Notes for an essay on Escudero: Portrait of the Politician as Beyond the Clutches of History (ongoing)

Dust Jacket of The Marcos Years (1972), edited by Ileana Maramag

1. The famed Manansala portrait of President Marcos. The portrait was a gift to the President from Gen. Hans Menzi around 1970. It has been lost since 1986, and rumored to have been destroyed in the storming of the Palace. This reproduction is on the dust jacket of “The Marcos Years”, a book edited by Ileana Maramag and published in 1972. By all accounts, and according to the Marcoses themselves, it was FM’s favorite portrait of himself. If he was to be king, he would also be a Philosopher King.

2. A historical man, even when recreating a nation in his own image, will still commune with the past, even in the privacy of his own study; they will have models for leadership; they will be compared by their contemporaries to their generation’s common model for leadership. See In the Shadow of FDR by William Edward Leuchtenburg. In the history of the Philippine presidency there have only been two models, Quezon and Marcos; in both cases aped but not fully understood by the majority of politicians and very little understood because what was imitated was the caricature.

4. Marcos unique because possessed of both a political and intellectual model for the presidency: Quezon for wielding power and Laurel for a political philosophy. Yet Marcos himself was different in his political approach because of his perception of himself as a provincial grandee (see his recorded interview where he emphasized his father’s political prominence prewar, his being a second-generation politician) and thus a conservative approach to power and its source: more ambivalent about the cosmopolitanism of either model; in this sense Quezon and Laurel arguably more modern in their approach in being less concerned with ties to the past and more interested in actively fashioning a modern nation-state. In contrast, FM interested only in a veneer of modernity but more inclined to accept, even encourage, the violence, ethnic chauvinism, hierarchical approach, of provincial society.

This is a hunch. Return to French historian pointing out the Blood, and not territorial, definition of the Philippines in the Malolos Constitution versus Soil, definition of the Philippines from 1935 onwards. In this transition Marcos might be situated somewhere in between: between an orientation towards Volk and that of nationhood as Soil? But also: Johann Gottfried von Herder and the Volk as Tree, requiring firm roothold; MLQ’s organic approach, “I want the country to be like the Molave,” versus nostalgia of Marcos, “This nation can be great again.” The former was essentially an Enlightenment view, the latter, Romantic; or was there an overlap?

Yet what is essential here is both MLQ and FM, besides models of political success, also sought to almost single-handedly refashion nation: the lynchpin in both cases arguably Laurel, and by extension, Mabini in his arguing the political necessity of strongman rule. Plebiscatory democracy; Partyless Democracy; Social Justice themes developed from turn of the Century to 1930s; though Mabini-MLQ-JPL mistrust of military not shared by FM, who viewed army as knife to cut Gordian Knot.

FM was a student of history and perhaps more intellectually accomplished at this than all his predecessors and successors; but as with MLQ, FM suffers from being understood in terms of caricature of the dictator; more so in that FM belonged to a generation steeped in a sense of history while legacy of societal decay since FM’s fall has been a country essentially purged of a sense of history. This applies as much to the educated as the rest.

Return to theme: essential lesson for those who only marveled at FM from a distance is not his love of learning or shrewd use of history but rather the simpler notion that success is its own reward and that nice guys finish last.

5.Yet there is a clear effort by Escudero to avoid references to the past. This passage from John Nery in his column, Column: Kiko, Chiz, Amina, Candy – and consensus May 19, 2009:

One example: To the question about personal heroes (Which historical person living or dead do you most admire?), Escudero said, None. His answer (in mellifluously monotonous Filipino, and readily available on his website) started in this wise: “Ilang ulit nang tinanong sa akin yan, matagal ko nang pinag-isipan ngunit wala akong maisip ni-isa.” My translation: “I’ve been asked that many times and have thought about it a long time, but I can’t think of anyone.” He went on to say: “Dahil para sa akin walang iisang kumakatawan at nagtataglay nang lahat ng katangiang kapupuri-puri [Because for me, there is no one who embodies and symbolizes all that is worthy of praise.]”

