Where I put together some thoughts from the last few days (actually wrote this last night). Of course everything can be summed up simply: Do Good Dammit.
After all of the pointless sturm und dram of the last few weeks (initiated quite forcefully by the volatile as always Teddy Boy Locsin, further elevated by the inanity of Dilangalen et al and nicely capped by the meandering threats of Homobono Adaza) we will have the anti-climatic proclamation of President-elect Benigno Aquino III and Vice President-elect Jejomar Binay finally. We will of course watch out of the corner of our eye the death throes and last gasp efforts of the campaign of Senator Mar Roxas, who will end this election as the tragic figure of 2010. But, for all intents and purposes, the will of the people (of which I actually do believe that this election is an accurate reflection) has been recognized.
A Fall from Grace
One word on Senator Roxas though. He remains a man of promise, someone who I voted for. Yet you cannot help but think, that unless he is careful, he may become one of those “what could have been” historical footnotes. I hope not. His path this cycle did not take him to the vice-presidency. That does not mean he is no longer a power player or a force for ‘good’. Over the next six years, he can carve out for himself and honorable legacy as a statesman and supporter of President Aquino. And who knows? If anything Senator Escudero and ex-President Erap have proven that you can remain a potent and relevant political force. If you play your cards right that is.
What his problem is though, is that his actions, and those of his circle, are coming under increasing scrutiny the more this plays out. The longer this goes, the more likely there is to be a political backlash. Roxas does not have the innate charisma or broad support of the aforementioned to survive that. Right now there is serious public sentiment on the side of President Aquino. If, as Esposo says, it is true (and what I have heard is that it is in parts) that Roxas and his circle were trying to treat Aquino as a “puppet” public sentiment may turn irrevocably against him. For an example of how missteps can destroy a political career, all he needs to do is study the career of Loren Legarda.
Post-Martial Law the problem in government is quite simple actually. The Powers-that-bide play the same tune, the dancing partners just change. But, it is business as usual. It is a rigadon. And we, the Filipino people, sit on the sidelines, wallflowers in our own country. It is the rhythm of self-interest and selfishness; opacity and shadow deals; patronage and politics as usual. The rhythm of the rigadon needs to change. That is undeniable.
The Filipino people understand this (emotionally if not intellectually), it is the reason that Aquino was voted into power and (in my hopefully not overly optimistic view) Binay was as well. I mentioned this before but the dominant theme of the election was Camelot. The Camelot of moral and ethical rectitude represented by Noynoy Aquino as the standard bearer of the legacy of his parents. And in Binay, the Camelot of financial security and social justice via government programs. Binay has long been an Aquino boy and from a certain perspective you could see some hope in the Noy-Bi tandem. Binay could be that strongman and shield necessary for Noynoy to navigate the morally murky waters of Philippine politics and enact some change. That is the hope. That is the compromise I hope they settle on.
Our government system is flawed, there is no doubt of that. Too much power is invested in the Executive. It is part of the reason why GMA was so influential and untouchable. It the reason that she has been doing what she can to leave a brewing constitution crisis so she some how limit the power of the presidency. Noynoy has to harness that power, and like the Caesars of old (before Julius that is) use the power for good, limit it in the end and set it aside gracefully.
As it is right now though, the danger that faces the new administration is that they are new dance partners, following the same tune. Just look at LP’s bet for the Speakership and their new Senators. The Senate is made up of old names (even if they have a new face like with TG) who really have not made much of a difference in the past.
And of course in the house lurks Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. A woman who, some how, became everything her father was not. It is hard to find a historical corollary for her. She fancies herself a Sonia Gandhi. She has become though the quintessential corrupt Third World “leader”. A rejection of everything this country was supposed to stand for.
Just Push Play
Dramatic change is not going to be found in the next six years. But substantive change can. It’s a difficult question though, what should he focus on first and foremost?
The first priority, at least for all, is reducing poverty. I will always tend towards real and tangible education reform. However, those can be addressed and addressed well if he puts in place in his cabinet strong-willed and competent individuals. I think it would be a mistake though to recycle the same old faces. Much like my fear with the Senate and the House, just because they are experienced does not necessarily mean that they are competent in anything other than self-aggrandizement (monetarily and publicity wise). President Aquino comes into power with something remarkable, a real and definite mandate (or at least as much as is possible in our multi-party system). He has political capital to burn.
The advocacy where I think his capital is best spent is on combating impunity. My suspicion, since this was his platform, is that this is the plan. The question though is, how to do this?
In this country change is going to have to start from the top. It has to start in the government and among the leaders. I actually agree in part with his campaign rhetoric. The system is not irrevocably broken, it does not necessarily need to be drastically changed. There are good laws on the books, and with proper enforcement and application, they can be effective tools. There are a few laws though that I think he needs to get passed. If he is able to, somehow, get the Freedom of Information Act and the Anti-Dynasty bill passed, that is a definable win. If he can clean up and strengthen the oversight of the judiciary and peace and order forces (like the police) that is a win as well. As it stands, the judicial system is under-funded and over-burdened (sounds like a lot of the branches in our government). But, they are needed tools if he truly wishes to fight corruption. Just waving a magic wand and saying “Poof! Begone” (an exaggeration) won’t work. He needs weapons in the form of an independent and functional judiciary, a professional police force (and military) and usable laws with teeth.
In this light, his battle with Corona makes sense. Corona’s judicial past is highly checkered, complicated further by his close relationship with GMA. It is true that just because someone is appointed by GMA does not necessarily mean he will protect her. This was born out by people like Panganiban. However, Corona is no Panganiban. And nothing in the decisions he has penned indicate he will change. A careful study of Carpio and Corona’s decisions effectively demonstrate why Carpio was passed over in favor of Corona. Carpio has shown a tendency to hew close to the law and not be swayed by personal relationships. He is not perfect, but he is more independent than Corona.
Tackling reforming the judiciary and passing certain legislative measures are less showy than meeting the Millennium Development Goals, something I believe he should anchor his social agendas on as well. But, they can pay dividends for administrations in the future. Without a sense of justice there cannot, and there will not be, social development. It is that simple. Sweeping legislation can be an effective platform of governance. What Aquino has is a plurality of the people on his side, and the cautious support of (almost) every Filipino. If he can effectively prove that the laws he wants to get passed are for the good of the people, my suspicion is that the House and Senate will not be able to block it. He must realize he is going to be fighting a public relations war as much as a legislative war against the old guard.
There are other considerations and foci that I likely will write and comment on as they pop into my head (and I have the time). For example, if somewhere along the way he can get agriculture going, fix our misguided economic policies, encourage sustainable energy development, conserve and protect our natural and man-made patrimony, solve the peace process and bring the country closer together (ahem…to name a few). Why, that would be great too!
But for me, re-invigorating a sense of justice in the country should be foremost on his personal agenda. Based on his campaign promises and subsequent rhetoric, it makes the most sense for him to focus on. That really is his challenge, convert promise and possibility to actuality. Justice is the antithesis of impunity. Everyone, from all socio-economic sector, must know that justice can be had and wrongs punished. In this country, impunity flourishes with nary a word spoken against it; or at least a word with the teeth and conviction to do something about it.
It appears that the Filipino people put someone in office and provided him with a mandate as a weapon. My hope is he and his allies in the House and Senate can do something with it.
And it looks like he’s a lousy dancer.