The political discourse in the Philippines hasn’t progressed. In fact, it has regressed, particularly in the “activist” community where reform and change and a focus on new ways to see and effect things should be emanating, but aren’t. Back in the 2009 campaign, the rallying cries of activists who wanted to see different approaches applied to the selection of the country’s leaders focused on platforms that clearly spelt out inspiring visions for the nation.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case today. The irony here is that Filipinos find themselves face-to-face with the biggest outcome of a massive failure (on the parts of educated and uneducated Filipinos alike) to heed the words of platform-focused activists in the 2009-2010 presidential campaign — the administration of embattled Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. Look no further than the loud teeth gnashing of former BS Aquino loyalist Walden Bello. Bello, a stalwart of communist-turned-Aquino-lackey party Akbayan now reportedly refers to the Second Aquino Presidency as “a wasted presidency” that was “destroyed by pigheadedness and blind loyalty to incompetent or corrupt subordinates”.
“The President entered negative territory with his stubborn defense of [the Disbursement Acceleration Program and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad], then went on a death spiral with Mamasapano,” he said.
But of course.
All that talk coming from Bello would have been impressive if it weren’t for the lateness of the hour (with apologies to Senator Tito Sotto for the lameness of the quote). One would have expected men with as formidable minds as Bello to see from the very beginning that BS Aquino was totally unfit to be president of the Philippines. But it turns out that no amount of education and smarts can equip many Filipinos with common sense. Indeed, common sense, we now know, is not very common in the Philippines. And it certainly eluded minds like those of Bello.
Bello is like the man who foolishly smoked in bed then now denounces the “evil” fire that burnt his house down. The real waste here is not the presidency of BS Aquino. The biggest waste of all is men and women like Bello whose supposedly brilliant minds failed us.
Indeed, President BS Aquino does not only represent a failed promise of the Yellow Mob of aged, has-been emo celebrities. His rise to power represents the failure of the entire Philippine “intelligentsia” overall regardless of colour and partisan association. If Jose Rizal were alive today, he’d be crimson-faced with embarrassment seeing his beloved Illustrado class called out for the astounding scale of the idiotic misguidance they have contributed to the Philippine National “Debate”.
Yet today, no lessons have been learned. The focus of every pundit and his dog (at least the few left who actually articulate thoughts in coherent work that extends beyond the 140 characters of those “social media” apps the A.D.D. Generation favours) is to speculate on the fringes of the small square that frames Filipino thinking — that this or that bozo has demonstrated “compassion” under fire from this or that Senate “probe”, how certain individuals have been such low-key “achievers” whilst working from under the thumbs of their noisy bosses, how certain popular politicians have continued the tradition of corrupt patronage and dynastic power brokering, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum de cacao.
The smallness of the thinking in the lateness of this hour seems to be the Filipino’s short-shighted panic reaction to the catastrophic confidence collapse of the once-formidable BS Aquino Popularity Empire, a cataclysmic event that seems to have left a cavernous void in the national consciousness. Suddenly everyone is thinking “What just happened?” — a primal response coming from the collective faculties of a woefully-primitive political discourse characterised by a retrospective reflection on a national scale.
The astounding tragedy here is that it has sucked the life out of the nation’s collective faculties for prospective thinking.
Because the Second Aquino Administration was such an immense mistake of epic national proportions, Filipinos’ consciousness have been collectively hijacked by an emotional response not too different from the way a jilted lover deals with their feelings of betrayal. Most Filipinos know what the emotional aftermath of a lover’s betrayal is like. Indeed, they have given a word to it: hugot. Being betrayed by a lover sends most normal people on an emotional spiral as they look back and try to come to grips with the series of events and decisions that led them down a path of delusion and disengagement from rational thinking. The unfortunate feature of this instinctive emotional defense mechanism is how it induces victims of betrayal to temporarily lose sight of the fact that there are ways forward.
The key to extricating ourselves off this national paralysis that was caused by the failure of President BS Aquino is to get a grip and snap out of our torpor and start thinking about the future. The lessons here are quite obvious. Filipinos need to take their politicians to task and evaluate them on the bases of their vision for the Philippines. Indeed, the really big specific lesson here is that President BS Aquino never had a vision for the Philippines. He didn’t have the slightest clue as to what he envisioned the Philippines to be like in 2016 when he took office in 2010. No strategic roadmap could be formulated leading to a vision that does not exist — which is why the government of President BS Aquino merely spent the last five years stumbling from one crisis to another whenever it wasn’t stumbling from one gaffe to another.
Sure, there are a few candidates out there — the best of them are, sadly, mere compromises while the worst are, we are told, “pure evil”. That’s the political reality of a nation renowned for its tradition of endemic mediocrity — that not a single really good presidential candidate could be found amongst a people that number a hundred and one million. But, not to worry, the best way to equip one’s self to deal with the future is to embrace absolute reality.
Quite simply, Filipinos need to change the way they think — abandon the old ways where honour and intellect are dismissed as luxuries of the rich and slapstick thinking and contrived “humility” resonate the strongest amongst the “blessed” poor. The first step to that important change is for Filipinos to apply a more lucid regard for the future and use that framework to take their leaders and “representatives” to task.
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