This is passing strange. The question was not Who is perfect? but Who do you look up to?

Escudero proceeded to state that perhaps what we ought to do is to choose what is admirable in our historical figures (“mga magagandang ginawa ng mga personalidad sa kasaysayan”) and avoid their mistakes. But that was the point of the question, wasn’t it? Give the Filipino people an idea of who you consider admirable. Escudero then wrapped up his two-minute answer with an appeal to imagination: Imagine a person with all these qualities, he said. “Iyon siguro, hindi man totoong tao, ang dapat natin tingalain [Maybe that is the one, though not a real person, we should all look up to.]”

Pure drivel. I think in avoiding the true question, Escudero is betraying the anxiety of influence. As I’ve written before (the first time, I think, was in 2005), Escudero strikes me as the acceptable face of the Marcos restoration. Here’s a thought in search of a consensus. Perhaps Escudero declined to answer the real question because the people may not be ready to hear him profess any admiration for the late dictator.

6. Another passage from John Nery, in Column: Giving Chiz his due, June 2, 2009:

On other occasions I have written slightingly of Chiz Escudero’s speaking skills, because he seemed at times to use his eloquence to tell creative untruths, to mask the weakness of his position.

Who was it who said the problem the politician has is to say as much as possible while revealing as little as possible? “Less talk, less mistake,” Genaro Magsaysay’s dictum. Could it be Escudero is attempting to evade the burden of history, of caricature, of unfair because impolitic, comparison?

Yet equally possible and to my mind more possible that he is the exemplar of his generation in viewing history as at best, a burden but more likely, as simply irrelevant; and also, an exemplar of the approach, then, to governance simply in tactical and not strategic terms; the first non-Romantic: and also, freed of the notions of the presidency as Chief Modernizer of the Land; does this make him the first Postmodernist, even?

But that would be to attribute an actual reverence for –or rebellion against, sometimes the same thing even if expressed in negative terms– history, even ideology.

7. Escudero is interesting as the first of his generation to be within winning distance of the presidency; his generation is the first to be within reach of the highest office that grew up without having lived through, much less appreciated, the regular changes in regime and relative stability that provided the sense of historical continuity that his elders still feel; he –we– has no recollection of a time without FM at the top, or of the regular changes in administration prior to FM, which carried with it the both the lessons of the limits on power or the orderly transfer of it; and no sense of organic growth but instead, the colossal thud of of a regime that entered senescence as his (our!) generation went through adolescence; and hence, the trauma of the propagandized Marcos as Fulfillment of History suddenly being replaced with Marcos as False Messiah; yet enough residual memory of the earlier years of the dictatorship to lead to unease with both interpretations –and contempt for the chaotic two decades since.

8. But in and of itself the rise of an Escudero candidacy is as historic and a shift every bit as remarkable as that which took place with the election of Magsaysay in 1953, sending the prewar generation into terminal political decline.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

26 thoughts on “Notes for an essay on Escudero: Portrait of the Politician as Beyond the Clutches of History (ongoing)

  1. Chiz is undoubtedly glib. He would rather deal in spin than delve on the profound. Having said that, isn’t that enough to be elected President?

    Since Marcos was ousted, the ideological output coming from Malacanang has been zilch. Intellectually, Ramos may have had some potential. But the guy was more cunning and oblique than thoughtful. Through a questionable mix of characters like JDV, Gen. Almonte, Raul Manglapus and Bert Gonzales, Ramos did try to forge some kind of ideological hodgepodge, mixing Christian Democratic, Christian Socialist and Muslim principles. Of course, it all turned out chopsuey. In the final analysis, it was all only about political posturing.

    If there is someone who has had tremendous influence on Chiz Escudero, it is his father, Sonny. Now, let there be no doubt that Sonny Escudero’s idol was, and continues to be, Ferdinand E. Marcos.

