Holy Week reflection: The civic imperative

Whether in A complex achievement, in Elections are like water, and Circle to circle or most recently, in The perpetual avoidance of opportunity,a great concern of mine has been not only to come to grips with the present crisis, but by discovering its origins, to propose a framework that will enable concerned citizens to arrive at a consensus for solutions.

My column yesterday was The civic imperative: a reflection. For some time now, I’ve been returning, again and again, to Titus Livy‘s summation of the exhaustion of Rome:


Here are the questions to which I should like every reader to give his close attention: what life and morals were like; through what men and what policies, in peace and in war, empire was established and enlarged. Then let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first subsided, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to our present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure.

Of course there are morals and there are morals; there is sectarian morality and what should be preferable, a civic sense.

For over a year now, one of the many projects that are simmering away on the backburner because of so many reasons, is a compilation of reflections on the various civic-consciousness raising projects of the past. As it stands, roughly, the book would look like this: the text of a civic code, and a reflection on it. So, Rizal’s Constitution of La Liga Filipina, with an essay by Dean Jorge Bocobo; the Kartilya of the Katipunan, with an essay by Conrado de Quiros; Mabini’s True Decalogue, with an essay by Randy David; Quezon’s Code of Citizenship and Ethics (thinking of an essay by F. Sionil Jose, but haven’t asked); Laurel’s Citizen’s Code of Rights and Obligations (no idea yet, who to ask); the Magsaysay Credo, with an essay by Eggie Apostol; and Alex Lacson’s Twelve Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country, with an essay by Willy Prilles.

The genesis of the project was an experiment I conducted with college students from different Catholic schools to whom I presented copies of these codes, and who I then asked to reflect on them. First of all, they were unfamiliar with all of them; second, the concepts of citizen’s rights and obligations incorporated in most of the codes was an alien concept to them; as were the pretty basic principles of good citizenship and so on that the codes espoused. We then had a vigorous discussion on the relevance of the codes, and from time to time, I’ve tried repeating the experiment with other student groups I’ve encountered.

This was further underscored when, during the campaign against the Palace-proposed constitutional amendments, I found myself having to conduct a 3-hour discussion on the basics of our constitutional set-up instead of doing what I was supposed to do, which was pitch the case for One Voice. And afterwards, I overheard one priest tell another, “you know, maybe we should teach the students about the constitution.”

You think!? I wanted to scream at him. But I didn’t but instead, encouraged him to take it up with his faculty. The point being, never has the citizenry been so ignorant not only of its obligations, but its rights; and never has the workings of government, even in the ideal sense, been so obscure and mysterious to the public.

And all the more the need to inform, when, it (change, improvement, discussion, debate, consensus, whatever) always begins with a few but the few blaze a trail for the many: see Letter From Vietnam.

For, as Mon Casiple says, the country faces hard choices:

What we see is a presidency in the midst of fighting for its very survival. The pressure won’t let up–the awakening of the middle class will not permit it. The timidity and the self-interest of power institutions may prolong its life but certainly things will not go back to normal governance anymore. The next two years of the GMA presidency–if it reached that far–will be a constant crisis presidency.
The lines have been drawn on the streets of Makati and elsewhere. This situation leads inexorably to a political polarization. Either GMA gives way or she has to assert the power. Every democratic institution will become a battleground or will have to give way. At the end, she is confronted with the constitutional end to her term.
Will she abide by it? There is a great doubt about it. Since holding on to the power has become the sine qua non of her survival, the logical path for her is to continue beyond 2010.
Only a constitutional change process can give even a modicum of legitimacy to this decision. Thus, even if the obstacles are almost insurmountable, she may opt for it in desperation. From this perspective, the 2006 failed charter change initiatives are lessons towards another try, not lessons to stop.
Of course, this time she had more obstacles–an awakened and hostile citizenry and the political forces gearing up for the 2010 elections. Only a martial law regime–as in the case of Marcos–will have the remote chance of carrying it off.
GMA may still opt to negotiate her way out of the crisis. Those who want to manage the transition from her regime are avidly waiting and working for it. For them, the popular movement is useful as an instrument of pressure but not as the decisive instrument for her ouster. She will, of course, as a minimum condition ask for immunity or protection from the suits that are certain to be filed against her once she is out of power.
The presidentiables are also a target in this negotiation scenario. However, they run the risk of being identified with an unpopular president and thus the probability of losing in the presidential race. On the other hand, it is no secret that the presidential access to government resources and the prospect of a ready-made campaign machinery in the ruling coalition are tempting to these presidentiables.
The option to resign is now basically only a function of the popular pressure to oust her. It has been a logical–if unspoken–end to the search for truth being pursued by many in the church sector and others in the middle class. However, the actuations of Malacañang do not support the scenario of a voluntary resignation.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

