The Long View
Like Chino, like Doy
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:18:00 08/27/2009
Back in 2006, Cory Aquino told a few people that someone would have to die, for the country to realize how far it had strayed from its ideals. Cory couldn’t have known then that the death she felt was required would turn out to be her own. Her wake and funeral – a period in which the country remembered what it was like not to be cynical – has taken on the characteristics of a continuing remembrance of things past for our elders and an unfolding discovery of a previously undiscovered country for the young, as young and old first came to terms with Cory’s dedication to duty and then Ninoy’s martyrdom.
This, in turn, has led to the stirrings of a kind of national consecration to a rekindled hope that unity is possible and that sacrifice can be demanded; and it has the professional political class spooked. The politicians are sniffing around to see if this is a rising tide or a mere ripple. Mention Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III nowadays and you will immediately hear the phrase, “game-changer” to describe his potential impact on the political scene.
There is a need for more than a new Cory; there is a need for a Chino, and there is a need for a Doy. Chino Roces took it upon himself to trundle around town with a little cart, gathering real signatures on real paper, calling on Cory to run. And if Cory, in turn answered the people’s summons, it took a Doy Laurel to show the country that it was possible for a leader to sacrifice ambition, with only one condition: that his and his partymates” efforts be recognized by her agreeing to run as the UNIDO candidate.
On Feb. 25, 2003, Laurel delivered a speech at Club Filipino to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution. He observed: “A developing country like the Philippines needs a leader who is more than just a symbol. He must be decisive. He must have a clear-cut vision of the nation’s destiny – or he cannot lead. He must give clear and consistent messages – at all times – or the people will not follow. He must be selfless and sincere – or he will not be believed. He must not tolerate graft and corruption – or he will not be believed.”
Furthermore, Laurel suggested, “He must be in three places at the same time: In front of the people, so he can guide them and lead them onward to a greater destiny. Beside the people, so he can feel what they feel, suffer what they suffer and even laugh and cry with them. And ; behind the people, to make sure that the weak and helpless, even critics and dissenters, are not left behind!”
These, then, are things that Noynoy needs. He must be called to the front: there must be a draft that comes not just from Metro Manila but from the Visayas and Mindanao. The call must come from those prepared to stand beside their candidate, which provides an incentive for other leaders to renounce their own ambition. And leader and followers must stand for something in common, which puts forward the need for a political party.
They are all part of a piece: the signatures, if they come from all parts of the country, makes the call national and irresistible; and if people commit to a Noynoy candidacy then they should be prepared for the long haul, and that includes seriously considering adopting his party affiliation which proposes a blueprint for the governing of the country.
If there’s one thing noticeably absent in our political parties, it’s actual membership. We have the most top-heavy parties in the world, and being top-heavy presents the dangerous possibility the leaders can imprison any potential candidate, unless that candidate can point to a constituency of ordinary people prepared to challenge the party leaders on their candidates’ behalf if need be.
So ask yourself: If your candidate belongs to a party, then that candidate is committed to an existing party platform. People who want to follow a leader need to examine what that party platform is, to decide if they are prepared to be card-carrying members of that party so that they can participate in that party’s deliberations on its standard bearer for 2010.
Politically, this is the first step any presidential candidate has to hurdle. Only after securing a party’s nomination can a candidate present himself to the electorate at large. Unless the public clamor is for the candidate to leave the party, and join a movement – which would still need a concrete platform arrived at, not by decree, but by consultation.
Gary Wills wrote of leadership in his book, “Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders” that “the leader is one who mobilizes others toward a goal shared by leader and followers. In that brief definition, all these elements are present, and indispensable; [They] make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership; The goal must be shared, no matter how many other motives are present that are not shared.”
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s loyalists justify much of her misrule on the basis of her having to “get things done,” by fair means or foul; she has to work with whoever’s left that still wants to work with her, and if it comes at a cost, so be it. Of course, that cost will be high, because the President had no real public support; her support, such as it was, was by proxy – lesser leaders with their own followers (more reliable, at that, than say, civil society which has fatally divided since 2005 and perhaps even as far back as May 2001).
Along the way, the President has resorted to dividing her critics, and it worked until the country became reacquainted with how it feels to be united – at first, in grief, and then, in a renewed appreciation of idealism and ideals.
Nick Joaquin once wrote that August is, historically, a dangerous month. Realizing there is more that unites us than divides us and that there are values Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao hold in common is dangerous indeed.