THE never ending tale of the tapes plays the old disgusting tunes like a broken record. Both sides – the administration and the opposition – create a laughable spectacle as they try to outdo each other’s puppet show. One wonders when they will run out of puppets to testify to their story line. Neither side is even aware that the Philippines has tuned out from their frequency long ago.
Hardly anyone is listening because nothing they say is relevant to addressing the problems that beleaguer the nation. At the brink of the precipice, people must make life and death decisions. But all the teeming millions of hard-up Filipinos find better use for their time listening to Koreanovelas than listening to lies and half-truths from a president largely perceived as illegitimate and unfit to rule and an opposition which promises nothing more beyond clamoring for her ouster.
Many political analysts misread the situation. They think that the problem lies in the absence of a personality figure as rallying point, comparing the present situation to that in 1986 when Cory Aquino became the unifying factor for People Power. It is true, we do need a rallying point, but this rallying point need not be around a singular personality.
In 1986 and 2001, Filipinos packed the will and force to remove two undesirable presidents – Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. Today, Filipinos find themselves in even worse conditions and yet this is not stirring up people to seek an overthrow. They had wanted change and they had fought for it then, but the change did not come. What they saw instead was a reinvention of the decadent ways of old politics. What they saw was a mutated breed of dirty politicians rendered more vicious by greed and callousness and as pernicious as new bacteria strains that overpower new antibiotics.
We have a situation where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s ratings have sunk to the lowest point in presidential history. Depending on which survey, 65% to 80% of Filipinos want her out, yet we see no visible show of public outrage. Dictator Ferdinand Marcos did not even come close to having such an overwhelming number of people wanting him out. Conservative assessments will confirm that Marcos got easily 40% of the 1986 vote, which is not really too far off in obtaining a popular mandate. Yet the collective anger that had swelled into an astounding and unprecedented show of People Power had become history’s new standard in effective non-violent revolt.
More than the non-existence of a credible opposition good enough to serve as leadership alternative, Filipinos now find themselves outsiders to the political farce they call government. They have become reluctant, jaded and disgusted spectators of a theatre of the absurd and its rituals that cover up their real themes of greed and power grab. They cannot empathize with what their leaders say because experience and better sense tell them there is nothing for them there.
Quite a number of people erroneously conclude that the Cory phenomenon in 1986 had been a simple case of emotional buildup and spillover of public anger resulting from the Ninoy Aquino assassination in 1983 – exactly 22 years ago yesterday. The event may have served as a trigger but the impetus and resolve to unify had found form and substance in Cory who embodied the dreams, angst and outrage of Filipinos wanting deliverance and their democracy back.
Public emotion over any angering event fizzles out in a few months. Knowing the Filipino’s more forgiving nature and short memory, we can expect Filipino anger to recede faster than that of other nationals. When Cory led the country three years after Ninoy’s murder, the people were rallying behind the ideals and promise she represented – the restoration of democracy. Public outrage over Ninoy’s murder had by then already blended in the background as part of the tapestry of abuse and corruption of the Marcos regime. Cory’s leadership galvanized millions of angry Filipinos – rich and poor, young and old – to demonstrate their heroism and compelling faith in democracy.
Lost on many was the reality that Cory was simply the symbol. The real rallying point was democracy. At that time, Cory was a widow with no political or public administration background – in a country that had yet to elect a woman president. If 1986 was the usual personality game of Philippine politics, then the mantle of leadership would have fallen to the likes of Senators Pepe Diokno, Jovy Salonga or Doy Laurel who were better known and had track records.
Nearly two decades after having won back our freedom in the People Power revolt of 1986, Filipinos find themselves trapped in a system which does not work. People are so disillusioned and they are rejecting anything and anyone even remotely associated with that system. This comes as no surprise. Way back in 1972, Filipinos were already disappointed with the system. Marcos was able to impose Martial Law partly because there were people who were willing to try out Marcos’s New Society, hoping it would be better than the system of the trapos and the oligarchy.
