A fellow member of the Get Real Philippines Facebook page asked an interesting question. â€œDo you agree that a change in self must happen first before a change in rules? Or do you believe in the reverse?â€ This, for me, is a thought-provoking question. Some folks, especially proponents of Charter Change (to Parliamentary form of government), seem to embrace change in the rules first. Others believe the opposite and other believe that both change ought to happen simultaneously. I gave this question some thought after considering the points of all sides. In the end, I am left to believe that while a simultaneous approach is good, it is probably unlikely that the Filipinos would be able to handle this approach.
Getting used to a new form of government takes time and intellectual maturity for such a new form of government to work. We did undergo government transformations in the past (even adopting a parliamentary form) but the people and our leaders were not intellectually mature yet. Have we really advanced since the last parliamentary form of government was established in the Philippines? I have my doubts. So I am more inclined to believe that a change in self must occur first; the people and our leaders must be intellectually and morally mature before we can adopt a new set of rules that would be beneficial and sustainable.
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The current issue on the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona seems to indicate that the majority of Filipinos really havenâ€™t reached maturity yet. The Philippines currently has a leader who seems to have a zeal for implementing change in how government ought to run. The President, together with his allies, has been going after people in the previous administration whom they suspect to have committed injustice to the country. However, in their effort and zealotry to run after the perceived enemies of the State, rules and basic rights have been violated. It doesnâ€™t matter if the â€œenemiesâ€ suffer without due process or if they get hanged through trial by publicity. Mob mentality is what the current leadership and its supporters subscribe to in the name of justice. Whether this mindset is justified or not is not what this article is about. The article is merely pointing that such a mindset is a sign of intellectual immaturity and instituting change with this current mindset through mob rule or even changing the form of government, probably wonâ€™t make a lasting difference if any.
George Orwellâ€™s book, â€œAnimal Farmâ€, is a good satirical fable that tells about revolutionary changes in government. In the story, we have Farmer Jones, the abusive owner, who was expelled by the exasperated farm animals. After the expulsion, the Animals ran the farm themselves and established equality for every Animal in the farm as the rule. Soon, however, the pigs (who represent the party bosses) begin to take special privileges for themselves (e.g. extra food). They enlist the farm’s dogs as enforcers to put down any dissent, and they teach the sheep (rank and file) to speak the party line on demand. At first, this is, “Four legs good, two legs bad”- animals (four legs) are good, humans (exploiters) are bad. Doesnâ€™t this seem eerily familiar with how the Philippines works under the Yellow regime after overthrowing Ferdinand Marcos (through Edsa 1) or even after getting rid of Erap (through Edsa 2) or even Gloria (by voting for someone extremely hostile to her)? We have the Yellow leadership as represented by the pigs; the various heads of government departments as the dogs (e.g. Ombudsman, LRA, AMLC, DOJ, BIR, COA, etc.); Senate and especially Congress as the sheep.
Anyway, as time passes, the Seven Commandments (Animal Farm’s Constitution) undergoes subtle changes as the pigs rewrite it to suit their own agenda. When Boxer the horse (symbolizing blue-collar labor, the “workers,”) becomes too old to work, the pigs sell him to the horse butcher, whom they tell the other animals, is really the veterinarian. The pigs eventually learn to walk on two legs, thus imitating the animals’ original exploiters, and they teach the sheep to bleat, “Four legs good, two legs better!” The Seven Commandments become one: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The pigs rename Animal Farm the Manor Farm- its original name- and invite the neighboring human farmers, who symbolize the elite class against whom the animals revolted, to admire the results: “…the lower animals on Animal Farm did more work and received less food than any animals in the county.” As the story ends, the pigs become indistinguishable from their human visitors.
In our current government affairs, isnâ€™t it funny how the Yellows really have become indistinguishable from the villains they are accusing of not having followed the Rule of Law?
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said that man falls because he refuses to see his selfishness and greed. St. Augustine puts it, “Man’s innate evil is in his will, and it expresses itself in pride and in the quest for power”. It is this egocentricity and of pride which affects man’s nature. With these, man is gripped with anxiety. Neibuhr avers that society merely cumulates the egoism of individuals and transforms their individual altruism into collective egoism. For this reason, no group acts from purely unselfish or even mutual intent and politics becomes the contest for power. In this contest, a lot of the wiser politicians recognize the value of the skill of compromise.
Neibuhr says that, “The most important observable expression that human anxiety takes politically is in the will to power”. Man wants not to merely satisfy his appetites but to have prestige and social approval. The paradox, of course, is that the quest for power canâ€™t give man the ideal he craves for. We see this dilemma in the present time in which the Yellows seek to obtain and maintain power while supposedly seeking justice and equality. But they try to achieve this through the injustice of persecution and circumvention of the law. Instead of justice and equality, we find that this causes fear (as some Senators have suggested that â€œPresident Aquino may do a Corona on usâ€), not giving justice and equality but the exact opposite.
Now I am not saying that we all should stop questioning things we feel are unjust. If we feel there is injustice, we or anyone involved in political order shouldn’t become complacent. There is much we can learn from our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Rizal has always opposed political, economic, social, and religious injustice. Rizal was not complacent about the presence of Spanish tyranny but he was also not under the illusion that, on the basis of an absolute principle, the ills of man and society can be cured simply through a regime change or a change in political order. The Yellows and the Yellow apologists in our midst seem to have an illusion that some political order change would cure the ills of our society. Iâ€™m afraid some of our friends who are proponents of Charter Change may be falling for the same mentality. As Reinhold Niebuhr suggested, every social program, every political policy, even the actions we take are at best a compromise and an approximation of justice. It is not a simple black or white, good and evil issue, as some people (such as the Yellows and their supporters) like to paint things as. Iâ€™m afraid that in the same token, changing the rules wonâ€™t necessarily change the men and women who would be trying to use them.
Calling a spade, a spade…