By Lt. Gen. Antonio E. Sotelo, AFP (ret.)
I read the article written by Jose T. Almonte (Inquirer, July 20, 2012, page 1, No One Can Stop China …) at least thrice so I could digest what he wrote. He said it in so many words but I think his theme was a plea for greatness. He cites the looming danger (10 years is the window) which will require greatness on the part of our leaders to rally the Filipino people if we were to spare ourselves to becoming a vassal of the Chinese juggernaut.
Towards greatness, his first advice is for us to internalize the core values that our heroes and martyrs fought for. I would like to express this as love of country. With love of country as the foundation of our acts, we can never go wrong. I liken this to our experience in EDSA 1. So many players were involved, acting on their own without someone wielding a baton but were able to put together the jigsaw puzzle known as the miracle of EDSA. I would think that the people acted the way they did because of love of country. No one was asking “what is it in for me”. When Bonofacio raised his bolo and said “follow me” at the Cry of Balintawak, I have no doubt at all that his men followed him not for the promise of silver but of pure love of country. With love of country, we become selfless.
EDSA I was 26 years ago. What can we show for it? Our leaders are just as stinky and malodorous as the ones we had before. What had our leaders done to make us love our country more? What had they done to make us proud of our country? What had they done to develop in us a sense of nationhood? In a simple activity as athletic competition, a nation of 92 million is bested by a nation 1/20 the size. How do we expect to ward off an adversary of 1.2 billion people with a much bigger war chest than ours?
I think it is time to take our leaders to task, after all we are their bosses. They have done nothing except to put our nation into disrepute and poverty. Have you witnessed the last SONA? Look at the clothes our politicians wore. Beautiful, but that is our expense. Would it not have been better if the money spent was used to pave a few more of our rutted roads? This is the example that our leaders show us amidst all the poverty around. No wonder the people rioted.
The next election is still more than a year away but the politicians are already grooming their kin as candidates to perpetuate their power to protect their vested interest. Almonte’s advice is to return the reins of government to the citizens so that the people will feel that they have a stake in their government.
If you ask the people what they think of us becoming a vassal of China like Tibet, I doubt if it matters much to them. They are so poor that their main concern is survival. To a person in this situation, it does not really matter who sits in Malacanan. What matters to him most is food on the table, education of his children and their health. In all these our leaders’ grade is marginal.
I just came from a short trip to South Korea. We motored from the capital to one of the southern most islands. To be sure, one can’t see in a 4-day visit the warts and blemishes of a country but I did not see any trace of the country being in the 3rd world. Its per capita GDP in 1960 was $79, repeat $79. Today, it is more than $23,000. It is a vibrant society that produces many of the things you see every where and those that I talked with knew that in 1960, we were just below Japan in per capita GDP. I did not even look at our own GDP because I could see and feel it. And it is ugly.
On my way home from the airport upon my return, once again I saw the usual sight of poverty. I shed a tear. From here, one could see the extent of damage our leaders did to us through the years. They made us poor and brought shame to our country for being so corrupt and inept but they all prospered. They should be ashamed of themselves. I am angry because I and countless others put on the line our lives and fortunes many times over for our country and this is what we get.
As the 10 year window ticks away, I hope our leaders can summon the courage to show their love of country and lead us to greatness. My ears are tuned to the ground to hear any reaction from Almonte’s article but the silence is deafening. The Chinese are already in our backyard but to our politicians it is business as usual. Nothing is ever urgent save the release of their pork barrel. If this is not a serious matter, indeed, it is more fun in the Philippines.
EDSA I is the greatest achievement of the Filipino people since independence but we frittered away its legacy through the years. True, we celebrate its anniversary. Such occasions could have been time spent to imbue to all the young in all schools the values of nationhood and love of country. Instead, we turned the celebration into a vaudeville show rather than a solemn opportunity to instill greatness to our young, teach them the core values that our heroes and martyrs died for and teach them when to live and die for their country as our great hero Jose Rizal did.