A wonderful weekend spent in Tagaytay (at the Taal Vista Hotel) has gotten me thinking about the rejuvenating power of vacations. And about the sense of release we feel when freed from chores, cares and aggravations.
It struck me in a flash that one rewarding way of looking at President Aquino’s 12-day trip to Europe and America (which starts this Saturday, September13 and ends on September 24) is to consider it as our people’s vacation from him and his feckless presidency.
The respite could work wonders for national morale.
No vacation from problems and cohorts
But let’s not get delusional like the president often is.
Aquino is not bringing with him, as part of his entourage, the many problems of national life that are the hallmark of his administration – such as Metro Manila’s traffic gridlock, the multiple woes of MRT, rampant criminality and violence, the myriad forms of government corruption, the systemic foul-ups at NAIA, the pervasive dysfunction of government departments and agencies, the abiding official failure in coping with the Haiyan/Yolanda disaster, and the incessant demand for bribes by the do-nothing Congress.
Aquino is not taking along with him cohorts like Mar Roxas, Butch Abad, Dinky Soliman, Emilio Abaya and Jericho Petilla, who, true to their proven unworthiness, will still be doing their level best to leave problems unscathed and unsolved. Only Abad will be efficient in dispensing the national budget to his nefarious schemes; but in his case, efficiency is a capital offense.
At the mention of Abad, one of my sons said that the nation can double the locks and the watch on the national treasury. Professor Leonor Briones and Social Watch Philippines should be given every support by the public.
My wife, who is no-nonsense and precise like the ingredients in a food recipe, says that this vacation from Noynoy should mean no stupid talk, no foolish decisions, no mistakes. She stopped short of saying no lying, probably because she knows the spokesmen will still be around spinning stories for the media.
Aquino can console himself with the thought that he will conversely be taking a two-week vacation from his critics and the press. But then he will be shadowed in New York City and Washington DC by the New York Times and the Washington post. Those guys know the meaning of the words “reform,” “democracy,” “dictatorship,” “judicial independence,” “transparency,” “murder” and “impunity.”
Like the 12 days of Christmas
How can we turn Aquino’s absence into something positive, something more than a black hole in national administration?
The trick is to treat this period as a kind of holiday and an opportunity to do certain things that we’ve always wanted to do for our country and our public life.
This fortnight could bring forth an explosion of possibilities for transforming the next two weeks into a joyous time—like an early 12 days of Christmas.
This fortnight, if we will it, can be a liberating period for our long-suffering and weary nation. It will free everyone who is involved or interested in the practical program of the National Transformation Council, the six-million-signature campaign of the Stop Pork Network, the crowdsourcing initiative of Chit Pedrosa, and the agenda of Tanggulang Demokrasya – to do volunteer work, and come up with useful ideas that will advance the cause.
Defining moment for reform
This is, I would hazard, a defining moment for the variant groups seeking and praying for reforms in politics and governance in our country. It could be an opportunity for them to cohere into a whole and shape a clear agenda and strategy, which all can support and execute.
At this point, I still do not see a clear path forward for the council, beyond the issuance of the Lipa Declaration.
A desire for President Aquino to resign is not a strategy and a program. There is still no word on what work is to be done, and who will do it.
I suggest that if this reform initiative is going to evolve into something that can rally the people to action, critical work of organization and coalition-building need to happen during this fortnight of vacation from Aquino.
This effort should begin now, because before we know it, like all vacations, our respite from Aquino will be over quickly.
Trial run for life without Aquino
Think of this fortnight as a trial run for life without Aquino—whether his absence comes through the end of his term or via resignation.
As most know, Aquino has been known to stage disappearing acts from his official duties at periodic intervals. During the tragic Zamboanga siege, when he went to Zamboanga City, ostensibly to take charge as commander-in-chief, he disappeared, and left Mar Roxas in charge and at the mercy of his own incompetence. At other times, when he disappeared from public view, most people thought that he was just taking a cigarette break. And he could conveniently reappear at will.
This trip to Europe and the US is different, and the public will see through any ruse to spin it into something that it is not.
The very fact that he will be meeting with European and American leaders and United Nations officials and delegates ensures that this visit will have an agenda to fill.
It will be interesting to see whether anyone will miss the President, and if there are, who they are and what for. The networks will stage a bogus show of coverage to lull the people into thinking that the President is on a serious mission.
I am anxious to find out whether the machinery of government will ground down to a halt when the chief executive or the commander-in-chief is not around.
And I want to see whether Congress, both houses, will become a hollowed institution when its real leader is not around to wield the whip.
We the people will know firsthand what our public life is like without Aquino at the helm, calling the shots and the plays.
We will know what structure and system there is in the Aquino presidency, and whether Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa really exists and is not an empty suit.
When Aquino’s trip ends on September 24 and he returns to Manila safely, hopefully we will know then whether there is any disparity between reality and what he says about his travels. He could end speculations that he inhabits a surreal world, or disappear into one.