Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wishful thinking

This is my column today, July 15, 2014.

The President of the Republic was scheduled to address the nation on the Disbursement Acceleration Program a few hours after this column was due.  As I don’t claim to have powers of precognition I couldn’t  make presumptions about what else the President was going to say that has not be said before. 
But like many others, I wish the President would finally choose to see things from a broader and more inclusive perspective.  I wish the President would use the occasion to show statesmanship and project the overall impression that contrary to what many people think, he is not petty, vindictive, and more importantly, his loyalty is to the country, the Constitution, and the people, and not to his friends and allies.
So I wish the President—and his cabinet—would stop simplifying the DAP into a one-size fits-all issue;  it is unfair for anyone to equate criticism of the DAP as a blanket condemnation of his administration.   Anyone who is genuinely concerned over the future of this country should find some encouragement and inspiration from the way people are reacting to the DAP issue—people are being vigilant about corruption and the disbursements of public funds.  I think there is something there that a leader can find encouragement from, if only   he or she puts ego and personal feelings of hurt aside.  Simply put, instead of whining about how unfair many people are, I wish the President would just rise above the issue and learn to make sacrifices.  I look forward to him telling the people “I am ready to make personal sacrifices for the sake of advancing the cause of transparency and governance.”
To be clear, no one has directly accused the President of pocketing public money.  It is clear that everyone in this country thinks and believes the President is clean insofar as graft and corruption is concerned.  No one has openly accused any member of his Cabinet of directly benefiting from government deals or transactions either, although it is a matter of public record that the names of certain Cabinet members have been mentioned in connection with the pork barrel scandal.  So we do not get why the President and some members of his Cabinet are sulking in public and acting like scorned lovers.  I guess some people have not read the memo about how the honeymoon period between this administration and the people has actually expired a long time ago, or for that matter, that bit about how sustaining the popularity of Presidents in this country is actually an exercise in futility given the conflicting and often irreconcilable expectations of various stakeholders and constituencies.  So I wish the President would just be grateful for the continuing trust and promise not to fail the people in this aspect.
Nor is the issue about good intentions or good faith.  Of course we all agree wholeheartedly that every single public official who has won an election was sincere and had all the right intentions when he or she put his or her hand on top of a Bible and took that sacred oath of office to perform the tasks of his position and serve God, country, and people.  There is no shortage of good intentions in this country, that I can honestly say with a straight face.  Unfortunately, that oath of office, which the President and his Cabinet members recited with solemnity, also contained that sacred line that said they would “preserve and defend” the Constitution and execute its laws, etc, etc.  The Supreme Court which is the final interpreter of laws in this country ruled unanimously that the DAP, regardless of its intent, was unconstitutional.  The President must abide with the ruling and must uphold the oath of office which he took at the Rizal Park four years ago.  So yes, we want the President to recall that oath of office and commit to stand by that oath.
And finally, I hope the President and his Cabinet realize that the people who are up in arms over the DAP issue do not necessarily want him or his government to fail.  On the contrary, many of us want him to deal with the DAP issue decisively and in ways that communicate zero tolerance for corruption precisely so this government can deal with the other important and pressing issues such as the hundreds of government projects that need to be completed on time.

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