Jose Ma. Montelibano
From nowhere in the consciousness of Filipinos, and quarterly surveys in the last two years can show this, Noynoy jumps to being the most preferred candidate for president. It is an awesome development, completely unexpected, and a phenomenon that became a game changer. Sociologists, political analysts and other social scientists eventually found their voice and have since been trying to explain what happened. They will have a hard time doing so as the truth is difficult to understand when it has been missing for so long.
Of course, 51% is not a small percentage in a contest with several major players who had been hugging the limelight for over a year. 51% is a base. Because it is a spontaneous base which insisted on its favorite son to run, the odds of its going down soon is less than the odds of its going up. Why will it go down when it pushed Noynoy to run and succeeded in doing so? All the more now that it should go up because the preponderance of the first 51% is a powerful motivation and invitation for others. The only way that the 51% will quickly decrease is if Noynoy dishonors their gift of support, and Noynoy is not about to do that. That is why his key message is to acknowledge and thank the 51% for their trust in him.
Noynoy’s sudden but powerful entry in a race that started a year ago is now called a game-changer. He did upset the political applecart, threw away the work fueled by so much money and media exposure, and has caught even his own political party completely flat-footed. Noynoy has become the center of attention, the new super star of Philippine politics. Yet, Noynoy is not the miracle but its first fruit.
The miracle is the Filipino. In 1986, the peaceful exercise of People Power was also considered a miracle. When more than a million people went to the Luneta, and later to Edsa, it was a miracle. It was also democracy at work, defying fear and the culture of subservience to masters. It was the people themselves who took matters in their own hands to demand for change.
Today, the miracle is again the Filipino. When the people wanted Noynoy to run, they made sure Noynoy felt their demand. In one collective sentiment, the Filipino identified Noynoy as their representative in the journey towards change. I hope the people will not forget that it is they who demanded, and succeeded, in making Noynoy do their bidding, not the other way around. That is why I do not believe that the 51% will be easy to reduce. If they choose to attack Noynoy, his rivals will risk attacking the people’s choice.
The cry for change has mostly been articulated by a cry for good governance. Yet, the insistence for good governance did not refer to an outstanding political platform, it looked for an outstanding character. Filipinos have long identified that their basic angst and frustration had little to do with the lack of an intellectual plan of governance; it had everything to do with honesty, transparency, a keen sense of justice and the courage to persevere with these virtues.
The disappointment of many about two people-powered revolutions is what they perceive to be a lack of solid accomplishments and the return of corruption in governance. Yet, the Filipino people honored Cory more than they blamed her. If ever there was any need for vindication, any proof of how people truly regarded Cory, her illness, wake and burial erased any doubt of their gratitude for her love and service to them and democracy. The combination of disappointment and appreciation will be what Noynoy has to understand because he must avoid the former and hope to earn the latter.
What is the lesson from the disappointment?
The return of democracy after a period of martial law was not characterized by a democratic response from the people. People who have been subjects of authoritarian rule from our datu system to colonial masters did not realize that they, and not Cory, dismantled martial law. Cory inspired them to confront their fear and then confront the dictator. It was her inspiration but it was their courage and collective action which defeated the enemy.
Happy that Cory was there to govern instead of Marcos, the Filipino waited for the miracle to continue and manifest in greatly improved lives. By dropping their active participation in governance, unlike their brave participation in the struggle to regain their freedom, Filipinos returned to a pattern of looking to leaders to do what citizens are supposed to contribute to nation building. This is the lesson we must all learn – that leaders inspire and that people achieve.
That is all Noynoy has to do – inspire citizens to achieve. He must know his people intimately, feel the pain of the poor, feel their helplessness, and then protect them from further suffering. The poor are not productive; worse, they are a burden that slows down the march to progress. But being poor is not the accountability of people born into poverty, it is the accountability of leadership and all those who have the resources and talents to help but do not.
If Noynoy understands poverty well, he will find the resolve to fight corruption. A simple, forceful and unrelenting attack on corruption will provide Noynoy the hundreds of billions to eliminate landlessness, homelessness and hunger. These hundreds of billions do not go to the poor but to industry and commerce that manufacture and market the products and services to develop land, to build homes and to produce food. Helping the poor and pump-priming business are compatible. If they were not, then only a bloody revolution to eliminate one or the other can bring any meaningful answer.
Only when Filipinos look at each other as brothers and sisters of one motherland, only when Filipinos will not abandon those who cannot help themselves, only when Filipinos discover their power and capacity to produce and contribute to the common pool of resources, only when Filipinos will not tolerate the shame of corruption and poverty will they ever be a force.
The people’s choice and a people’s force will be the dream team of a new Philippines. ***
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“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to hunger among ourselves.”