdup and robbery gang nabbed by the police in 1996 and later killed in what is believed to be a case of police “rubout” (photo credit: pcij.org).

Top police officials implicated in the 1996 killing of 11 Kuratong Baleleng gang members

Top police officials under the supervision and control of then Task Force Habagat chief and later senator Panfilo Lacson who were implicated in the 1996 killing of 11 Kuratong Baleleng gang members while under their custody (photo credit: pcij.org).

Gen. Carlos Garcia

Retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, former comptroller of the  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), at a Senate hearing on the so-called “AFP Pabaon Scandal,” a corrupt practice in the AFP involving illegal conversion of AFP funds to raise hundreds of millions of pesos as “pasalubong” (welcome money) and “pabaon” (send-off money) for incoming and outgoing generals (photo credit: juanslife.com).

Janet Napoles
Janet Napoles and the “Pork Barrel Scam” (photo credit: ANC news).
Super typhoon Yolanda

Devastation by super typhoon Yolanda whose widespread destruction and human toll in eastern and central Visayas caused the breakdown of government disaster response systems, and the issue of disaster preparedness and mitigation (photo credit: Yahoonews.com).