Saturnino P. Javier, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC
Dr. Saturnino P. Javier is an interventional cardiologist at Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He is a past president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and past editor of PHA’s Newsbriefs
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There is a big injustice committed to the animal kingdom whenever Filipinos casually compare ‘some’ lawmakers or other government officials to crocodiles, vultures and leeches. The assignment of these animals – their eating patterns and lifestyle habits – to denote despicable traits of Filipino government officials creates absolutely disparaging comparisons – with no apologies to politicians.
Such comparisons have unknowingly been perpetuated through generations. The pejorative use of ‘buwaya, buwitre, linta’ to describe avaricious officials has been around for quite some time. My consciousness has awakened to this injustice and ‘inanimality’ (versus inhumanity). I have heard those unkind denotations and attributions to these animals for as long as I can remember.
The question begs to be asked – is it fair to compare these reptilian, avian or invertebrate species with greedy, corrupt and unscrupulous government officials?
For one, crocodiles feast on their prey as a matter of survival. They are part of the ecological system and the hierarchy of the food chain. They prey on small frogs, fish, snakes, water birds, among others. They feed on those that come their way – one prey at a time. When full, they stop and they rest. Because of their slow metabolism, they can go without food for several months. Some bigger species of crocodiles can go without food for 12 months.
In contrast, those corrupt officials in some government agencies feast on not just one, but millions of Filipinos, when they steal from the government coffers. They continue to steal for as long as the opportunity abounds and can go unnoticed. They steal – relentlessly, insatiably, unconscionably.
Vultures, on the other hand, feast on dead organisms. Again, as part of the food chain, they thrive on decomposing carcasses and when full, they go on for days without feeding. While vultures occasionally prey on small animals or sick, dying or infirm animals, they generally feed on carrion. As such, they generally do not harmliving organisms. The acidity of the vultures’ stomach is extremely corrosive, so that this allows them to safely digest carcasses – even if the latter contain botulinum toxin, cholera bacteria or anthrax bacteria and help eliminate these from the environment – and thus prevent spread of disease. Effectively, they handle and clean up ecological mess and render the world a better place to live in.
Vultures are so misunderstood that an International Vulture Awareness Day (first Saturday of September) has been initiated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England. By no stretch of the imagination, politicians do not have any ecological benefit – in fact, they can harm the ecosystem with projects that get derailed, underfunded or undone because resources are diverted from worthwhile environmental projects.
Leeches are segmented parasitic or predatory worms which are closely related to earthworms. They are hematophagus (bloodfeeding) – utilizing their proboscis to suck blood for as long as they can. Once full, they detach and let go of their victim. Once their satiety centers are pleased, they can go thereafter without the need to suck again. Additionally, some varieties of leeches have medicinal uses. The medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis, and some other species, have been utilized for clinical bloodletting for at least 2,500 years. Some Ayurvedic texts describe the use of leeches in ancient India. Other cultures like those of Greece and Rome describe the use of leeches for conditions like gout or where blood was thought to be in excess, among others.
Corrupt politicians ‘suck’ on our resources, our hard-earned taxes, our patriotic compliance – for as much and as long as they can – without let-up. They have no medicinal effect. On the contrary, they can cause untold misery and pain.
Each of these animals prey on their catch to thrive and to survive. They have well-functioning satiety centers. When full, they stop. When pleased, they rest. When contented, they do not harm. Much cannot be said about those who steal in government and cause prolonged suffering to generations of Filipinos – certainly even to the unborn Filipinos of many years to come.
Someone should organize a national award-giving (or much like national shaming) to recognize the worst thieves and most corrupt officials in government. When something like Distinguished Crocodile Award, or Lifetime Vulture Award is to be handed out to deserving government officials, the real challenge is to streamline the nomination and selection process because of the sheer number of potential recipients of the award.
They are just too plenty.