PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s convening of the National Security Council on July 27, less than a month in office and with his past four predecessors in attendance, is his best move so far as President, the implications of which would be more than the topic the body discussed.
It presages, I hope, a presidency that values national unity: the spectacle itself of four past Presidents sitting side by side to give their inputs on important issues confronting the country is a powerful symbol that after all the bickering over political differences, we are in the same boat we call the Philippine Republic and that our fates are inextricably woven together.
The National Security Council is also a recognition of the fact that each past President — after all, there’s only a few living — leaves lessons and insights on the presidency during his or her term that the incumbent can profit from. The US, in fact, emphasizes such “learning” through a smooth turnover of presidential regimes, which involves a three-month rigorous process required and supported by several laws, the latest of which is the Presidential Transition Act of 2000.
Here, the latest transition from the BS Aquino to the Duterte administrations, took only a few days, with the key agency for such transition – the Presidential Management Staff – busy in deleting important files from their computers and shredding paper documents. Aquino refused Arroyo’s offer for a transition process in 2010.
Duterte’s move is a big, big leap for us to finally transcend the shackles of history that had tied us down to divide us as a nation, one of the biggest factors for our economic quagmire.
The Yellow Cult starting 1986, obviously following American leaders’ thinking that the strongman Marcos could only be overthrown if he was painted absolutely evil and Cory as absolutely good — their tactic against the Soviet Evil Empire that brought it down — depicted the Martial Law era as the dark ages from which no lessons in governance could be derived.
The cult dug a deep chasm that divided the country: between those who were against Marcos and those who weren’t, between those who believed the Marcos regime did some good and those who insisted it was all bad. Unfortunately, this meant that the huge Ilocos-speaking North, along with the “Imelda” country, the Eastern Visayas region, was alienated from the national conversation.
Fortunately, Fidel V. Ramos was the protégé of the outgoing Cory Aquino regime, so there was continuity of governance, and national unity was strengthened.
What few people realize is that Joseph Estrada’s ascension to power ignited a new division
in the nation. Estrada suspected – I think validly – that the Yellow Cult from his Day 1 was plotting to overthrow him, and to disarm it, he planned to charge Ramos, who he believed was the Cult’s strategist, with alleged corruption in the “Centennial” and PEA-Amari controversies.
The traditional elite was also aghast, not over Estrada’s corruption, but his swift creation of cronies from the Chinese-Filipino sector. Estrada to this day believes that his overthrow was plotted and undertaken by the Yellow Cult led by Ramos.
Estrada’s ouster created a new serious crack in the body politic, the “masa” crowd versus the “elite.” Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had no choice but to grab the reins of power since she was the constitutional successor as vice president, had to continuously fend off, from her Day 1, challenges to her regime, whose base was the masses’ outrage, not only over their idol “Erap’s” ouster, but more importantly, over his incarceration.
Closeness to China
Amazingly, despite his conviction over “plunder” charges, Estrada’s popular support did not decline at all during Arroyo’s regime. It fed the latter’s unpopularity so much so that every allegation against her, even if totally baseless, was taken as true. Americans also started to be concerned over Arroyo’s closeness to China, to the extent that she was set to grant its state firm ZTE the contract to build the Philippines’ broadband infrastructure.
The Makati elite and the Yellow Cult followed the American cue, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN Network sensationalized the allegations of corruption to a shrill pitch.
As was the US and elite strategy in 1985-1986 against Marcos, Arroyo was demonized, and the Yellow Cult tried to relive history: Cory’s son was portrayed as the country’s savior against the “evil” Arroyo.
Despite the fact that she wasn’t overthrown, and the 2010 national elections were undertaken peacefully to put BS Aquino to power, he and the Yellow Cult were caught up in their fictitious narrative to think that they won a revolution – and as in all revolutions, a section of the body politic was to be persecuted, and Arroyo was the “Queen” to be guillotined.
New cracks in the Philippine body politic were created, just as those against Marcos and Estrada were beginning to heal. Aquino used the weapon called the Plunder Law — its being non-bailable — to jail Arroyo and her political allies, such as senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, who, indeed, were defanged and apparently reduced to timid detainees.
Aquino proved to be as incompetent as he was vindictive, refusing to understand that the country needed to be unified. He has done nothing to do so, and has even caused the divisions to widen.
This deranged individual again demonstrated his utter lack of concern for the nation and its unity by his very uncivil snub of Arroyo and his refusal to shake her hand when they met again in Malacañang for the National Security Council meeting the other day. He contrasted himself with real statesmen like Ramos and Estrada, who shook hands, and Arroyo who appeared ready to greet Aquino. He even emphasized, by wearing the Yellow Ribbon on his chest, that the community he values is not the country, but his clan and its Yellow Cult.
“United we stand, divided we fall.” That may be an overused cliché. But check out the histories of at least the Asian nations, even those in Southeast Asia, their nations’ prosperity all required a strong national unity, in a few cases very unfortunately achieved with the blood of hundreds of thousands of people who dissented.
I don’t think, though, that we need to bloody our hands in this day and age. Just forget the quarrelsome Aquino, and don’t even invite him to the next National Security Council meet, nor to any national event.
Or maybe invite him, but only to demand from him payment for the P6 billion the country may have to spend to cover the damages claimed by the Belgian engineering company in the case it brought to the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 2011, when Aquino on his own rescinded the Laguna de Bay flood-control dredging project contract previously awarded to the firm. The ICSID’s decision is due very soon and the foreign contractor is seen likely to win the case.