The President has given his State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Most Filipinos listened and tried to absorb his message as best they could. To the extent of their own understanding, influenced by their own needs and aspirations, they will make their own conclusions about their President, whether he remains trustworthy, whether he serves effectively or not in the pursuit of the common good. Unfortunately, the Constitution had never been that understood by the average or the poor Filipino who comprise the vast majority of our fledgling nation. It will be the personification of the Presidency, the personification of Government that they will relate to.
Some listened to look for only what they could criticize, or to check what he did not say, again, so they could criticize. That was the value of the Sona to them, an event and a report that they could put down as part of either a bigger and hidden agenda, or as an expression of the hate they have developed for PNoy. Unfortunately, again, it is not the Constitution that is their basis for liking or disliking a President, or other political personalities. It is the prejudice that colors their views, emotions and actions, or agenda that cannot be admitted in public because it is either embarrassingly ugly, has its own utter disregard for the Constitution or the laws of the land that they claim to be their reason to protest.
Others listened to get affirmation of their trust and support for him, and they did, in ways very personal and powerful. That is the way of greatly destined personalities, and history gives us one example after another. In Pnoy’s case, the examples are very close to home, his own parents, Ninoy and Cory. For a few chosen people of history, the Constitution is not their North Star; rather, it is their destiny – IF they accept and live up to it. Presidents of any country, of any people, are personalities of great destiny. Some become great beacons of light and raise societal morals and ethics. Others fail miserably and become dark examples of greed and abuse of power.
Beyond the President and his Sona, however, beyond his public accountability and the accountability of all other public officials in all Branches of government, is the accountability of the Filipino citizen, all citizens who are required to love their country and contribute what they can to the strengthening of nation, to the building of the collective dream for the generations to come. Nation-building is a very personal obligation, and a collective one as well. The recognition, acceptance and pursuit of the common good are founded on the grand dream of building a nation befitting a proud, God-fearing, and talented people. What makes a nation strong, self-reliant, morally upright, culturally rich, abundant in its care and provision of opportunities for its nation is what defines the common good.
In that pursuit of the common good, then, where are we, where is each one of us? Each Filipino, each Filipino family, must prosper within the progress of a citizenry and a nation, the common good rather than at its expense. The common good is what a Constitution defends, not the other way around. And any Constitution that has become the central object of its own adulation is a Constitution worth throwing into the waste basket of false ideals.
The greater one’s resources, the greater one’s talents, the greater one’s influence, the greater one’s position in society or government, the greater the responsibility and accountability to the common good. This is not an intellectual obligation, this is not a moral obligation, this is a functional obligation – an obligation that may begin with love of country and fellow Filipino, an obligation that should be understood by the mind, embraced by our priority values, and an obligation that must live itself out and measured by its contribution to the common good.
Who, then, wields that greater responsibility and accountability to the common? Of course, Pnoy leads the pack. He accounts for what destiny has invited him for, and he accounts for the power and authority that the Filipino people have entrusted in him. If we listened to him well, he takes his accounting of the legacy his parents bequeath him with quite seriously as well. From that pedestal of hope that we, the citizenry through a democratic process, placed him on, we judge him. How we regard him, good, bad or otherwise, from our honest evaluation is what he cannot avoid or resent. It is part of his destiny, it is part of his responsibility.
But judging rightly is our responsibility. Judging wrongly is not only a legal wrong, it is a moral evil. The whole justice system of man and of the greatest faiths is dependent on right judgment, of correct discernment of right and wrong, of a sensitive conscience. Religions openly warn us against judging others, as if the wisest among humanity have seen how much more easily it is to misjudge than to judge rightly. Divine laws begin with a condemnation of bearing false witness against one’s neighbor, which begins with judging wrongly and giving expression to wrong judgment. Human laws point to slander and libel, among others.
Judging responsibly puts the whole process in the greater ambit of the common good, meaning we judge others in society in the context of what they do for, or against, the common good. Judging, then, is double-edged. It is not only what others do for or against the common good, it begins with what we are doing for or against that same common good. While our responsibility, within our own capability or influence, may be less than a President of a Republic, it remains firmly a responsibility to which we have a primal accountability.
At its core, this is what nation-building and the common good boil down to – not his, not theirs, but our personal contribution to it.