Gloria and Erap bring out the worst in Filipinos
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-09-18
If hitting rock bottom means that we have no other way to go but up, then being ruled by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo right after Joseph Estrada can be regarded as providential.

When Gloria Macapagal Arroyo broke her pledge not to run in 2004, there were many upper and middle class voters who were willing to support her despite the poor track record of her scandal-riddled administration and the availability of more able and deserving presidential candidates like the late Senator Raul S. Roco.

It wasn't as if the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo supporters were not aware that she was a bad president. Those who supported her knew that and they also sensed that she was capable of doing even worse ­— which she did after the 2004 elections. But they still chose the defeatist course and went for the lesser evil.

Instead of throwing their full support behind Raul S. Roco who was recognized in death as the "best president we never had"— the upper and middle class voters backed Arroyo. Rather than rightfully selecting a good candidate — they instead selected the perceived lesser evil of the two leading, albeit decidedly undesirable, candidates.

The upper and middle class voters have the means to make or unmake presidents. They can mobilize and offset traditional political machinery. They are the ones who could have made a big, positive difference.

But they will not gamble their comforts and risk backing a good person who may not win. In so doing, they become the very instrument of their self-fulfilling prophecy. They sowed and reaped evil. They've made the lesser evil win and now regret it after realizing that evil is evil and that evil shows the path to the hell of their own choosing.

Joseph "Erap" Estrada, president turned convict, displayed the most flagrant and arrogant violation of the code of conduct for public officials. Instead of setting a good example, he promoted a lifestyle that any decent and morally-upright mother would not want her son to be.

He was vulgar and would even embarrass a lady cabinet member by calling attention to her sexuality. He was known to jump from one bed mate to another and would brazenly have himself photographed the next day receiving Holy Communion.

He bullied the press. He tried to close The Manila Times and encouraged an advertising boycott of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He waged a war in Mindanao we could not afford and provoked greater Muslim hostility by eating lechon, our roasted pork favorite party dish, in the Muslim Camp Abubakar.

However, he overstepped the bounds of what he could do and got caught with his fingers in the jueteng jar.

But did we learn and benefit from that Estrada conviction? I don't think so.

If we are to gauge from the statements that immediately played in media after Estrada was sentenced, I think many of the reactions only confirm how damaged the Filipino soul is.

The following were the most common remarks that came from a cross-section of Philippine society.

"Why punish Erap when most of those in government are also committing graft and corruption, even plunder?"

"Because Erap already served six years in captivity, he should already be pardoned."

"Because Erap is a former president, he should not be jailed in Muntinlupa — our horrible, sub-human penitentiary."

"So that there won’t be any destabilization, we should just set Erap free."

"Erap is so pitiful. We should not allow him to go to jail."

"The Filipino people have acquitted Erap because they elected his wife (Loi) and son (Jinggoy) to the Senate and rejected his accuser's (Chavit Singson) Senate bid."

How can we triumph in the campaign to clean our government if we keep thinking this way? These remarks prove that we have not moved forward from our damaged culture — the very roots of why we are where we are today. These remarks reflect a people who seemed doomed to sinking deeper into the black hole their destructive culture sinks them.

We should not feel bad about the conditions that Estrada created for himself when he violated the law. It is not for Joseph Estrada that we should be sad — but for ourselves. We should be deeply concerned over our utter failure to realize the gaping wound in our Filipino soul and the hell we will pass on to our next generation for failing to correct our dysfunctional national psyche.

An ignorant race may be forgiven but not a people who not too long ago accomplished acts of collective heroism that awed the world — the spectacular 1986 People Power Revolution that removed an entrenched dictator through peaceful activism.

Nothing could be more pitiful than a person who knows the right thing to do but does not have the will and the moral courage to do it. We may have more than 80 million of them in the Philippines today.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo