The Long View: On the cusp of redemption

The Long View
On the cusp of redemption
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:42:00 08/31/2009

It’s interesting that the President and her people have reserved their most venomous attacks for two senators: Manuel Roxas II and Benigno Aquino III. She seems less concerned about her other critics or potential successors while being particularly offended, even threatened, by these two. This is the best possible endorsement either man could possibly politically desire.

Both men, on the other hand, have pledged not to further divide their party, which already has a faction that decided to tie itself to the President’s apron strings but which realizes it has found neither a fixed place in the existing administration coalition nor much of a political future if it doesn’t somehow eke out a return to its original Liberal affiliation before 2010.

Both men have stated they will discern the country’s call, in partnership with their partymates, who have, in a sense, the rare luxury of choice which other parties don’t enjoy.

Both Roxas and Aquino have shown the necessary openness to answer the country’s call, within the context of being their party’s standard-bearer. Both will eventually make the right choice so long as they discern the national need for redemption.

Call it apathy, call it cynicism, call it disappointment, or even pragmatism: Redemption is what the country has required since 2005, and what has evaded it, as it seemed unreachable until quite recently. The citizenry, as being at the mercy of the professional politicians playing a power game that has come to be perfected in the hands of its current, unrepentant, practitioners, fostered the sense that the only means to preserve sanity seemed to be resignation – not in terms of a President prepared to shed blood to retain office, but resignation by a public that sensed it would be fatal to truly resist – and which, even when it sputtered in indignation, had to wonder if the current crop of leaders were motivated by anything other than ambition.

There is one great benefit to the Great Remembering that has taken place this month, and it involves George Santayana’s oft-misquoted observation that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Now that remembering has taken place, what is the real lesson, the real comparison, between 1986 and 2010?

The lesson is, the political game will degenerate into merely a contest involving guns, goons and gold, unless the public can see itself capable of summoning not just leaders, but itself, to greatness. The similarity is, there is an administration that thrives on dividing, bribing and intimidating the people.

And yet this leads me in turn to wonder if there isn’t a danger if we’re perceiving things purely in terms of reenacting 1986. Karl Marx famously pointed out that “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” The repetition of Edsa in 2001 ended up a tragedy. Summoning the Spirit of ’86’ only to reenact it like a bad high school performance of Joan of Arc – could end up a farce.

Bruce Reed, writing of Ted Kennedy, observed, “Every cause is better served when principle takes a seat at the table, and no cause moves forward when its champions walk away.” The focus on Noynoy and Mar will end up a farce if not accompanied by a self-examination, on their part and those calling on one or the other to be drafted for the presidency and vice-presidency, as to why the call is being made and the manner that call can inspire the electorate.

The real issue for 2010, based on a real appreciation of our past, is: will the next president continue the Arroyo legacy of impunity by means of the combined clout of the presidential checkbook and saber? The sense of impunity applies to all things, from broad concepts of human rights, to flouting the specific provisions of law, to ignoring even generally accepted (until recently, anyway) interpretations of the separation of powers, to the self-serving and downright deceitful presentation of official statistics.

This has been made possible by a President prepared to turn what should be normal operations of the law and institutions into an auction in which the support of a parade of civilian, military and religious leaders willing to be bought by a chief executive in turn prepared to be the highest bidder. Conditioned by this, the parade of leaders at the President’s side today will simply march to the tune of any drummer prepared to bang on the cashbox the loudest.

And don’t forget that where there are carrots there’s always a big stick: the President has always pointedly reminded who might be offended by her cash-based governance that she has the armed might to selectively persecute those who disagree with her. This threat will endure going into the May polls.

For 2010, too, will involve a referendum on collaboration. To elect an administration candidate or one who pursues the same tactics as the present dispensation, will be to endorse and continue the Arroyo legacy of impunity which was made possible by so many officials either cooperating with her, or surrendering integrity and independence to her.

There are only two track records that will matter: that of the supporters of the present dispensation who backed it through thick and thin, particularly after 2005, and those who decided to do the right thing by parting ways with the President, even in the face of the ferocious attacks and harassment by her minions.

Next May, even as the entire leadership of the country from council to president will be up for election, and even as the President attempts to keep herself relevant – whether to perpetuate herself or simply ensure she and her sons don’t end up in exile or in jail – the choice is already obvious: whether it will be Mar or Noynoy, or both, the country already knows they’re the only two whom the present dispensation can’t tolerate. In that sense, they have already been redeemed.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

20 thoughts on “The Long View: On the cusp of redemption

  1. mlq3, you wrote….

