Friday, September 23, 2005
Whether we like it or not, our generation lives under the shadows of Ferdinand Marcos and his Martial Law. As a people we pledged to "never again" allow for a return of the likes of him in the political landscape or, failing in that, to remove him/her in office before he/she gets a chance bring us back in that dark era. Our actions today are judged to the degree that we conform or digress against this pledge and so the question must be asked, are we withdrawing from that pledge?

More than the crisis in national leadership the graver crisis we may be facing today is the crisis in the perceived utility of People Power as a force for good.

It bears to note that the biggest lesson of People Power is the sheer indispensability of a leader, good or bad. Jose Rizal proved himself indispensable in the fight for Filipino liberty against Spanish tyranny. Benigno Aquino likewise proved himself indispensable in the fight for national liberty against the Marcos dictatorship. Heroes willingly die in the conviction that someone, anyone, can take their place and advance their human cause. Instead of perpetuating themselves in power their strategy is to perpetuate their vision in the people's hearts and minds, where it is untouched by any tyrant who may come after them and destroy everything they lived and died for.

The belief, therefore, that someone in high office is just way too qualified that he/she cannot be dispensed with is patently tyrannical and is definitely out of bounds with what is regarded as good in the context of Filipino political experience.

In a sense People Power was our collective acknowledgement of our heroes' belief in us as citizens. We know this so well after EDSA-1. So, where, we may ask, did People Power go wrong?
Maybe, just maybe, what's "wrong" is the basic assumption of People Power being the politics of last resort. In a sense it is. But it was also supposed to be everyday citizenship of the first order so the more proper question should be "where did we, as a people, go wrong?"

Just like that, "maximum tolerance" is dead. In this time of Bush-like "calibrated preemptive response" we are given the signal that the tempo for change has just been increased. They've eliminated tolerance out of the equation in the hope of also getting People Power out of the way for charter change but let's see what really gets eliminated.

Did People Power indeed fail us or are we just in that phase in history when our understanding of People Power is beginning to fully mature? Are we living like romantics, or worse, reactionaries in a post-Marcos era or are we instead living progressively, albeit in a struggle, in a "People Power Era"?

As a martial-law baby my hope is that someday People Power will no longer be asserted in the streets but from within the confines of government when scoundrels will be the ones out in the streets gnashing their teeth. I believe it will happen definitely, except that it will not be in this world.

Friday, September 16, 2005
I am no fan of the vice president except when he was still in the news anchoring business. In my opinion, he was the best Pinoy TV news anchor of his time, if not for all time. He could cry or laugh or mumble or get lost in the middle of a spiel without ever losing face. His was a perfect sense of live broadcast timing that if ever there would be someone to be crowned as king of the "pregnant pause" that would be him! Too bad he opted out of his turf that now he must decide to use or not to use this gift of timing in a rather more dangerous way.

Leadership is not something that can be won in elections, with or without cheating. It is a moral position assumed exclusively by the leader, whether in or out of the formal power structure but always out of courage. Ninoy was more the leader of his generation than Marcos although he was in jail. There were US Presidents who, for some time, acted more like clowns trying to entertain their way to good public approval. After a defining moment in their presidency, however, they assumed the mantle of true leadership and never looked back. There is nothing that can prepare a person to hold the position. But it does take courage. More than anything, the job of a President requires character than political or economic skills.

Leadership is also more situational than deterministic, which partly explains why leadership roles are susceptible to usurpation by professional opportunists. For instance, our national situation today calls for drastic changes and so we need a "drastic" leader instead of a desperate one. By "drastic", of course, I mean a "transitional" leader. We all want to move on with our lives but for some reason we are, as a nation, suspended in a state of stalemate. Some people just don't want to get out of the way as if life mattered only in a political sense.

People trusted Noli on TV screen not because he can maintain his poise but because he was simply credible. The times call not for a skilled, master of economic theories and political calisthenics but for a credible leader. Credibility is supposed to be a staple in public office, but not at this juncture in our history. We sunk so low that there is virtually no higher political calling than to be a credible President. To be credible, I believe, is within Noli's personal arsenal. Not only does he have the numbers to prove his mandate, he has believability, which incidentally is the one factor that Gloria can never have following her admission of guilt.

Just one credible transitional President is what we need to restart the political engine. One who can oversee a fair charter change. One who can clean the mess at COMELEC. One who has no interest whatsoever to any position in the next republic. Practically almost everything that Gloria promises to do but has not the credibility to pursue, these are what Noli could do, if he dares to.

The spiel has been written. All that's needed is a credible face to deliver the blow. But will he? The answer to that question, I believe, could lead to his birth as a leader or to his segue to a total fade out.