120 thoughts on “Holy Week reflection: The civic imperative

  1. Bert,

    “Does a change in presidency change all of this? ”

    “no, but 99.9% of anti-gloria people still sincerely believe that!–anthony s.

    in case you have not noticed, your reply to the statements above, the usual refrain of anti anti anti gloria people –

    “This mode of defense by anti-anti-gloria people to perpetuate gloria in the throne by reasoning that evil must go on because a change in presidency will not provide a better regime anyway defy logic.”

    still does not answer the proposition “Does a change in presidency change all of this?”

    the obvious answer is no, and yet how come people would still insist on kicking out gloria before 2010 (other than impeachment)!

    kaya natatawa si benignO sa atin eh

    BTW, the statement “What is it in this world that transformed perfectly logical people into illogicals?” may as well be uttered by anti anti gloria people, referring to anti anti anti gloria people.

  2. “backing her up so much against the wall might just make her think the unthinkable.” – magdiwang

    Actually, when you think about it, since she wasn’t given much of any breathing space when she took over from Erap (and then she had a whole army of the poor storm the Palace gates, di ba?), GMA has been stuck in a siege mentality of sorts. She found herself in really, really “dangerous ground” 8 July 2005 and given that she was, in a sense, “backstabbed” by some of her most trusted ministers, her actions since the Gloriagate have been… rather self fulfilling.

    Gloria is a despot? Gloria is an oppressor? Gloria at the very least turns a blind eye when activists get whacked? Makes sense when you consider that her opponents have put her back to the wall and left her with very few options than to realize for the anti-GMA their boogeyperson.

    Think of a cornered rat. Or a soldier who is of the impression that getting captured alive is much, much worse than dying.

    That’s what Gloria is, especially after 8 July 2005.

  3. Rob, your description of Gloria as a ‘cornered rat’ is why i previously mentioned that our predicament is similar to that of a long-running hostage situation. Those who counsel moderation along your lines of your reasoning (i think i heard that line of reasoning first from Boo Chanco) accepts that Gloria is like a hostage taker who, if not handled correctly, can resort to desperate measures.

  4. Side-topic: Cory Aquino : cancer

    MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, who sparked a wave of pro-democracy movements around the world by leading a 1986 “people power” revolt, has colon cancer, her daughter said.

    The Aquino family statement said it was the former president who wanted her condition made public because she “has always believed in being upfront. Over and above anything else, she’s a woman who has lived her entire life entrusting everything to the Lord, and she has always been a woman of great faith.”

  5. Rob, your description of Gloria as a ‘cornered rat’ is why i previously mentioned that our predicament is similar to that of a long-running hostage situation.

    So some of us Filipinos are suffering from Stockholm syndrome, cvj?

    UPn, that is sad news. My prayers go to the former president.

  6. @cvj

    reynatala: gawing halimbawa sina Gloria at Mike Arroyo at sinumang susunod sa kanilang yapak para huwag tularan…..”


    Ganyan naman dapat.

    We are so worried about constitutional succession….

    …kung sino papapalit ek-ek….

    eh kung yung pumalit is not up to the job (either corrupt or incompetent) eh di palitan ulit….hanggang matakot ang lahat ng mga politiko at tumakbo lamang for office if they are really qualified (morally, intellectually)

  7. “kaya natatawa si benignO sa atin eh–anthony s.

    ang hindi alam ni benigNo, natatawa rin tayo sa kanya. kasi, sa dami ng mga sinasabi niya isa lang naman ang patutunguhan…na kaya tayong Pilipino hindi umusad ay dahil sa wala tayong utak; ‘moron’ yata ‘o ‘cretin’ ang tawag niya sa ating mga Pilipino. ganoon na rin iyon. ako sapul na sapul noon (wa epek naman sa akin), pero ikaw rin tinamaan, anthony, dahil Pinoy ka rin. kaya lang tayo natatawa sapagka’t ang sinabi niya ay patama rin sa kanyang sarili, heheh.

    pasensya ka na, tinagalog ko na, kasi, una, namimilipit talaga ang dila ko sa kae-english, pangalawa, mukhang hindi tayo nagkakaintindihan sa english.

    balik tayo sa usapan.

