Will They Risk All?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano


Typhoon Pablo came like a raging bull and is now exiting the Philippine Area of Responsibility via Palawan. It spared the Visayas, especially Negros and Panay islands, after it pounded a few Mindanao provinces. A great effort to prepare for the worst in areas considered endangered actually rewarded  those who cooperated. Hardly any deaths were reported in these areas where their residents went to evacuation centers. But Typhoon Pablo caused more than two hundred deaths with a few hundred more missing despite all the preparations. Landslides were the main culprit, and these landslides were never anticipated where they happened because they had no history of landslides.

Just before the news of a monster typhoon headed towards the Philippines, Filipinos were basking in sterling performance of our GDP in the 3rd quarter of 2012, an outstanding 7.1%, highest in ASEAN. Following healthy growth rates in the first semester, the 3rd quarter results went way beyond targets and managed to surprise even economic managers. For over a period of one year, economic forecasts by international financial rating agencies have all been quite positive – in both performance and outlook. The Philippine Stock Market  has been very affirming and busy breaking records. It truly looks as though the country is poised for a long and strong growth pattern amidst the slow or even troubled economies of many developed countries led by the US and Western Europe.

Yet, typhoons happen. Just when everything is good and Christmas was beginning to weave its magic, Pablo is a wet blanket. More than that, it killed hundreds. Blessings, then disasters.

We have also been having a political breakthrough. The government is seriously running after the former president, stopping her from leaving the country while non-bailable cases are filed against her. The prosecutors say she plundered not just money but a whole election. Then, the Chief Justice whom she appointed in a very scandalous manner, forcing it against all taste – and legal impediments, got impeached by both House and Senate. He was replaced by a young Associate Justice who will sit as Chief Justice for decades. And an even younger Associate Justice was just recently appointed.

Blessings, then disaster. China decides to claim an empire it imagines it never had but is entitled to. It claims the Spratlys and is one of many who are in the same boat. But then it claims Scarborough Shoal which is spitting distance from Pangasinan and almost a thousand miles from the nearest Chinese shore. Beyond claiming the reef, it sends ships to prevent Filipino fishermen from accessing and fishing in its vicinity. A wrongful claimant becomes an actual bully. Everything is coming up roses and we are reminded that it has thorns as well.

In the Vatican, the Pope appoints a Filipino cardinal in the person of Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle.  He is young, about the same age as President Noynoy Aquino. Cardinal Tagle is Jesuit-educated just like the President. He and P-Noy should find more in common than other Church elders who have not only senior in rank but age, too. With large differences in age are large differences of opinions and ways of doing things. The RH Bill issue which has divided Catholics remains a hot and thorny issue, and a Cardinal who wishes to dialogue will be a fresh option for a President who wishes the same thing. The division, though, between those who support or condemn the RH Bill may be too large to bridge, even by a young President and a young Cardinal. After it is voted on, however, whatever that vote may be, reconciling the Church and the State becomes more viable with P-Npy and Cardinal Tagle.

I have consistently over the last twelve years claimed that change is in the air. Change had really been so obvious in EDSA I and EDSA II even if both were followed by presidents who were accused of plunder, one actually convicted and the second hopefully to follow the path of the first. What does removing a sitting dictator and two sitting presidents mean if not change? EDSA II happened because the young volted in at the last moment. P-Noy won because the process which catapulted him to the presidency was an EDSA masquerading as an election. Now, with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo prosecuted for plunder and election robbery, with Arroyo appointee Rene Corona impeached and removed as Chief Justice, with the Philippine economy taking off while most countries in the world struggling with theirs, is that not dramatic change emerging to become even more radical?

There is another revolution in the air. It is one that is grounded on the same basis as most revolutions – poverty and injustice. But this revolution has been given the rare opportunity of not being violent – yet with great chances of succeeding. The President himself quoted his father, national hero Ninoy Aquino, as saying that the first freedom should be freedom from hunger. Hunger is a principal feature of poverty. If that is effectively eliminated, there are only two poverty conditions left – landlessness and homelessness. Landlessness in the Philippine context is the consequence of a grave injustice – the biggest land-grab in Philippine history. When the King of Spain claimed that all lands in the Philippines belonged to the throne then, he made all Filipinos squatters in their own motherland. After more than four centuries, tens of millions of Filipinos have not struggled out of that miserable state. Without security of tenure, homelessness follows.

Land, homes, food. To make every Filipino family secure with tenured land, dignified with decent homes and freed from hunger, the final revolution from a historical and moral anomaly can be won. It is in the air with men of destiny, President Noynoy Aquino and Cardinal Chito Tagle. Will they see this as the highest purpose of the roles they were blessed with? Will they risk all to be the deliverers of the Filipino people?

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