Sunday, March 01, 2015

Learning from a mistake

My March 1, 2015 column.


There was not much of a people’s celebration last Wednesday when the country commemorated the 29th anniversary of the people power uprising.  People were not in the mood to sing the anthems about freedom and unity and love of country that used to bind us together as a people.  There was no yellow confetti that rained from windows of buildings, no yellow ribbons tied around trees, and hardly anyone among the key figures in the first people power revolt showed up.    
There was instead lots of cursing and gnashing of teeth from ordinary people who were greatly inconvenienced by the monstrous traffic jam created by the celebration.  I don’t think the traffic jam last Wednesday was really the problem; we’ve put up with far worse traffic jams in the past. 
People just didn’t like the idea of expressing solidarity with Benigno S. Aquino III on anything at this point- even on something as momentous and significant as the commemoration of the people power revolution. 
It’s already sad that we seemed to have lost sight of the ideals of EDSA; sadder still is the fact that many seem to think that the  spirit of EDSA can be summoned at any time by just anyone with a cause. Not that we blame them, particularly those keeping a moist eye on the presidency. Of the five presidents that we’ve had after Ferdinand Marcos, four rose to power on the wings of EDSA.  Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos were catapulted to power because of EDSA 1.  Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became President because of EDSA 2.  Benigno Aquino was basically a product of the EDSA spirit.  On the other hand, Marcos and Joseph Estrada fell from power through EDSA.
But perhaps herein lies our problem.  We seemed to have conditioned ourselves into thinking that the presidency of this country is truly a matter of destiny; that they rise to power through the confluence of a number of factors all coming together at the perfect time for the perfect person.  
Perhaps it is time for all of us to really come to terms with the fact that the presidency is a job that requires more than just luck.  Being president requires a certain set of competencies; that the problems that face us as a nation are quite complex requiring more than just integrity and credibility. 
I know we’re not in the mood for reminiscing now, but perhaps it is worth noting that there was a time, not so long ago it seems, when most people in this country truly believed that Aquino was th  e perfect person
for the presidency because of what he stood for.  The lesson has been hammered down once again, and hopefully, more effectively this time around - good intentions are truly not good enough.  There is more to leadership than just the desire to do good; that a country cannot rise to greater heights on the wings of anti-corruption efforts, no matter how successful they may seem.
Aquino’s many failures as a leader deserve condemnation.  But we must share responsibility for his presidency as well.  He was freely elected by millions of Filipinos.  So the more important question we must ask at this point is this: How do we make sure that we do not repeat this mistake in 2016?

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