    “the obvious answer is no,…”

    eh, hindi nga pwedeng ‘no’, anthony. paano nating malalaman na kapag pinalitan natin ang presidente eh, walang magbabago dahil puro corrupt din ang mga politiko. hindi pa nga natin ginagawa hinuhulaan na natin ang resulta, eh, hindi naman tayo manghuhula, pwera lamang kung naniniwala tayo sa mga hula-hula, kung ganoon wala akong kalaban-laban doon. ang mga nakaraang nangyari ay nangyari na, kaya alam natin, pero ang mangyayari bukas kapag hinulaan natin, ay hula lamang iyon, kaya hindi natin alam, kaya hindi pwede ang ‘no’.

    kung tama kasi ang ‘no, para ano pa ang ‘impeachment, ‘o ang election sa 2010, kung nakikita natin sa totoong ‘crystal ball’ na talagang bulok din kapag pinalitan si gloria. kung ganoon hayaan na natin si gloria sa trono habang panahon. kaya lang, nasaan ang totoong ‘crystal ball’, hawak ba ng mga anti-anti-gloria? pahiram naman!

    kaya, sinasabi ng mga anti-gloria na palitan naman ng iba, para naman magkaroon tayo ng tsansa na baka sakaling may pagbabago tungo sa mas mabuting kalagayan kaysa sa ngayon (ang sakit kasi sa kalooban na bayad ako ng bayad ng tax, pati mga anak ko, bulsa naman sila ng bulsa).

    pero, kung gusto talaga nilang gloria forever…tingnan natin, abangan ang susunod na mga kabanata!

  8. Bert,

    alam mo, di mo pa rin nasasagot yung tanong na “Does a change in presidency change all of this?”

    para namang may nagbungang pangmatagalang resulta pagtapos ng dalawang EDSA.

    di mo ba alam, wala pang EDSA 2, meron nang nagpuna sa EDSA 1 na ang naging resulta lamang ay pagpalit ng ‘oligarch’ – ibang tao nga, pero ‘oligarchy’ pa rin. yan ang naging resulta din ng EDSA 2.

    saka meron akong naging ‘exception’ – removal by impeachment. pinaka okay yan, dahil constitutional. sunod sa proseso.

    magalit na kayo dito sa sasabihin ko – napakatamad ng mga anti gloria na “gawing ‘career'” ang pagkumbinsi sa mga 83 na kongresista na lagdaan ang isang impeachment complaint.

    ano? puro Kampi ang kongreso? 1/3 lang ang kailangan sa impeachment. saka dyan papasok ang pagtrabaho sa mga kongresista.

    alalalahin nyo kasi kung paano na-impeach si Erap – may lagda na kaagad ng 1/3 na kongresista bago nai-file!

    wag na kasi kayong ma-romanticize sa people power. kung yung lahat ng efforts sa pag-organisa ng mga rally eh ginagamit na lang sa pagkuha ng lagda ng 1/3 ng mga kongresista

    saka sabihin nyo sa mga engot na senador na nagpupumilit sa walang hanggang NBN-ZTE hearing – habang tumatagal, nawawala ang ‘sting’ ng naunang testimony ni Lozada. mabuti pang tumulong na lang sila sa pagkuha ng lagda ng 1/3 ng mga kongresista, at itigil na yang walang hanggang mga hearings

    saka nagkakamali ka sa akala mong ‘gloria forever’ ang alternatibo sa moronic people power. hanggang 2010 lang si gloria

    asus, alam kong sasabihin mo yang revival ng ‘cha cha’.

    alam mo – bago pa ma-ratify ang amendments sa constitution , nandyan na ang 30 June 2010

    tandaan mo – kailangnag i-ratify ng taong bayan ang mga amendments. di pwedeng i-amend ng House lamang ang constitution!

    masyado kayong na-paranoid sa ‘railroad’ attempt nina JDV noon. kung alam nyo lang ang proseso na kailangang sundin bago ma-ratify ng taong bayan ang amendment/s, di kayo mapa-paranoid!

    tama ka – abangan ang susunod na kabanata, sa 2010!

  9. And I thought Musharraf — the Fidel Ramos dictator of Pakistan — was a lot more powerful than GMA

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 24, 2008 — A top loyalist of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was elected as Pakistan’s prime minister Monday and immediately ordered the release from house arrest of judges detained last year by President Pervez Musharraf.

    The action by Yousaf Raza Gillani, a senior official in Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, set up a challenge to Musharraf within hours after the Pakistani National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to make Gillani the nation’s prime minister.

    Abangan if Pakistan progresses, or regresses, under Gillani of “Bhutto Political Party”.

  10. anthony scalia said “di mo ba alam, wala pang EDSA 2, meron nang nagpuna sa EDSA 1 na ang naging resulta lamang ay pagpalit ng ‘oligarch’ – ibang tao nga, pero ‘oligarchy’ pa rin. yan ang naging resulta din ng EDSA 2.

    Manny Villar-clan is a relative “newbie”. Google-search for “political dynasty philippines” will uncover political families in place before Dado Macapagal, e.g. Ortega’s of La Union (1930’s), Albano’s of Isabela, the Magsaysay’s; Mitra’s of Palawan (1930’s). Also Bicol’s Imperial’s; the Enrile’s, the Lacsons and the Cuenco’s, the Fuentebellas and the Roxas, others.

