THIS seems to have become necessary following the failure of the CPP/NPA/NDF to respond to the unilateral ceasefire he had declared in his State of the Nation Address on July 25. Many had praised his courage for that declaration, but his decision to lift the ceasefire following the NPA ambush in Davao del Norte, in which one government militiaman was killed and four others were wounded, and the communists’ failure to respond to his ultimatum, has won him even more praise.
What happens now to the peace talks with the communists is not clear. Even less clear is what happens to PDU30’s apparent decision to form a coalition government with the Left. At least three seasoned Leftist ideologues are now in the Cabinet, and they happen to be among the more competent ones who seem to have the ear of the President. What happens to them now?
What happened to the ceasefire has implications far beyond the peace talks or the proposed coalition government. It has understandably shaken DU30’s trust and confidence in the communists as a designated partner for peace. Beyond this, it has shown that not everything he says should be treated as the final word on the subject, without need of a “second pass” from others. He has not become infallible, and could miscalculate and make mistakes as, in fact, he has in this case.
Because his popularity is reportedly as high as Mt. Everest, some people think that you’ve got to be insane to disagree openly with him on anything he does or says. This, I believe, is utter nonsense; it is a disservice to the nation and to the President himself. His critics and above all his supporters have a duty to subject his statements, especially the most important ones, to critical analysis. And they should speak out. That’s the only way mistakes like the unilateral ceasefire could be avoided.
Many good things, and some not so
At his SONA, PDU30 promised many good things. From 4:08 p.m. to 5:40 p.m. of July 28, his audience applauded his 92-minute State of the Nation Address at least 84 times and laughed at his casual jokes 26 times. It was a great feast, great soup, everyone was pleased with their host. But he promised some not very good things, too. The unilateral ceasefire was one, there were a few others, which we shall discuss here and in the next column or so. Yet no one had the courage to say, “Sir, there’s a fly or human hair in your soup.”
It remains the citizen’s duty, particularly if he supports this presidency, to help it keep focused on what is right and just and good. DU30 himself is not intolerant of criticism; he enjoys a bruising debate, as we saw during the campaign. But his most zealous social media supporters and trolls sometimes tend to act as a lynch mob against any perceived source of criticism or dissent. PDU30 needs honest criticism and healthy dissent more than he needs the comfort zone of those who will insulate him from such criticism and dissent.
One academic has suggested a “unity government,” one without an opposition, not even the quasi-opposition in the House of Representatives, which does not have the courage to call itself by its proper name, but is pleased to be known only as the “minority,” confected with the “super majority” ’s benediction. It sounds like a spinoff from Jacob Leib Talmon’s “totalitarian democracy,” in which the citizens retain the right to vote but not the right to participate in decision-making.
This seems to fit DU30’s temperament and governing style, and I do not see him rejecting it, if offered to him on a silver platter. He is a man of action, after all, and as Charles de Gaulle puts it, while deliberation is the work of many, action is the work of one man alone. But despite all this, and his stated preference for a revolutionary government, he has not moved formally in that direction.
He did not bribe senators and congressmen to put Congress inside his pocket, as B.S. Aquino 3rd did at the beginning of his term; the senators and congressmen just prostrated themselves at his feet, without any intimidation or inducement. Like vermin from the Titanic, they all jumped from the ruling Liberal Party into PDP-Laban, DU30’s adopted party, overcrowding its three old occupants.
Neither has he tried to silence his critics. He obviously believes with John Stuart Mill that, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
An ocean of overpraise
However, his most strident pre-election critics have since reinvented themselves; their mellifluous and mellisonant praise has since replaced their rage and invective. With his rabid supporters ready to pounce on any source of criticism of their demigod, he could drown in a turbulent ocean of overpraise.
In the last elections, PDU30 got 38 percent of all the votes for president. All his rivals quickly conceded their defeat. Now, one propaganda fraudster would like us to believe that PDU30 has gained a “trust rating” (whatever that means) of 91 percent—i.e., 91 percent of 100 million Filipinos. And politicians have started parroting that claim mechanically, as though it were a divinely revealed truth.
This makes it more difficult for any critic to say anything different than what the President is saying on any subject.