The Filipino has tried to live with all the series of shenanigans of one regime after another. Today, it is clear that people’s faith and confidence in the system and the present crop of leaders have totally disintegrated. A people who no longer trust their government and their leaders cannot be expected to be involved in trying to make the system work.
We are a country in stalemate and in search of a great and powerful idea that we can believe in and will push us forward. Trapped in the power play of the entrenched elite, we need a national agenda that will embody the real aspirations and needs of the people. In 1986, the restoration of democracy was the national agenda. The New Testament provided the bedrock for Christian faith. What the country needs today is a new political testament that can inspire a nation to take charge of its future and destiny.
Thus, to focus our search on that one personality that will serve as the end-all and be-all of our national salvation is to lose sight of the very root of all our problems. Worse, to do that is to lose the lesson of our success in 1986 when People Power earned this nation its greatest respect from a world public. Before he can move forward, the Filipino needs to follow the right pathway founded on a system that is designed to benefit the majority towards a better life. It is the WHAT and not the WHO that is the key to moving forward and placing Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the failed system behind us.
The situation is much like the attitude and behavior of consumers towards a product that has outlived its usefulness. When housewives dumped the use of solidified lard for cooking for the more convenient and healthier liquid vegetable oil, competitors of Purico, the then brand leader in the solidified lard market, found their cause moot and academic. Wisely, Procter and Gamble, the company behind Purico, became the supplier of a new generation of cooking oil by selling the Mayon vegetable oil brand. The big deal about horses of the finest pedigree pulling elegant carriages became stuff for memorabilia once Henry Ford’s first automobiles rolled out from its plants.
The system that Macapagal-Arroyo, Joe de Venecia, Joseph Estrada, Fidel Ramos represent has undoubtedly gone obsolete. Ramos, de Venecia and Macapagal-Arroyo are trying to reinvent and preserve themselves by proposing a charter change. But no one is buying tickets to watch their production because people are really waiting for the real blockbuster. The real blockbuster can only be the one which captures the very essence of a people’s dream to restore and rebuild their self-esteem and self-respect as a nation. That real blockbuster is what holds the key that will unlock the guarded wariness of people’s hearts and minds.
I was most delighted when my friend and fellow Inquirer columnist Randy David so kindly emailed me a copy of the highlights of a collaborative opus of UP professors dubbed as Blueprint for a viable Philippines. I saw in it the promise of that badly needed national agenda most Filipinos may well find as the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Blueprint is not a product of trapos (traditional politicians) and entrenched interest groups. It is a well-thought out document put together by notable and respectable nationalists and scholars of Philippine history and governance. Blueprint is some kind of a master roadmap out of the nation’s problems and into a new and better beginning for the majority of Filipinos.
Blueprint boldly exposes the injury done to our national well-being by vested interest groups, patronage politics and trapo stooges. Blueprint prescribes solutions after dissecting present policies and analyzing why they fail or are doomed to fail. The prescriptions unmistakably affirm the primacy of Philippine national interests, and as a consequence, that of the interests of majority of Filipinos.
Donald Dee, Sergio Luis-Ortiz, Miguel Varela, Bill Luz and the big businesses that they represent, Joe de Venecia and his ilk, the trumpeters of Globalization who have just about killed our agriculture sector, the thieves and predators in the bureaucracy, the influence peddlers, the power brokers, the abusive cops and soldiers, the monopolists, the warlords, drug lords and jueteng lords will hate the UP Blueprint.
Blueprint proposes to effect empowerment of the majority by realigning policies to serve national interest. It goes without saying that the very few whose power and authority are derived from existing laws and policies which serve as instruments for exploitation, abuse and oppression will have to give way. Whose country is this anyway?
Blueprint is an enlightened piece of political work. What makes it even more credible and significant is that its authors want it to be an open document where people can participate and contribute in evolving a more acceptable and democratic document. Hopefully, Blueprint will be the start of things that will help bring about that breakthrough that will release us from our miserable political entrapment.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org