With Due Respect
by Artemio V. Panganiban
from Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Our people handed Noynoy Aquino the most overwhelming mandate since our present Constitution took effect in 1987. They opted for a peaceful transition of power, no longer by staging mammoth street rallies, but by rolling a tsunami of votes that could not be stopped by cheating, computer glitches, human errors, carelessness and logistical lapses. They invented a new form of People Power to reshape the Philippine landscape.
Moratorium on amortizations. This thunderous triumph of People Power so impressed the international community that many ambassadors, led by those of the United States (Harry K. Thomas Jr.), China (Liu Jianchao), Japan (Makoto Katsura) and the European Union (Alistair MacDonald), laid aside legalities and diplomatese to congratulate our new leader even before the formal process of ballot canvassing had begun.
Time Magazine has been sufficiently swayed as to feature Noynoy twice in the span of less than a month, first on its cover on April 26 and second in its May 24 issue. Time led the world’s media (from Thailand to Britain to Chile) in focusing on the Philippines, not as much as it did in 1986 celebrating the first miracle of People Power but enough to make our country become the darling of the world again.
This is a shining moment we cannot let pass. Let us strategically use it in the war against corruption and poverty. This burst of international goodwill can generate new investments, funding grants (like from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation) and favorable trade agreements.
With innovation and imagination, our new president can negotiate for sovereign debt waivers, whether of the principal or interest or both. At the very least, a moratorium of say three years in the amortizations of our international debt should not be too difficult to obtain. This will give Noynoy the capacity to meet immediate, impatient expectations and the gestation time for his longer-term solutions. Instead of amortizing debt, our meager funds could be diverted to pump-priming and job creation.
Passion to liberate. As I wrote last Sunday, it takes courage, innovation and passion to satisfy the people’s hunger for justice and for food. And now, it may be asked: What propelled Noynoy’s cry of “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”? What gave our new leader the passion to liberate his people from corruption and poverty? The answer may be found in a letter sent to him by his father, Ninoy, a copy of which was given me by retired Justice Flerida Ruth P. Romero.
Dated Aug. 25, 1973, the letter was written while Ninoy was still in prison during the martial law regime. It advised the young Noynoy about his decision, “after lengthy conference with my lawyers, Senators Jovito R. Salonga and Lorenzo M. Tañada … not to participate in the proceedings of the Military Commission assigned to try the charges filed against me … Inasmuch as [the trial] will be a completely one-sided affair … I expect to be sentenced to imprisonment the rest of my natural life, or possibly be sent to stand before a firing squad. By adopting the course of action I decided upon this afternoon, I have literally decided to walk into the very jaws of death.”
Continuing, Ninoy told his teen-aged heir the reason for his sacrifice, “You may ask: why did you do it? Son, my decision is an act of conscience. It is an act of protest against the structures of injustice that have been imposed upon our hapless countrymen. Futile and puny, as it will surely appear to many, it is my last act of defiance against tyranny and dictatorship.”
Regretting his inability to secure his son’s and four daughters’ financial future, Ninoy wrote, “The only valuable asset I can bequeath to you now is the name I carry. I have tried my best during my years of public service to keep that name untarnished and respected, unmarked by sorry compromises for expediency. I now pass it on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather, passed it on to me.”
Then, Ninoy apologized for “passing unto your young shoulders the great responsibility for our family. I trust you will love your mother and your sisters and lavish them with the care and protection I would have given them. I was barely fifteen years old when my father died. His death was my most traumatic experience. I loved and hero-worshipped him so much; I wanted to join him in his grave when he passed away…
“Finally, stand by your mother as she stood beside me through the buffeting winds of crisis and uncertainties, firm and resolute and uncowed. I pray to God, you inherit her indomitable spirit and her rare brand of silent courage.”
The legacy lives on. Then came Ninoy’s parting words asking Noynoy to bear his legacy of heroic service, “The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience. There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength. Son, the ball is now in your hands.”
Like his mother, Noynoy had no plans of seeking the presidency. Not at this time, anyway. He was content to support the ambition of his friend, Mar Roxas. But destiny beckoned. The death of his mother on Aug. 1, 2009 altered history and catapulted him.
Time Magazine ascribed his ascension to “dynasty.” With due respect, I think it was destiny and legacy, not dynasty, that propelled Noynoy to the top and kindled his passion to liberate his people from corruption and poverty.
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