    “There are only two track records that will matter: that of the supporters of the present dispensation who backed it through thick and thin, particularly after 2005, and those who decided to do the right thing by parting ways with the President, even in the face of the ferocious attacks and harassment by her minions.”

    …but aren’t the supporters of Mar and/or Noynoy made up of those who belonged to both camps i.e. those like you who made a clean break with GMA as well as those who have given her tacit support by “moving on”?

    If you are correct that the track record of the supporters matter, then that would mean Mar and/or Noynoy are on shaky ground.

  2. @cvj: Aren’t they all on shaky ground, for that matter?

    @mlq3: Good call on the Atienza-LP. From what I hear, the Atienza wing is trying to hitch on to the Noynoy bandwagon, in an effort to remain politically relevant. Noynoy, on the other hand, isn’t as forgiving as his mother, if I read between the lines while he was being interviewed by Ted Failon the other morning. Good for him.

    It is good that Mar and Noynoy are resolving whatever calls are being made to have Noynoy run intra-party. I think that LP-Drilon is through with its primaries, and Mar is their candidate. This is why I think that for Mar to step aside now for Noynoy is to turn them into the very transactional politicians they’re trying to avoid becoming.

    The problem I see is that the national remembering we had this month doesn’t filter down to the local level. In that sense, local officials who stuck it through thick and thin with the current administration aren’t going to be hurt/affected by those dismayed with Arroyo.

    That being said, GMA’s continued strength in Cebu is amazing.

  3. @Francis, banking on the shakiness of others is cold comfort especially if Mar/Noynoy intend to take the moral high ground. After the muted reaction to Hello Garci, the Middle Class supporters of Mar and/or Noynoy no longer have that high ground, unlike in 1986.

  4. Brand marketing and the popular election of national leaders. The death of Cory Aquino has propelled the brand name of the Aquinos back into the mindset of Pinoys.

    Meantime the marketing of the brand name Villar is ongoing to the tune of hundreds of millions of pesos. The guy is ready to hock his fortune to get his brand accepted. He also has to attract the self interested groups that control the country…

    The other way to get your brand name in the consciousness of people is to organize sabongs like Miriam and Trillanes who were perceived to be fighters against the corrupt system. Pinoys like politicians who engage in cockfights. Media thrives on it and one gets a lot of free play. But it requires special skills. Trillanes is lousy at media projection. He shot his load in the Oakwood deal and the people thought they had a champion in him. He committed mutiny and got himself elected Senator.

    Meantime mabenta pa yung Estrada brand name.

    Now the problem of GMA is this…Can she trust Noli whose people are close to the Cayetanos who are close to Villar. If Villar can somehow convince Noli to slide down these two brand names can probably only be defeated by the Aquino brand. Villar is an experienced pragmatic deal maker.

    The Aquino brand name has the potential of uniting the anti-government forces (both sincere and not). Pinoys decide not based on reasoning but base their decisions more on emotions. The country is hard wired in that manner. The Kapuso/Kapamilya nation says it all.

    Someone once wrote that elections are like the stock market…

  5. ”When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.” Mahatma Gandhi

  6. “Someone once wrote that elections are like the stock market…”


    True players of the stock market at least do research on their bets. Elections in the Philippines are more like our national sport, “sabong”. It’s really based more on sentiment, “kursunada” (or “corazonada” in Spanish, a gut-feel from the heart, not the brain), odds (dejado & llamado) and just plain loyalty (whether blind following or due to “utang na loob”).

    Manolo’s inclination/bias can be observed when he tries to brand Mar/Noynoy as the “real” anti-GMA, the ONLY team the present dispensation can’t tolerate. It’s a nice gimmick to distinguish and differentiate them from the others, and they are surely hoping that GMA and Co. play into their hands further down the road by giving them “special” attention. Count on the others, of course, not be outdone. So that we can expect a strategy and a contest of who can pique the present dispensation the most.

    In the meantime, most of the crop of Presidentiables stand on shaky ground. Their support, for what it’s worth, is still rather soft. Even the seeming groundswell to draft Noynoy could subside like the tide after the emotions from Cory’s demise are slowly forgotten.

