The Long View: A Minority of Many

The Long View : A minority of many

Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 8, 2005


RAUL S. Roco was a man who refused to be apologetic about his intelligence. He loved learning, and loved to be a learned man. He did not possess a formidable intellect only to disguise it with false modesty or a feigned humility. In fact, he loved history, poetry, politics, the law and literature so much that he assumed his love for them was shared by others. Not everyone did; and those who didn’t, proclaimed his affections as manifestations of a monumental ego.

There was, indeed, something monumental about the man; no dainty dilettante or shrinking, Hamlet-like intellectual was he. He was possessed of a strong self-assurance that manifested itself in an unfortunate tendency to refer to himself in the third person: he would say, “Roco believes,” instead of “I think.” But then the same habit was apparent in leaders like Charles de Gaulle of France. Like De Gaulle, Roco was, by nature, a lone wolf; he inspired devotion-of the kind one normally identifies with mystics. He was above the throng, outside the herd: he would not pander if that was the price of leadership. He would lead only on his own terms, because, to his mind, those terms were both demanding and reasonable. Leadership required competence; it needed preparation; it demanded integrity.

For those who wanted leadership with intellectual depth, who desired to be led not on the basis of the least common denominator but on the chief’s daring to raise the bar of public service, Roco was ideal. He was ideal because he was idealistic; he never asked of his followers less than he asked of himself-and he asked a lot of himself throughout his life. He came from the province, but was not provincial; he loved his provincial origins, but refused to be parochial; he was a politician, but there was always a kind of politics to which he could neither submit nor condone.

What was that kind of politics? The kind that was vague; the sort that promised everything, and so, could achieve little and more often than not, nothing. He was not about “win-win,” he was about winning, so that the evils that deserved to lose-corruption, incompetence, mediocrity and mental and moral mendacity-would be defeated.

The problem with the lone wolf is that other wolves do not trust him, and the sheep fear him because, while being one of a kind, different from other wolves, he remains identified with the rest of the wolves.

Raul Roco’s greatest failure as a politician was that he was always unable-perhaps unwilling-to join the pack, much less lead it. As a leader, he would lead, alone, yet the other wolves howled he still was a wolf, though in sheep’s clothing. What could he do? Snarl that the voters are not sheep, but conditioned to being sheep; and they viewed him with a sheep’s fear of the wolf. And so the people chose to be like sheep, and put their faith in the other wolves.

There have been other lone wolves in our political past. There was Juan Sumulong before the war, Claro M. Recto and Raul S. Manglapus before martial law, even Jovito Salonga. They all rose far, but only so far-and not far enough. Each had the capacity to inspire devotion and loyalty; each tried to buck the trend; all failed to achieve the highest office within the gift of their people. Each one was conscientious, admired for a fine and brave conscience, supported by a dedicated and idealistic minority. Democracy, however, is not about the nobility of the minority but the success of the majority.

The “advantage” of a politician unencumbered by scruples, intellect, or a stubborn insistence on integrity (or self-worth) is his ability to generate a kind of joy that is infectious. It is the kind of joy felt by the audience in a basketball game where the finer points of the game are set aside in order to gain points and achieve victory. We are, after all, a country whose basketball heroes include Robert Jaworski, who is not, by any means, the exemplar of gentlemanly conduct on the court. Roco was the kind of political player we could all admire, but who remained so unique, so different-in the end, so strange-that he could not achieve the transformation from being a personality attractive to a minority into some kind of leader desirable to the majority.

Was his, then, a life turned into political tragedy? A well-intentioned footnote to history? To his followers and, perhaps even to himself, his political career was tragic: he was twice rejected in his bid for the presidency, the last time, under circumstances made worse by the illness that claimed his life. However, it was not cancer that defeated Roco’s bid for the presidency in 2004, it was fear, the same fear that defeated him in 1998. It was the fear of the people, of an electorate who behaved more like terrorized sheep, so different from the kind of voters Roco saw if only they were were given the chance to prove themselves.

He was that chance; but not enough took a chance on him.

Today with his passing, everybody is praising him-even the wolves, and most poignantly of all, the sheep. His greatest achievement doesn’t lie in the praises being heaped on him with his passing, but in the hearts of the few who followed him, even to the point of defeat. For unlike the rest of us, they can say: a vote for him is a vote we will never have cause to regret. No finer words can a follower say of a leader; no nobler feeling can a candidate hope to find in the hearts of his countrymen.

Roco was true to himself; and he caused others to be true to themselves. In so doing, he forged a bond that only true leaders can build. And thus, he created and led a minority of many-and many there will be to continue his fight.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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