When I was growing up on the faraway Pacific island of Catanduanes, I used to spend moonlit evenings at the town plaza listening to campaign speeches. There was nothing else to listen to or watch, and the “orators,” as they were called, were uniformly good. From them, I first heard quotes from Alexander the Great, Caesar, Cicero and Demosthenes. One of them particularly stood out. He seemed quite ordinary, but his entire personality changed the minute he spoke. And he told the most astonishing stories. The crowd loved him and he always got their votes. But one day one brash young man stood up to say this political Chrysostom had never kept a single promise he had made.
That arrow went home, and the poor fellow threatened to disintegrate. He must have felt like the Emperor whom the little boy with the big mouth said was naked as a fish after everyone else had fawned over his imaginary robe of gold. But before he went down, he said: “You accuse me of telling lies just because I tell you stories. At least, you have not accused me of telling the truth. I thank you for that. But the trouble here, my dear people, is that you think you have to believe everything I say when not even I believe it myself.”
This is probably what President B. S. Aquino 3rd should have told us, his critics, after his sixth and final State of the Nation Address. Far too many have accused him of hosting a banquet of lies. What else did we expect? A government nourished on lies will only produce a bumper crop of lies. As Chesterton said, a donkey will always be successful in being a donkey. We always get the government and “leaders” we deserve.
Indeed, it’s all our fault. PNoy never claimed to be anything other than what he is, but many tried to turn him into something he wasn’t. And no one, not even his political adversaries, ever exercised what in business is called “due diligence.” Nobody found it necessary to trace PNoy’s pedigree back to his paternal grandfather at least, just to find out how the new generation felt about electing the untested grandson of a man who collaborated with the Japanese during the war, but escaped being prosecuted for treason only by dying while watching a boxing match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. And nobody insisted on requiring all presidential candidates to submit to a psychological and psychiatric examination, just to find out if PNoy’s alleged psychiatric record, coming from two Jesuit psychiatrists, had any element of truth in it.
Many, if not most of us, were content to listen to the nonsense coming from otherwise sensible and intelligent people when PNoy first announced his presidential bid. He had done nothing at all to merit even his previous lower posts, but there he was, being packaged for the highest and most important post, just because his mother died. His most enthusiastic promoters gushed like the untamed cataracts at the Niagara Falls. As the only son of the late Ninoy and Cory Aquino, they said, he would not do anything to tarnish his “parent’s image and record.”
It was a blind leap of faith, based on purely illusory and wishful premises rather than on any revealed or discernible truth. He had served three consecutive terms in the House and three years in the Senate, and had failed to distinguish himself except as a member of the Committee on Silence. So he had to run on his parents’ record. But what kind of record was that?
It wasn’t much either. His mother’s presidency was a complete failure. She was the biggest beneficiary of the “restoration” of the Philippines’ free-wheeling democracy after Marcos, but her official propagandists and revisionists of the nation’s history claimed she single-handedly “restored Philippine democracy” even though she hid inside a convent in Cebu while the military and the masses marched on EDSA in Manila to oust Marcos.
As president, she caused unprecedented power blackouts by abolishing the government’s far-seeing energy program (for no other reason than that it reminded the people of Marcos); messed up land reform by exempting Hacienda Luisita, her own family’s sugar plantation, from its coverage, and legalized various forms of gambling opposed by all the churches in the Philippines.
As for his father Ninoy Aquino, his polemical skills passed unequalled among his peers, but as a senator of the realm he is remembered (perhaps unfairly) for only one piece of legislation, the Study Now, Pay Later Law for poor students. It was a good law, but many years later, when Ninoy’s former chief of staff ran for senator himself, he included in his resume a statement saying he was the one who drafted that particular legislation. There was no reason to doubt that claim, but it divested Ninoy of his only known contribution to lawmaking.