    In this, Erap stands out. For it is he who has a solid constituency. He may trail Villar in the polls by a slight margin, but Villar’s support is soft. Erap’s, at 20%, is rock-solid. Those people will follow him, no matter. As it stands, if Erap proceeds to run, only the Supreme Court may prevent him from re-assuming the Presidency. Delikado!

  7. Dapat kasi ang mga pilipino ay dapat matutong kumilatis ng mga iboboto at isipin nila ang bayan habang bumoboto,our archipelago is a Paradise rampaged by crooks and wanabee foreigners who are politicians and rule our Paradise.

    I also think our archipelago needs a name change.

  8. cvj, the “move on” crowd was shaken over the past month, particularly those involved in 86, call it guilt, initimations of mortality, or simply finally realising too much is too much. which brings up the eternal question in coalition-building: do you insist on doctrinal purity or offer others a chance at redemption? the redemptive process can begin now, with the ultimate redemption taking place in 2010, particularly if you assume the present dispensation will try to derail the election if push comes to shove.

  9. francis, mar stepping aside could possibly make him a stronger candidate -but only if there is a measurable result for the draft noynoy movement. it’s noynoy, not mar, who is the potential game-changer here, to achieve a more or less united opposition, but a strong opposition candidate carries with it the risk of more extreme measures for the administration in 2010, which that candidate would have to face.

  10. Manolo, thanks for the clarification. I’m all for coalition-building over doctrinal purity. I was just confused with that passage in your column which gave me the impression that you were calling for doctrinal purity.

    I take it to mean then that what you meant was, as far as the candidates themselves are concerned, doctrinal purity (opposition to Arroyo) is paramount, but as far as their followers/supporters are concerned, prodigal sons/daughters are welcome.

  11. Bottom line like the stock market elections are about fear and greed …. People will vote their fears and/or their self interest. That is what makes representative government the most challenging form of government.

    You transfer armed struggle to the halls of Congress to argue contradictory self interests of constituencies.

    Psychological sentiments rule financial markets. If not there would be no crashes.

  12. Noynoy the game changer? I can’t wait for the official start of campaign period. I hope Villar goes all out and pawns this little, underserving, accidental “game changer”.

    Villar: “So Mr. Aquino Jr., what did you do prior to your 1998 political career other than walk around in your shorts in the Hacienda you inherited giving orders to sugar cane cutters while I built my real estate empire and your vice presidential candidate was wheeling and dealing and cutting investment deals in New York?”

    Noynoy: “Uh, uh, walk around in my shorts in the Hacienda I inherited giving orders to sugar cane cutters…”

  13. i believe aquino is the one best suited for 2010 presidential election. he maybe lacking some of the experience needed as chief executive. however, integrity is the most important criterion needed for a politician. there is no way he will destroy the aquino name. pilipinos die just to keep their family name. intelligence, experience? look at what marcos did. look at what hitler and stalin did.

    i will vote for a candidate with solid integrity any time. he would know what is right and what is wrong. that’s all the pilipinos need, everything will just follow.

  14. “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” – Samuel Johnson

    “Integrity is praised, and then left out in the cold.” – Juvenal, Roman satirist

    My personal take: You can’t have integrity go with an empty head, nor can you have an active mind go with a calloused heart.

  15. Mar and Noynoy? Noynoy, because of his last name, may have the chance to get elected to a higher office but he hasn’t officially declared any intention. As for Mar, I find him having a very slim chance of getting the presidency. Making that infamous “padyak” ads and announcing his engagement to Korina made many people wonder – is he really in touch with the masses?

  16. Bad, bad PR move on the part of Mar to air these ads. Who the fuck is his image advisor? I’d fire him/her immediately.

    These ads are despised by class A, B, and C because they’re fake. But the question is, do they resonate with class D, E, and F? I don’t know, I don’t think like the lower classes. Are you a lower class? Do you know someone who is? Can you ask them if they like these ads and share with us?

  17. So many people push for the candidacy of Noynoy Aquino. Too many, in fact. I can’t imagine why so many would wish him ill.

  18. IMHO, integrity is absolute unlike learning/knowledge and or experience which have so many levels/strata.

    Senators, congressmen, governors are not dumb. They must have some kind of charisma, intellect and experience to be able to reach the position they have at the moment. However, integrity follows “all or none law”–either malinis ang iyong budhi o wala kang budhi, either you know what is right and what is wrong or you don’t know the difference at all.

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