The Filipino's desperate search for a national hero
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-02-01

Many Filipinos keep asking this question — “Why don’t we have national heroes now?” And it’s a fair question to ask considering the desperation of the times.

Even before the global financial meltdown, we have seen the greatest number of Filipinos who live below the poverty line. Never before had we seen so many Filipinos who go hungry. Before the 1990s, only the insane would ever eat food from trash bins. Now that is an accepted Philippine reality. Even employed Filipinos are now finding it increasingly difficult to afford the food they used to put on the family table.

Is there no hero who will give the Filipinos economic emancipation?

Our political system claims to be a democracy when in fact it is an oligarchy. We have a Congress where most of the Representatives do not serve the people but only themselves and their political patrons. Just compare the separate Senate and Congress hearings on the World Bank contract scandal and you’ll see what our Congressmen are like.

We have a largely perceived illegitimate president who is kept in office by that servile Congress. Not even Satan for all his evil deeds could ever be impeached with that Congress. In the face of so much need for reform, accountability and transparency, what we see is unmitigated greed and lust for power.

Is there no hero who will finally make democracy work in the Philippines?

We are proud to claim that we are a religious people and yet whether it is a Christian or a Muslim Divinity we worship, we continue to commit some of the worst sins against our neighbor. We commit both the sins of commission (as when we steal, kill, oppress and maltreat people) and omission (as when we remain oblivious to the stealing, killing and the poverty around us).

Is there no hero who will restore the Filipino sense of morality and decency?

The 2010 elections would be a good opportunity to allow such heroes to emerge. But do we really see that looming in the political horizon? With sinister forces conspiring to abort the 2010 elections, do we really see a hero among the leading presidential candidates?

Is Joseph “Erap” Estrada your idea of who will be that hero? Didn’t 38% of the voters give him that opportunity to be the economic emancipator of the masses in 1998 when they made him president?

Instead of an economic emancipation, what the masses saw was a plunder case conviction. Estrada was ousted from office and charged for dipping his fingers in the jueteng protection kitty? He was eventually convicted for plunder. Are you still willing to give him a second chance?

Estrada could have been the savior of the long suffering masses who idolized him. The single biggest trait of a great leader is the power to enlighten his people. However, instead of being an agent for enlightenment, Estrada became the ultimate promoter of showbiztocracy where film fantasy is passed off as reality.

Is Loren Legarda your idea of who will be that hero? If loyalty to the cause is an important heroic trait, how can you rate Loren as one? Did she not start out as anti-Estrada when she figured prominently in the former president’s Impeachment Hearing, only to become an Estrada ally today?

If Loren is an Estrada ally today, then how come she is in the Nationalist People’s Coalition Party (NPC) of Danding Cojuangco who is 100% in support of the administration? We all know that in the NPC Danding Cojuangco is an unquestioned influence. Where does Loren Legarda take off posturing to be part of the Opposition — which is politically convenient as over 70% are against Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ­— and be a member of Danding Cojuangco’s NPC?

Don’t you think that this is a classic case of political opportunism — a very UN-HEROIC trait? She plays the Opposition base while taking advantage of having Danding Cojuangco’s national party and, not to forget, immense election war chest. In the end, to whom will Loren Legarda owe her victory if she manages to pull it — is it to you the voter or to Danding Cojuangco?

Is Panfilo Lacson your idea of a hero? Is getting linked to gruesome murders, whether proved or otherwise, and making unsubstantiated accusations your idea of what makes a hero?

Dr. Jose Rizal and Apolinario Mabini never killed anyone and yet they are popularly regarded as national heroes. They served their country not by physical force or coercion but by force of conviction and inspiration.

You can go down the line of the leading — meaning high rating — contenders for the 2010 presidential elections and ask if someone qualifies to be the hero we need at this time. I doubt if anyone will fit the bill.

It is easy to see why they won’t fit the role of a hero. A hero is one who is produced by the people and works for the people.

So far, we cannot really claim to have had a president who was produced by the people. The Ramon Magsaysay and Corazon Aquino presidencies were the most popular. However, it cannot be said that these presidencies were solely produced by the people as influential players played key roles in their ascendancies. Although, in fairness to Presidents Magsaysay and Aquino, they tried their best to serve the people and that is something we can hardly say about recent Malacanang Palace occupants.

To be a hero, the 2010 president must be a reformist and should not simply focus on coping with the projected economic difficulties of the next two to three years. To be a hero, the 2010 president must be able to lead the nation in removing the oligarchy and making democracy work for all Filipinos.

To deserve having such a hero, the Filipinos must be able to rise above their tribal mindsets and finally think as a nation. Are you not surprised that in our country, as seen many times, to protect foreign interests is accepted as legal while to espouse protection of national interests have been branded as illegal or parochial? How can a people who praise traitors and condemn nationalists produce real heroes?

If we get the government we deserve, it follows that we also get the hero we deserve — and in this country we do have an unusually big number of bogus heroes.

There can be no great heroes without great followers.

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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