by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Many public officials will say publicly that they are not serving for the ratings, results of regular surveys measuring people’s sentiments about trust and performance. They will say that they will do what is right more than what is popular. Yes, most of them will say that.

Privately, though, ratings come across with much more importance than publicly admitted. And they should be. In a true democracy that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, the sentiments of the people must, by and large, be of priority value.

Governance is not a popularity game. But making people realize that their dreams, and their daily well-being, are being served effectively by governance is. Of what use is good governance among unappreciative, or worse, resentful people? It is a contradiction of terms – good governance and unpopular governance.

Decisions will not be all well accepted. That is a given. Issues will bring positive or negative reactions, and that is normal. Governance is not about an issue, it is a continuing service program intended to serve the common good. Lack of understanding or acceptance affecting any issue can cause negative reactions, and intelligent communications can almost always mitigate or reverse those reactions. However, a stream of negative reactions over key issues indicates that governance and the common good threaten to part ways.

Perception usually drives the first conclusions and sentiments. The intelligence of the audience, or lack of it, largely dictates whether perception and truth share the same stage. A gullible audience can easily be manipulated, or an overly intellectual message may fly over people’s heads. Perception becomes even more important when information is being dished out at a rapid rate, or given at volumes that overload the capacity of the audience to process quickly.

President Noynoy Aquino has maintained trust and approval ratings over four years in an unprecedented manner. That meant 70 percent of Filipinos appreciating his character and leadership. Beyond this, opposition to him remained from 7 – 15 percent, a minority which can be conceded as determined to dislike him no matter what. Usually, these are the more hardcore supporters and followers of political enemies.

The outstanding ratings show that people recognize and appreciate, not one issue, but their continuing relationship with their President.  Beyond the Philippines, most of the world recognized that outstanding relationship as well, exemplified with a solid economic growth that has been praised by international institutions who themselves set the tone of global investments and credit.

The political performance of PNoy has been outstanding, too, or even more so. Political performance in governance is well beyond elections, though even his senatorial bets scored a hefty victory in 2013. Political performance is reflected in the relationship between the President and Congress, the Executive and the Legislative. His performance in this area is even more solid and remains most potent.

For four years, and most probably for the remainder of his term, PNoy and Congress will have a level of cooperation that will continue to upset their opposition. This relationship is really less about perception and truly more about what obtains. The PDAF has been abolished yet the relationship persists on a high note. The DAP has been declared unconstitutional but the relationship will survive even that. And PNoy will be not take this relationship for granted; else, only then will he be a lame duck of a president.

It is PNoy’s relationship with the majority of Filipinos that he must defend. Trust and approval ratings have dropped from around 70 percent to 55 percent. That is not dismal, that is not a cause of panic, but that is a clear message that all is not that well anymore. In the next ratings, conducted in the second quarter that may already include the recent Supreme Court declaration of DAP’s unconstitutionality, PNoy’s ratings can be expected to drop even more.

PNoy will then be governing in an unfamiliar stage, when his relationship with the people has weakened considerably. From the government response to Yolanda and post-Yolanda reconstruction efforts to the political issues of the PDAF and the DAP, the solid bond between the overwhelming majority and the President has cracked. It is not beyond repair, not at all, but the causes to that crack must be objectively studied and truthfully, in private chambers, accepted.

The unfortunate weakening of a fantastic four-year relationship is less about the 2016 elections that it is about the grand opportunity of change and reform that PNoy had personified from the very beginning.  PNoy is not running for president in 2016, and I hope he will not allow his political character to subjugate his reform character. He has seen through the experience of his father when Ninoy became a political pariah during martial law, the experience of his mother when the many false friends of Cory showed their true color, that life beyond power will be a sharp contrast. But it is a great legacy that will endure, of Ninoy the Hero, of Cory the Mother of Democracy.

Legacy is not a political eunuch. Heroes and national icons live way beyond their lifetimes. It is not just memory that carries them, it is their continuing influence in the daily lives of the people they loved and served. Heroes are not dead. They are the fire to our value system, they are highlights of our culture and history, they live through us.

The new generations of Filipinos are poised to make their mark in Philippine society. They have the idealism, they have the strength, they are the engine of society, they are the warriors of the nation. It will not be the victory or defeat of party mates or political allies that will inspire them towards pursuing their new and brighter dreams, it will be the power of a clear legacy of honor.  It will be the legacy of character, the kind that Filipinos hereafter will proudly claim as theirs.

Destiny invited Noynoy Aquino, but it is PNoy who has to respond to it.

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