  11. naisip ko lang, kung tayo nga na may nalalaman sa mga isyu ng lipunan hindi pa magkaintindihan at magkasagutan ng diretso sa tanong na “Does a change in presidency change all of this?” — paano pa kaya yung milyun-milyong tao sa Pilipinas na malamang majority ay walang pakialam o kungdi naman kumakalam ang sikmura at masyado na napako sa “bahala na”?

    subukan ko kaya sagutin – “Does a change in presidency change all of this?”

    My answer is NO. Wala po akong crystal ball, at hindi rin po ako anti-anti-anti-anti-gloria (lmao!).

    Palagay ko lang, hindi naman kasi ganun kabilis baguhin ang lipunan e, lalo pa at magkakasing-wave length yung papalit sa pinalitan. Ayaw ko man pong maging preoccupied sa tanong na “sino ang papalit?” kelangan naman talaga syang iconsider. Sa lagay ba e magtatanggal lang tayo ng pangulo tapos yung successor e pipiliin sa pamamagitan ng bato-bato-pick? Dapat naman talaga pinag-iisipan yung capable, pinag iisipan kung may deserving bang suportahan sa 2010. Pero sino nga? MLQ3? Ikaw? Ako? So, will the real Slim Shady Please Stand Up! (hehehe)

    Saka, wag naman nating lahatin yung mga pamilyang nasa pulitika. Karamihan nga bulok pero bigyan rin ng tsansa yung mga susunod na henerasyon, malamang bumawi ng kabutihan. Kung magsalita naman tayo para bang sa Pilipinas lang nangyayari ito, kahit saan naman diba? Sa palagay ko, matino naman akong pinalaki kahit papano. 🙂 Kahit na siguro mas malala na more than ever yung problema sa bansa natin, dapat rin nating isipin na mulat na rin ang mga pinoy… mahirap man o mayaman… masa man o yun tinatawag ninyong elitista.

  12. Naalala ko yung isang discussion nung kolehiyo ng aking guro: tinanong kami ni Fr. Luis David kung di daw ba namin napapansin na ang dami-daming students sa college na aktibo sa iba’t-ibang makabuluhang bagay. Point out pa nga niya, yung tinatawag na “Socially-Oriented Organizations” ng Ateneo ang pinakamalaking cluster at isa sa pinaka aktibo.

    “So why do you think that, upon graduation, all these active and idealistic young men and women suddenly fade away?”, Fr. David asked us, rhetorically.

    His answer was: because no “support structure” existed to sustain their idealism after college. In fact, the system they enter upon graduation DISCOURAGES them from their previous idealistic pursuits.

    Me konek ba ito sa tanong na “will anything change if you change administrations”? Meron. Based on my retelling above, my answer would be “NO” because a support structure that allows for a decent, responsible and (largely) incorruptible political class to exist and flourish does not exist.

    Most anyone you would put up as “savior” or even as “alternative” would be swamped or co-opted or rolled over by a pison unless the “structure” exists to support that/those person(s).

    It just won’t do, kasi parang cyst na yung problem eh. The best solution would be to excise it, pero dangerous yung procedure. Mahirap, matagal, mapanganib. Hindi siya as simple as “removing” the perceived cause of the disease because there are complications.

    And if you casually disregard the complications, you run the risk of making it worse than before.

  13. The support structure for anti-corruption politicians is a public that is intolerant of corruption. The ‘support structure’ for politicians that respect the will of the people is a public that values legitimacy and is intolerant of election cheating and punishes those who engage in such cheating.

  14. The problem with the answer ‘no’ is that it endorses the proposition of a gloria-forever scenario since it predicts a result that negates change. Therefore it presupposes an idea that a talsik-now (borrowed from UP n), an impeachment, or a 2010 election is not necessary anymore so better let gloria rule forever. (pasensya na sa english ko, sabi sa inyo namimilipit na ang dila ko)

    Kaya, it’s easy to conclude, maski pwede ring mali, na ang sasagot ng ‘no’ ay pabor sa do-or-die cha-cha dance, at siya ay anti-anti-gloria.

  15. My personal opinion is that this kind of question was originally floated by malacanang and its political operatives because, if we continue answering that question with ‘no’, it will lessen voter’s resistance, as it did already with some of us, to charter change move.

  16. para bang sinabi ko na ‘no ang sagot ko kasi pag pinalitan si gloria, maski sa paraang talsik now na, impeachment, o’ 2010 election, bulok din ang mangyayari, kaya ang mabuti hayaan na natin siyang ituloy ang mga kabulukan habang buhay.’

    may logic ba naman iyan?

    lalo namang walang saysay ito: ‘no ang sagot ko pero hintayin ko na lang ang 2010 election kasi ang mananalo sa election ay bulok din, kaya lang……???? Ah, basta no ang sagot ko!’

    eh, ito kaya: ‘yes ang sagot ko, kaya talsik now na, bulok din ang papalit pero…???’

    wala akong sinasabing ganyan, lol!

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