  2. M! I like this. I feel like I’m watching the making of a docu – and I was party to one “shoot date.”

    Aabangan ko ‘to. As for me, my search for a President is on defcon 2.

  3. Referring to the present dispensation (i.e.,his godmother) and his political plans, Escudero has said, “We have already suffered and sacrificed for seven years, what is two years?”

  4. He did say he wants to be the youngest president. That to me, is profound – profound self-centeredness.

  5. I was a fan of Chiz during the Hello Garci hearings until he ran for Senate and won.

    Chiz is up to something. He also tries to appeal to the masses by speaking mostly in Tagalog and would come across as one of them in most of his speeches.

  6. Is Chiz the real deal? I don’t think so. Is he a self-conscious poseur? Most definitely!

    However, it’s all relative, and you have to take Chiz in context, along with the other leading Presidential wannabes. Manny Villar? Noli de Castro? Mar Roxas? Loren Legarda? Dick Gordon? Put Chiz beside the rest of the swaggering peacocks, and he doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

    In the post-Marcos era, Cory and Erap set very low intellectual standards for the occupant of Malacanang. And the country seems to be able to live with it.

  7. Escudero may be attractive to most because he speaks to the masa, unfortunately not many noticed that he’s more like talking down to them. If asked for an opinion, he goes on a lecture on what should be, if asked for a direction he goes on and on about what should not be. Its impossible to get any straight answer from this guy really. He sounds like he’s against GMA but she’s his Ninang, he speaks for the masa then again hee was never one of them. So he’s here as an enlightened plantaion owner sympathetic to the sacadas eh?
    Behind the veneer of his glib toungue, lies a trapo in the making. If its focus, vision, direction we are looking for,I’d go for Gordon.

  8. Gordon was one of the VIP guests of Imelda, the ultimate trapo, during her birth day extravaganza. Tatad, Gordon and the rest of the trapos who still ador that woman should not be elected in any gov’t position. Many of them were co-conspirators of Marcos during martial law. Well, no one was convicted for all the transgressions done to Filipinos in those 20 years of FM’ rule. In fact, no one was brought to court, every thing was forgotten except for the names of the dead Filipinos. Many of the skeletons are still scattered in the archipelago.But I’m not very sure about the feelings of most Filipinos about these people. Look at the architect of the martial law, where is he now? Hehehe. That’s how Filipinos “reward” these trapos.

  9. “In the post-Marcos era, Cory and Erap set very low intellectual standards for the occupant of Malacanang. And the country seems to be able to live with it.” Carl

    I can live with a low intellectual standard leader in the palace as long as his mind and heart are focused on the job. Integrity overrides exemplary intelligence as long as the man has common sense and not a mentally challenged person. He could always have a group of high IQ advisers. This is done all over the world.

    Look at Makoy, I think he was one of the brightest leader during his time and yet look at what happened to our country? He maybe a genius but without a heart at sagad sa buto and kaswitikan.

  10. Doesn’t anybody get the feeling that all this posturing is getting people all riled up against each other for nothing? that after all is said and done, these politicians attend the same parties, know each other more that we do, play golf, fish, mahjong, merge party affiliations, compromise for committees, that its all a game they play so well…and we get all worked up as pawns do…

  11. When do we start looking at programs, rather than personalities? On this, Mayor Binay is heads up.

    Yes. I hope we can get the opportunity to check out candidates’ programs.

  12. by definition, personality sums up everything a person has – physical, intellectual, behavioral, etc. therefore whatever type of personality someone has will tell you what type of a person he is and what type of administration he will have.

  13. Let’s all be realistic and look at the picture. All these people whom are raring to present themselves as messiahs for this nation (I AM TALKING TO YOU, ANC PARTICIPANTS) are definitely part of the liberal-democratic social elite which professes their feudalistic privileges and mindsets whilst making the people believe they are populists who are always willing to listen to their grievances. Of course, they are not only to blame since we as an electorate have sadly remained stunted in our perception of political participation, BUT THEY ARE THE MOST BLAMEWORTHY FOR KEEPING THINGS SO.

