In the spirit of Holy Week, I will turn my attention this week to the subject of how the nation and our government can surmount the tragic events in Mamasapano.
I think what we face here is a national malaise, a popular feeling of uneasiness that something is not right with our country, spiritually and politically, and that the government does not have a clue on how to change the situation for the better.
It’s not a simple matter of telling everyone to move on as House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon have sung in duet.
Nor is it a matter of granting President Aquino’s wish to be understood and excused for his inept handling of the Mamasapano incident. He wants remission of his sins without confessing them.
Neither track makes much sense, if the object is to lift the malaise troubling the nation.
The fact is many of us worry that this rush to move on and excuse the President disrespects the memory of the slain SAF commandos, by making light of their sacrifice and their murder, and by glossing over the demand of their families and the people for the rendering of full justice to the dead.
Not knowing how to speak to us
We are in this rut because we have a President who absolutely does not know how to speak to us and what to say. Speaking in impenetrable Filipino and disdaining English (a tactic which hopefully might end with the removal from Palace briefings of Sonny Coloma) is his way of communicating his incoherent and conflicted thoughts.
Were he a better president, Aquino could vault us over our malaise, with one speech spoken from the heart and one single act of moral courage.
He could by this act signal to us the spiritual rebirth of his Presidency and a new beginning for the nation from this Easter Sunday Feast of the Resurrection onwards.
Peggy Noonan, who wrote some of Ronald Reagan’s greatest speeches, has explained what a good speech can do:
“A speech is a soliloquy, one man on a bare stage with a big spotlight. He will tell us who he is and what he wants and how he will get it…
“We lean forward, hungry to hear. Now it will be said. Now we will hear the thing we long for. A speech is part theater and part political declaration; it is personal communication between a leader and his people…
“Speeches are important because they are one of the great constants of our political history. They have been not only the way we measure public men, they have been how we tell each other who we are…They count. They more than count, they shape what happens.”
Aquino’s final speech on Mamasapano did not do the job. Instead, he has threatened us that if the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not passed, the nation should be prepared for more body bags.
An act of moral courage
Since January 25, many of us have said that President Aquino should strive to regain the trust of the victims’ families and the people by doing the right thing to comfort the grieving and lift the agony of the nation.
Regaining that trust will require an act of moral courage. To break with the past often involves admitting the errors of the past. It takes courage to face facts that have long been covered up, to voice truths that have been unspoken, or to apologize for past wrongs.
Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences.
Courage is required to take action when one has doubts or fears about the consequences. Moral courage therefore involves deliberation or careful thought. Reflex action or dogmatic fanaticism does not involve moral courage because such acts done on impulse are not based upon moral reasoning.
Moral courage may also require physical courage when the consequences are punishments or other bodily perils.
Moral courage has been seen as the exemplary modernist form of courage.
So far, President Aquino has been totally lacking of such courage. He is scared by the very idea of apologizing, and even more so by the thought of telling all about his responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy. Hence, he cannot start the serious process of turning the situation around.
Two months after the massacre, it’s as if we are caught in a time warp. Aquino cannot acknowledge his manifest failures of policy and leadership in this tragic affair.
A metaphor for rebirth and regeneration
I began this column thinking that I could draw from the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, a metaphor for the spiritual rebirth of the Aquino presidency, and the rejuvenation of the Filipino nation.
This Holy Week, BS Aquino, if he wills it, could seed the regeneration of his administration. By changing some of his policies, by launching new initiatives, and by making some changes in the Cabinet, he could signal that he seeks to be born again, and to bring the nation along with him.
For such change, Aquino must be serious. Otherwise, the rebirth will be stillborn.