Best Time To Be Filipino

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

I witnessed via the Internet the Corona conviction and removal from the Supreme Court. I had just arrived New York after visiting San Francisco and San Diego – long hours on the road and long hours in airports and airplanes. Yet, I stayed glued on streaming video from 2 to 6 a.m. New York time to watch the Senate finishing the impeachment trial with a decisive 20- 3 vote to convict. There was not a minute when I felt sleepy; I knew I was witnessing history. Beyond that, I knew I was part of that history.

Because I took the stand from the very beginning that I believed Renato Corona did not have the character to be Chief Justice, that he should never have been Chief Justice, that he should be removed as Chief Justice, I could not help but be jubilant. Yet, I had to set that euphoria temporarily aside as I tried to pick up sentiments of various Fil-Am personalities and groups. I was in a national event hosted by GK USA which Fil-Ams from San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, the Carolinas, Las Vegas, New Jersey and New York attended. I marched in an Independence Day parade as part of a human Philippine flag along Madison Avenue, New York and now find myself in Toronto, Canada. I must say that the reaction of Fil-Ams to the Guilty vote of the Senate was almost universally positive.

What struck me as the dominant Filipino response was relief, great relief that the Filipino people and the Philippine Senate became one in understanding right and wrong, one in choosing right over wrong. Many senators said they were not influenced by the opinion of the Filipino people, that they were guided by their appreciation of evidence presented (or not presented when it should have been), and that they then voted with their conscience. From beginning to end, there were untold risks going against the Chief Justice because of his influence in the Judiciary. Corona did not work alone in the Supreme Court, there would be his gang left – and who knows how many dirty judges and lawyers.

After that relief was a healthy dose of pride. Filipinos in America said that they recovered their sense of pride in being Filipino, that – in the vernacular- “mabango ang Pilipino sa mata ng mundo.” Conversations through long distance calls, Skype, Facebook and Twitter confirmed that the jubilation was not only among Filipino-Americans, that Filipinos at home were expressive and articulate in showing just how they agreed with the Guilty vote.

In a matter of days, the report on the economic performance of the Philippines for the first quarter of 2012 began to hit the news in America. The 6.4 percent growth in GNP was the highest in the ASEAN and second only to China in the whole of Asia. This economic achievement was a fitting segue to the Corona conviction, an affirmation that the conscience of the people and the conscience of the Senate found common ground, that the economic policies and programs of government also found more common ground.

Of course, there has been more news about more foreign investments coming in, more optimism among our people, a mountain of evidence for those who are eager, or even only curious, and missed only by a small tribe of the blind and the prejudiced. The optimism on the future of the Philippines is local and global despite a Philippine media that has to generate news almost by the hour in a very competitive business – and often has to report more of controversial non-essential at the cost of overwhelming the positive essential.

I remember the campaign message of Noynoy the candidate – “walang mahirap kung walang kurap.” To many, it was just a slogan. To political enemies and their hired help, it was criticized as naive. To some within Noynoy’s camp, it was ill-advised and should be more focused on economic promises. Against them all but in harmony with the deeper angst of a people so abused and sick of corruption, Noynoy’s choice of his primary message was reaffirmed and expanded in his inaugural speech when he said, “No wang wang.”

Throughout these last two years, P-Noy has remained largely in tune with the people’s sentiments – or people’s sentiments have largely appreciated what P-Noy has been doing. Listening to the people must be a presidential priority. Even if he will have to make unpopular decisions because he is convinced that these are necessary, P-Noy has to listen and understand what people say, what people think, what they want and what they fear. If he has tough decisions to make, like the K+12 program, he and his Cabinet must make a great effort to reach and explain to the people. They are, after all, the boss.

Those especially who speak for P-Noy in Malacanang must develop sensitivity about the President’s relationship with the Filipino people. They must understand the context within which they chose him to be their white knight who will rescue them – whether from the demons of corruption or the ravages of poverty. What people need and want for the collective body and soul must be the horizon of the administration’s perspective in any issue, in any program or policy. This is the basis why Filipinos support P-Noy and this must be the basis why and how P-Noy governs.

Of course, there are those who prefer to remain acidic from frustration and sour-graping even when the tide has turned for the better. They must be left to their own corner like a cancer to be isolated before chemotherapy or surgery. When we can afford to despite the serious challenges to build a better future for the next generations, we can read or listen to them to see the contrast of attitudes and thank ourselves why we are not them.

There is a new dawn about to break. You smell it even before your eyes catches the light. We can hasten the coming of the new day with just more optimism and more participation in the bright tomorrow we want to build. It will mean, though, caring and sharing our destiny with one another. It will mean rising together, even if we have to carry the poor among us until they are not poor anymore. It is truly the best time to be Filipino.

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