    Let us face it, all the names that are participating in this current system are, in more ways than one, preserving this system of accumulation and exploitation. Their very presence and “desire” to keep things working (albeit at the call of “reforms”) can be wholly put as their complicity to this abominable order of things. Of course, they shall not be at all convinced of putting aside their collective privileges even though what the people really needs now (and are crying out for) is a new system.

    True, the calls for reform have been instrumental through the Propaganda before the Revolution took place, but to be frank a reformist stance will not work in a brazen and, horrifically, Filipino-governed oppression. What was Rizal’s concern of “Filipino slaves becoming the tyrants of tomorrow” holds very true up to this day, and yet we babble about change without introspection. A willful participation in the disciplinary ethics as proposed by Michel Foucault is what, I believe, is the best means of subverting the oppressive regimes.

  14. Spot on, Hansley Juliano!

    It’s a con game, with the rest of us as willing participants, even if we know very well that we are being duped. All those presidentiables belong to the same social class and move in the same social circles. They will mouth their devotion and their identification with the “masa”, but there is no questioning where their true allegiance lies, and that is to their own social class.

    There are no transformational leaders in the horizon. The cycle of bread and circuses will go on for some time.

  15. MLQII, are you with Madam Auring? reading the future for Chiz Escudero? Its you who can get out the ghost of Marcos, and you continue to implant to ur readers mind that Chiz will do the same.

    C’mon man, give Chiz a chance to prove his worth. You had a chance to ask him in RockEd, I’m listening to you, you got so many questions you wanted to ask, but when Chiz sat beside you,you were silent and just smiling. Maybe, you’re “starstruck” too. Or you cant support your delusion about him.

    Ang ang masang pinoy ay hindi mahilig magbasa ng mga ganitong “blogs” lalo na paingles-ingles pa ang venue, di naman tayo kano, pango ang ilong natin, kaya hanggang ngayon wala pa ring silbe ang paingles ingles higit lalo kung ang layunin ay ibagsak ang isang taong hindi ayon sa ating panlasa.

    Aminin mo na lang na gifted si Chiz sa larangan ng kanyang talento sa pagsasalita, abot niya ang kamalayang pinoy sa pagsasalita ng lengguwahe natin, Filipino…sa paraang nauunawaan ng taumbayan,kaya siya pinaniniwalaan ng tao, kaya bale wala ang paninira sa kanya ng karamihan…

    Hindi natin maaaring menosin o itakda ang isang tao na magiging masama na siya sa kadahilanang may hinangaan siyang isa o dalawang karakter sa isang tao na akala natin masama tulad ni MArcos; at susundan na niya ang yapak na tinahak ni Marcos , maaaring giya niya ang magandang kuwalipikasyon at iwan ang hindi magandang kuwalipikasyon.

    Isaalang-alang natin na may isip at puso ang bawat tao, na maari ring maglayon ng kagandahan sa kanyang bayan, tulad mo, tulad ng marami sa atin. Huwag nating alisan ng karapatan si Chiz sa posibilidad na naglalayon din siyang makatulong sa bayan, magtrabaho ng tapat, tulad mo o tulad ng iba, higit lalo pa ang tingin sa kanya ay tinitingalang modelo ng kabataan at kinukunsiderang ng karamihan na bagong pagasa sa bagong umaga sa 2010.

