Jose Ma. Montelibano
The few days of almost forced rest gave me plenty of time to step back and understand better the global and local dynamics that substantially affect the Philippines.
From around the world, Libya stands out as the most spectacular development of people power. Then, there is that other kind of people power, a more dramatic one, in fact, when it fully emerges – the Occupy Wall Street movement. The only economic system of the West is under serious attack, less from protesters than from its own weight. The American economy and the current crisis in Europe with Greece in the center are stark examples of great uncertainty in the future.
And so the world reacts rather dramatically to the impulses of evolution. People power of 26 years ago which started in the Philippines and moved quickly to shake down walls in Eastern Europe and South Africa, was thought to be over. When it seemed that the spirit of people power had exhausted itself, it surfaces powerfully in the Middle East and Africa, specifically in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Political leaderships in a few more countries in the region are threatened, and I personally believe that it is a matter of time, more short than long.
It is said that always time to pay debts that become due, even those which should not have ever been borrowed. The PEACE bonds have become due, all P35 billion of them, after the government borrowed P10 billion ten years ago. There were many unanswered questions when the bonds were floated, not in the air, but towards RCBC – as claimed from competing banks then. It did not help that perceived serious conflict of interest stained the transaction, but a new president who was the main beneficiary of Erap Estrada’s ouster was hard to stop.
P-Noy said we, the people, are his boss. That is really nice to hear said so simply and directly to all of us in his first speech after swearing in as president. In truth, democracy had always put the people as the boss of public servants. The people as boss is central to the very philosophy and principle of democratic governance. Somehow, though, democracy has been less a reality and more a theory in the Philippines. The Filipino people have never been boss except in short spurts of time when, in clean and honest elections, their votes dictate who sit in public office.
The surprising strength of Typhoon Pedring winds and the rains of Quiel disrupted power and then submerged barangays in Bulacan. None of the two were super-typhoon status, yet damage already approximates what Ondoy did two years ago.
I was in New York and New Jersey when Hurricane Irene hit these areas. Hurricanes don't hit New York and New Jersey, neither do earthquakes. But an earthquake did, and Hurricane Irene followed two weeks later.
Buko juice. There is something uncanny about what P-Noy can sometimes say that goes straight to the Filipino heart, like “no wang-wang,” or “kung walang kurap, walang mahirap.” The intellectual who cannot reach below the surface will smirk at simple-mindedness, then is bewildered at the impact of simple phrases on the Filipino public. After all their attempts at learned diagnosis and prognosis, and their doomsday predictions about a president who doesn’t seem to understand governance, has no vision, and little political will, P-Noy gets the highest approval and trust ratings of any president after one year in office.
To cover criticisms he had aimed at P-Noy from during the campaign period to today, a well-known opinion maker says that Filipinos are too complacent and do not demand more from their leaders. That statement in itself is close to being absurd, and quite revealing about undisguised bias. The opinion maker conveniently forgot to accuse Filipinos of being too trusting as well – maybe because he knows that Filipinos are not. The survey was about approval and trust, and the people resoundingly said, “we approve, we trust.”
The latest survey results of Pulse Asia on approval and trust ratings of the most senior of government officials reflect the air of optimism being generated by the P-Noy administration. It is an affirmation by the people to the votes they cast in response to the personality of the winning candidates for president and vice-president.
The highest approvals of P-Noy and VP Binay affirm the acceptance of the Filipino to their respective messages and the implicit promises they contained. From candidate Noynoy, the message was, “Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap,” a promise that he, as president, will pursue an anti-corruption governance relentlessly.
I want to tell a story. I am part of the story, but the story is much bigger than me. It is a story as seen through my eyes and written through my words. It is the story of the Filipino, the story of my people.
Of course, the story of the Filipino cannot be told by one person alone, and cannot be told completely even by all the storytellers put together. But the story must be told, especially when the story often points to Filipinos who have no voice to tell their own story.
What a first few days in New York this has been!
Doing my regular rounds in the United States in a continuing journey of discovery and engagement remains simply exciting in many ways. Hours after arriving New York, I found myself meeting Filipino-Americans of two generations. five couples in their 50's and 60's, and three young Filipino-Americans. If I had not been experiencing it so consistently in my travels across America these last few years, it would be strange to be with patriots for our motherland when they are already part of another country.
Even as people power takes its own form in the Middle East, toppling one dictator after another in a remake of the same wave of people power that removed dictators and authoritarian governments in the Philippines, Eastern Europe and South Africa, the Philippines today has resumed its march towards democracy and good governance. As I write this, Libya is at the verge of turning upside down as a rebellious people, aided by factions of their own military who withdrew their support from their 40-year dictator, have gained control over almost all of the country.
Moammar Gadhafi remains in hiding, still trying to rally his loyalists to fight back and drive out the rebels. It is next to impossible, however, for Gadhafi to defeat enemies who managed to take over when Gadhafi was in control. To most, not only in Libya but around the world, the end has come for a dictator who ruled absolutely for forty years.