Faith in the Filipino

THE long winded and at times hysterical debates in Congress, concerning the canvassing of votes for the presidency and vice presidency, should not obscure the fact that we are witnessing, for now, a demonstration of the political maturity of the Filipino.

The faith and fortitude of that faith, in the democratic process is shown by how vigorously our senators and congressmen are taking their constitutional duty to proclaim whoever it is will be the president and vice president of the Philippines. Political forces on all sides of the political fence have been trying to let impatience reign, but the public has resisted the temptation.

The public wants to see a credible canvassing of the votes. Congress has been debating the proper means to fulfill its duties. There is nothing wrong with the patience of the public or the attention to detail of our representatives. In truth, in a democracy, and in an election as close as this, all reasonable sides know that declaring a winner must be accomplished in a manner that is credible. And the only credible way is to ventilate the issues, and then buckle down to work –work that cannot be rushed, for too much is at stake on the manner in which the work is done.

While it is too soon to tell how the actual canvassing will turn out, the fact is that congress in joint session has endeavored to ensure that the rules governing the canvassing are acceptable not only to itself, but to the public, to which it is accountable. Indeed, if the manner in which the canvassing takes place is credible, then the outcome, whatever it may be, becomes credible as well. This is the only means by which the result can become widely accepted and a new government inaugurated with a genuine mandate.

All those who have worked to reach an understanding acceptable to most, if not all, are displaying a conscientious devotion to duty approaching statesmanship. But it is to the people –sovereign and supreme- that the greatest credit is due. They are standing by the institutions they created, to the officials they have delegated this supreme democratic task. They are standing foursquare beside our institutions, which is what democracy is all about. We salute them.

 

Salute to a missing flag

 

ON JUNE 12, 1940, Emilio Aguinaldo and his fellow veterans of the Revolution and the Filipino-American War gathered at the Luneta. They were commemorating Aguinaldo’s proclamation of independence in 1898 -and they were also celebrating Flag Day, for the 12th of June had been proclaimed as such by the Commonwealth (and we would continue to do so until the 1960’s, when our flag day was changed and independence day moved to June 12)..

The flag Aguinaldo and his veterans displayed that day was the flag with the specifications listed in an Executive Order issued in 1936. The flag had a dark blue stripe.

For a long time, this event demonstrated in an unimpeachable manner the de facto, if not de jure, acceptance of the flag (as we knew it until 1998) by the only people who ever had a right to challenge the current specifications of the Philippine flag. If Aguinaldo and his fiercely loyal troops could accept a flag different from the one he waved from his balcony in 1898, then no one else has any business trying to turn back the clock. After all, national symbols have and do change over time; those very changes are part of the history of our country. For the sake of historical scrupulousness, it would be good to recognize these changes -but that does not mean that we should revert to the design of the flag as it was in 1898: too much has happened in the meantime.

The argument over the original hue of the blue stripe in our flag is pointless and academic. Regardless of the original shade of blue, the fact is that, since 1919 (or 1922, if, as it seems, the changes to our flag date back to the Act passed by the Philippine Legislature in that year), the flag of the Philippines has been in the form and with the proportions we honor today. The troops of the Malolos Republic may have fought and died for a flag with a lighter shade of blue, but the Filipinos who took up that fight afterwards did so for the flag with a dark blue stripe. This is the flag the soldiers on Bataan died for, that the guerrillas fought for (and this includes the Huks). This was the flag raised when we achieved independence in 1946; the same flag was proudly borne at Edsa, and flew in triumph, alone, when Clark and Subic were finally handed over to our government.

And it was the same flag, the flag discarded in 1998, that covered the casket of many of our Revolutionary leaders who lived long enough to have reached the 20’s, 30’s and onwards: including General Aguinaldo himself. And during the period when the flag was changed, many veterans of the Revolution and the Filipino-American War were still around. Including those who served in the Legislature and other branches of the government. That none of them complained at the time should be an indication of de facto acceptance made de jure by legislation and Executive action.

But for the sake of accuracy, one cannot discount the idea that what Aguinaldo acquiesced in -the flag as we knew it until 1998- he may have learned to live with, though a part of him remained wistfully attached to the flag he waved in 1898: hence the remark made in old age, and hence this event, which bears closer scrutiny:

When the Laurel Republic was inaugurated in 1943, Generals Aguinaldo and Ricarte were given the honor of hoisting the Philippine flag before the Legislative Building. According to Antonio Molina (in his recently published memoirs), it was quite obvious to all of those present, that the flag was different from the pre-war flag everyone was used to. The flag raised by Aguinaldo had a light, sky-blue stripe, and the proportions of the triangle was different. While Molina attributed the changes to Manuel Roxas and an attempt to put across a visual message of resistance to the Japanese-instituted Republic, we now know that the flag Molina described is remarkably similar to the flag as it was originally. Perhaps, relishing their restored prominence, Aguinaldo and Ricarte felt that this was their opportunity to replace the flag that had evolved over the years and was the symbol, besides, of the Commonwealth the Japanese considered their enemy.

The effect of this attempt however, was to identify their flag with a doomed regime, and an overlord that would be hated longer and more intensely than the Americans who crushed Malolos.

And so, the flag, as it originally appeared in 1898, which was banned by the Americans was restored twice -under the Japanese and under Marcos. On both occasions the flag was met with hostility. On both occasions the flag was identified with a regime many considered illegitimate, making it hardly a symbol “consecrated and honored by the people and recognized by law”. It is the other flag, the flag we no longer see today, in our flag days that has this distinction. It is the only flag we should honor; the sole heir of the things the flag waved from Aguinaldo’s balcony stood for. Not the bastardized flag instituted in 1998.

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