    Peace MLQIII…

  16. ramirr, hindi ko maintindihan ang pagbababat na nakatago sa katapusang “peace”, but anyway, basahin mo ulit yung sinulat ko.

    unang una sa lahat, tahimik ako nung time ni chiz sa rocked dahil may request nga siya na kung puwede, sisipot lang siya pagkatapos ko at bago dumating si ricky carandang, at sinabi naman niya na mas gusto niya na wala masyadong mga katanunang tungkol sa pulitika. pero inanyayahan din ako nila gang badoy na maiwan dun sa studio at mabait naman si chiz nung dumating siya pero tiniyak ko din na wag na lang masyadong makialam.

    pagkatapos ng show, nag yosi kami sa ibaba at nakipagusap kami ng halos dalawang oras at pranka niyang sinagot ang lahat ng mga tanong ko. yung ibang bagay, off the record, pero napag-isip ako dahil nga kumbensido ako dati na marcos part ii si chiz. ngayon, hindi ako sigurado, at kaya nga “post-historical” ang gusto kong pag-isipan na mas bagay na terminolohiya tungkol kay chiz. kumbaga hindi niya dinadala ang mabigat na bagahe ng kasaysayan -kung tutoo ito o taktikal na pagkilos, hindi ko masasabi. pero dapat nating pag isipan kung paano siya pareho at iba sa ibang mga kandidato dahil siya ang unang-uang ka-edad natin (ko) na nagpapangarap maging pangulo.

    baka naman ang mas malinaw, batay sa mga sinulat mo, ay ang mga biases mo. katulad ng sinabi ko sa simula, basahin mo ulit ang sinulat ko. peace din.

  17. MLQ3:

    Sir, I’ve been following Chiz’ career. He had an interview for People Asia and was asked which president he admires the most. He gave a conglomeration of an answer: Marcos for his intellect; Cory for restoring democracy; FVR (for stability if I’m not mistaken); Erap for speaking the language of the masses. He never really gives a specific answer to such questions (like who’s your personal hero).

    But if you read between the lines (or if one reads the transcript of the 1st ANC Leadership forum), what he was trying to say is the one has to pick the best qualities of our heroes and emulate it. It’s not a sign of seeing our history as irrelevant. John Nery got it all wrong. If Chiz gave out an example he would certainly leave out a lot of personalities. If you noticed he just named the four past presidents that were in power after he was born.

    When I was a student, we had this pageant as an activity for the Centennial celebration. The final question for the candidates is: “Who among the female heroes do you want to be?” The winner answered: “Hindi na tayo dapat mamili pa. Lahat sila ay may mabubuting katangian na dapat tuluran. Mas mahalaga na alamin natin ang mga katangian ito at iwasto ang mga pagkakamaling nagawa nila.”

    I guess that’s Chiz’ point.

    There must be a reason why Escudero (despite being a first-term senator) is barging at the top of surveys. Whatever that is — it makes him and his supporters phenomenal.

    Our generation respects our history; it’s just that we’re too tired of hearing the same mistakes again. Maybe it’s time that we (or us) should make our own history.

  18. belinda, yes, he’s consistent that way, but what i’m looking into -mulling over- is that aside from those generalities, some things do emerge. one is of course that his -my- generation only has those four presidents as their living memory, and thus example, positive or negative; but i really do wonder if they even really weigh heavily, pro or con; but that being the case marcos, simply in terms of the chronology, is interesting in that he did exemplify the best and worst in us, but to what extent this is being pondered is another thing to explore. in chiz’s case you can see a certain impatience in being saddled with his father’s service to marcos, etc. and understandably so. but neither do i see any curiosity on his part, to ponder the past and in this, he’s representative of his generation and those younger who gravitate to him.

    his being a generation removed from the other contenders also makes this interesting. and those older than him, on the other hand, have other problems or issues when it comes to the presidency and its history. that too, is something interesting,

  19. Plutocracy and elitism to maintain the status quo, a wolf in a sheep’s skin!

  20. There must be a reason why Escudero (despite being a first-term senator) is barging at the top of surveys. Whatever that is — it makes him and his supporters phenomenal.

    Yup! There are a lot of people who still don’t get it Chiz, but give it some time and they’ll realize their mistake…

  21. I have always thought that Marcos blew his chances of being the first (and, as it would have turned out) the only world-class Filipino president.

    If Chiz turned out to be a Marcos, who’s to say he would not be the better version… the benign version even Ninoy could, in theory, be proud of?

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