But he was tireless as a speaker. One famous Ninoy Aquino speech created the persistent myth about the so-called Jabidah “massacre” of alleged Muslim recruits on Corregidor island. Unlike the Jan. 25, 2015 massacre in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 Special Action Force police commandos perished in the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters after they were denied reinforcement, no riddled bodies of alleged massacre victims were found on Corregidor. And no widows or orphans ever surfaced to demand justice for their loved ones. In fact, Ninoy questioned the veracity of the alleged massacre, saying he had seen and talked to the alleged victims in Jolo himself.
But Ninoy exposed Marcos’ secret plan to send Filipino operatives to Sabah, which has become part of the Philippines’ national territory (although controlled by Malaysia), by virtue of the transfer of sovereign rights from its original owner, the Sultan of Sulu, to the Republic of the Philippines. This single episode made Aquino an “enemy of the state,” as far as the Marcos regime was concerned. Aquino was assassinated in 1983, and that remains a deep mystery; but the greater mystery is why Cory Aquino and her son PNoy never bothered to have it thoroughly investigated to this very day.
In the last five years, PNoy has subsisted on pure drivel, bluff and braggadocio. Called to sum up his “achievements” during his final SONA, he was forced to invent and manufacture what did not exist, and to portray illusion as reality. But not all is lost. Between now and the May 2016 elections, he could still achieve something meaningful for himself and for the country, if he puts his mind to it and rejects all temptations to rig the elections to ensure his party’s and his candidates’ “victory.”
As titular head of the Liberal Party, he is expected to endorse or proclaim DILG Secretary Mar Roxas as the LP standard-bearer. Let that be his last partisan act in the run-up to, and during the entire 2016 election. Let him henceforth devote all his time, talent, energy and resources to ensuring a truly clean, honest and credible election, and let the entire nation and the world marvel at that.
If Mar Roxas wins in such an election, it would be a double win for him as President. If Mar Roxas loses, it would still be a victory for him as the author of a genuinely clean, honest and credible election. He hasn’t got anything he has not received, and he owes it to his God and to his people. Let him now try to modify the paradigm a little bit, by making the present and the next generations owe him a real chance to have a true democracy by means of a clean, honest and credible election.
In brushing aside Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares’s indecent attempts to insinuate herself into the presidential contest, for which she is constitutionally disqualified, and in choosing to honor a party commitment to Roxas, despite his reputedly poor survey ratings, PNoy has taken a mature political decision, which has been long in coming. These are actually two decisions in one. The first involves the primacy and inviolability of the Constitution; the second involves the integrity of the political choosing process.
Until now, Sen. Llamanzares and her supporters have completely ignored Section 2, Article IV of the 1987 Constitution, which provides, “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.” This is probably because she has managed to remain in the Senate despite her similar constitutional disqualification to run and be “elected” as senator.
I have, on my own, more than sufficiently demonstrated in this space that Llamanzares is not a natural-born Filipino citizen by any stretch of the imagination, nor a Philippine resident for the last ten years immediately preceding the election.
Therefore she is not qualified to even daydream of running for president or vice-president. But instead of saying my objection is pure nonsense, her promoters talk of Llamanzares as a possible presidential candidate, as though the Constitution did not exist, just because some skewed surveys have put her above others in some simulated popularity ratings.
In refusing to be deceived by her posturings, PNoy did not have to tell Llamanzares and her promoters to read the 1935 and the 1987 Constitutions. But it would be a signal service to the nation, if he would tell them now. The 1935 Constitution was the one in force and in effect when Llamanzares was born in 1968 and found by a church worker in Jaro, Iloilo as a foundling. The 1987 Constitution governs the present conduct of our senatorial and presidential elections.
The other issue has to do with popularity ratings. In choosing Roxas to be the LP standard-bearer despite his poor numbers, PNoy correctly decided that the party, not the propaganda fraudsters, should choose the standard-bearer. Political parties must field candidates who deserve to be elected, not just those who could win. Thereafter, the parties have to exert every effort to make their candidates win. This is how it works in mature political systems. I am not at all arguing for Roxas, but if the choice of Roxas as LP standard bearer means throwing out the propaganda fraudsters, then it means there’s still hope for the future.