The ceasefire incident allows us to see that the President needs others to take a second look at the things he does and says. He needs them to help him see if, and where, he has erred, and not to protect him from seeing his mistakes. Where no responsible opposition or legitimate critics exist, his own supporters and friends must have the clarity of mind, conviction, charity and courage to point out his mistakes.
Learning from Paul
This is what we learn from Galatians, Chapter 2, where for the sake of Christian unity and fidelity to Christ, St. Paul corrects his friend and superior St. Peter, the first pope, on a matter concerning the Faith.
“I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised (the Gentiles), just as Peter had been to the circumcised (the Jews),” writes Paul. But “when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face. For he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when certain men (Jews) from James (in Jerusalem) arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”
Paul then says to Peter: “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
This incident does not threaten to split the Church between Peter and Paul; to the contrary, it unites the Church more strongly in Christ. Paul’s reproach, uttered without any human respect but solely in the service of the Church and in complete submission to Christ, has evoked so much praise from the Fathers of the Church. And Peter’s reverential silence, in humble acceptance of Paul’s fraternal correction, has gained even greater praise.
Says St. Gregory the Great, “Peter kept silence that the first in dignity might be the first in humility.” Says St. Augustine, “St. Peter himself gave the example to those who govern so that if sometimes they stray from the right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from their subjects.”
In imitation of Paul, and with the hope that the President has the humility of Peter, we must now take a second look at certain issues raised at the SONA, to make sure error is avoided.
On the separation of Church and State
PDU30 said, “While I am a stickler for the principle of separation of Church and State, I believe quite strongly that there should never be a separation between God and State.”
The separation of Church and State and the unity of God and State are not two contradictory ideas. But even when Scripture says, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” it does not put Caesar on the same level as God. Everything that Caesar has and is, beginning with Caesar himself, belongs to God.
Now, some politician will say, “We should not allow poor families to have more than two children each.” And when the Church objects, the politician will say, the Church is violating the separation of Church and State. Quite the contrary. Indeed, the separation is being violated, but the guilty party is the State, which has no business telling families how to procreate.
The President’s statement on reproductive health is an unfortunate mistake. He says, “The implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law must be put into full force and effect so that couples, especially the poor, will have freedom of informed choice on the number and spacing of children they can adequately care and provide for, eventually making them more productive members of the labor force.”
Population control is anathema
This law seeks to implement population control, which violates both the moral law and the Constitution. The offense is aggravated by the Supreme Court’s ill-informed ruling, which says the law is “not unconstitutional.” Not only is population control morally and constitutionally wrong; it is also economically wrong. No more convincing proof is needed than the demographic winter that has swept the First World, from Singapore to Japan to South Korea to Russia and almost all of Europe, and the phenomenal economic prosperity on the other hand which China and India owe to their vigorous and dynamic populations.
PDU30 needs new ideas to spur the nation’s economic growth, but population control is not one of them. He should fire all his newly hired econoquacks, whose only contribution to his promised change are copied false prescriptions that have long failed everywhere else. If they really believe in population control, they should be prepared to lead by example. They should exit the planet by jumping from the top of any tall building, and thereby reduce the size of the population.
The rush to federalism
We also need to help the President avoid the errors related to federalism. Before the PDP-Laban started to get going, I was already talking to the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in Europe about federalism. In 1982 I wrote the Social Democratic Party platform that included federalism. But I have been stumped by one elementary objection from non-believers.
An elementary objection
All federal unions began as autonomous or independent states, regions or provinces that coalesced into one great union. Federalism became their unifying principle. Now how many of the 11 federal unions began as a unitary state like the Philippines, and subdivided themselves into autonomous or independent states or regions to become federal unions? None. Federalism in this instance could trigger balkanization of a previously united whole.
We shall continue this discussion in my next column. But we must help the President avoid becoming the lead actor in a play where he has no role at all. He has already said much, but what the Constitution says is much more important; and there is only side to what the Constitution is saying. Namely, that constitutional change is solely the business of Congress and the Filipino people; the President has no official role in it whatsoever.
It is not too early nor too late to rescue the President from that error.