Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The waiting game begins

This was my column last Monday.

The professional organization I belong to was in a tight spot last week. Like many other professional organizations, it has become customary for our group to invite the President of the Republic to preside over the inauguration of its new set of officers. The invitation was sent out to the Palace last year and promptly forgotten.

Well, as things would have it, the Palace did accept the invitation this time around. Let’s leave the discussion as to the motivations behind the sudden graciousness of the Palace (and why the induction had to be done last Friday) to conjecture.

But instead of the President attending the regular meeting at the hotel where the inauguration rites were to be held, the Palace allotted time for the President to induct the new set of officers at MalacaƱang last Friday. Obviously, there was a lot of discussion around the wisdom of going to the Palace or having the President officiate the inaugural rites at this time, given the pervading political situation. In the end, it was decided that the matter as to who would or wouldn’t go would be left to the individual discretion of each officer. Some went; I did not.

But the decision and the discussion that ensued were very telling of what I think was the current pulse among members of the business community. The fact that there was a discussion at all and that there were reservations that were brought out in the open were indicative of the level of concern people have about the current situation.

Let’s make no mistake about this: We’re all deeply bothered and affected by what is happening in our country. Not all of us went to Ayala Avenue last Friday, and we all have our reasons for not doing so, but we were all there in spirit. The e-mail groups that I subscribe to were brimming with inquiries about what was going on at Ayala on that day. The fact that students, who up until last week were still largely uninvolved in the issues, are now finding their own voice and speaking out loud is also indicative of the level of alarm.

A number of my students were at the inter-faith rally, too. These were students who, until recently, had to be cajoled into speaking up about political issues in the country. This is important to point out because there are some quarters who insist that students are only getting involved because of the prodding of their school officials and teachers.

Over at Miriam College where I did a lecture on human resource development last Saturday, I was taken aback by streamers strategically placed on the steel railings facing the College. The streamers carried the accusatory message “Sa mahal ng matrikula, turo nyo ay pamumulitika.” I guess you and I know who are behind these accusations.

I have news for these people: There is only so much school administrators can do to influence this generation. These are people who value their independence and speak their own minds.
The College where I teach did provide buses for students who wanted to join the rally and arrangements were made to “excuse” students from their classes if they wanted to go to Ayala Avenue. But, and this I know for a fact, no one—absolutely no one—not a single school official, coerced nor encouraged the students to go to the rally. They went because things have reached an alarming point.

We’re alarmed not at the fact that corruption is present in our system— we’ve already been resigned to the reality that corruption is deeply imbedded in our culture. We’re all deeply disturbed at the level at which it is widely prevalent.

We’re bothered not so much by the fact that people in power are involved in anomalous deals because we’ve suspected it for the longest time. We’re deeply mortified at the seeming nonchalant and cavalier way in which this administration responds to the allegations.

We’re astounded not so much by the fact that the people of this administration are covering their tracks and obfuscating the issues because we expect them to do it. We are stupefied by the outrageously illogical tall tales these people are conjuring. Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite’s testimony at the Senate regarding the source of the half a million pesos he gave to Jun Lozada and the motivations behind his sudden generosity were simply incomprehensible. In the words of a friend, nagtatagpi-tagpi na lang ng kwento.

In short, we’re alarmed that this administration is still not showing any political will or sincerity to address the issues.

This has already been said many times by other people in far more eloquent ways, but I will say it just the same: Ordinarily, this should be a good time for the President to flash her legendary temper and to marshal all the resources of the government to get to the bottom of things and fix what needs to be fixed. But I guess these are not ordinary times.

Many are still undecided about whether to join the call for the President’s resignation at this time or not. But very few are of the mind that the President is doing enough, if any at all, to address the issues.

And so, one has to be utterly clueless not to recognize that there are now reservations in people’s minds about being associated with her. My own professional organization has always been apolitical and has always chosen not to get involved in political activities. But what happened last week was indicative of how even non-political organizations are already slowly being drawn into making a stand on the issue. Like many other organizations, we continue to respect Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s position as President. After all, she is still President of the Republic. This attempt to make distinctions between the person and the chair she is sitting in is a delicate matter that tests people’s patience and virtues. But in the end, I think there is some wisdom in being virtuous even if others are not. But until when?

It has become very evident that even among organizations and people who used to defend, vociferously, the status quo now anchor their advocacy merely on questioning the qualifications of the people that compose the succession line, or doubts on whether changing the President would result in any significant changes after all.

I personally think that all these gobbledygook about “searching for the truth” is really just another way of saying “let’s observe the right processes.” It’s simply a courteous way of saying “we’re waiting for you to do the right thing and we are watching you.”

The consensus I am getting in all the discussions I have been part of so far is that the problems are systemic in nature and require a far more comprehensive solution. But it is not disputed anymore that the President is part of the problem. There are those who continue to believe that a far better solution would be to get the President to initiate the changes. I think that is wishful thinking because how exactly do we get the President to do that? That’s like asking her to incriminate herself.

And so we wait. And we wait not only with bated breaths, but with eyes wide open.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I sincerely hope that everything that has been happening politically in the Philippines for the past 20+ years is aiding us in becoming a more mature and politically wise people. It is interesting to note that at the very least, we are no longer easily swayed by yet another call to people power. We seem to be able to see through our politicians and their selfish intentions now. Unfortunately, I think the educated middle class, the people who truly hold people power in their hands in my opinion, is still overshadowed by the millions of uneducated pinoy's who vote solely out of popularity, and these masses holds the power of the vote purely because of their number. So what do we do? I believe education, political education to be precise is very important. Having travelled from Communist China and Cuba to London, the US and now in Canada. It is very plain to see that the Philippines has an innefective, relatively antequated system. The problem is as a people, we are very closed to change and we end up in a cycle of hoping, electing, then complaining. I hope, for all our sake that we open debates soon on refining our systems and just maybe open up the possiblility of real change for the better.

Anonymous said...

The College where I teach did provide buses for students who wanted to join the rally and arrangements were made to “excuse” students from their classes if they wanted to go to Ayala Avenue. But, and this I know for a fact, no one—absolutely no one—not a single school official, coerced nor encouraged the students to go to the rally. They went because things have reached an alarming point.

-im sure those who went to ayala did so ONLY BECAUSE it was an "excuse" to skip classes.
~aldy

Anonymous said...

I want to be clear of one thing first- I never voted for GMA, not as vice-pres., not as president, but when she got elected, questionably or not (how would I know when until now it is basically unproven), I had to just let her govern my country for me. If she needs to be replaced, only after it's proven that she violated our laws, then she has to be replaced by the right person, the vice-pres., qualified or not. We get what we deserve, voting for the wrong people election after election. This is basically my take on all what is happening now. Iam not a blind "tolerator" of corrupt people, for me you have to prove first that the person is corrupt, otherwise we can all just accuse anybody of anything. Filipinos have this frustrating maddening ugali of beleiving anything and everything shoved in their faces especially when the one who shoves is very good at theatrics. Yun bang walang sariling bait, sabi ng matatanda. Yes, I wait but not with bated breath because at the rate things are going, I'm going to turn blue very soon. I wait with a growing displeasure at the whole sorry spectacle. For one, what the hell is Lozada doing now going the rounds of campuses? What does he want? Is not being in my face everytime I turn on the local news not enough for him? His mastery of self deprecating humor seems to have convinced him that his sins of "small league" corruption has been washed and so rightly forgotten. Not by me. Why do I care? Because this week he is going to UP Los Banos, my homebase, and my freshman daughter is saying she'd go join the melee and, by what she's telling me, for the wrong reasons. So what he does now, for one inciting the youth and disturbing classes,and what he is with his half-truths and glib tongue, is directly in conflict to what I teach my own child.
Second, on corruption. Why are we so surprised that this disease is festering now when we at one time or another have tolerated and contributed to it: lagay sa traffic police, daya sa pagkuha ng driver's license etc, etc. Small or big it doesn't matter, we all contributed to how blown up the problems are now. So what are we to do? Maybe for starters let us all grow up and behave like the civilized, intelligent, educated, patriotic people that we all claim to be. We can also take a hard look at what our Senate has become and decide when this stupid, horrid, shameful exercise of endless investigations have to stop. Nothing ever gets out of these things except to feed these peoples' desire for a photo-op and name recall for the next election.
--MommyJo