This month, July 2015, President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino (more popularly known simply as PNoy) will deliver his last State of the Nation Address (SONA). It is being billed as a legacy speech as he is supposed to sum up his accomplishments.
PNoy’s last four SONAs have been forgettable. They have been typically a laundry list of supposed achievements, but when fact-checked have turned out to be inaccurate, or downright lies. Even the list, when studied for coherence, gives no clear indication that PNoy has had any policy that could be considered innovative, or his own. His economic policies have simply been a continuation of the policies of Gloria M Arroyo’s (GMA) whom he had been excoriating; only PNoy knows the best way. He has relied on one single slogan: the Daang Matuwid (Straight Path), which people have now been excoriating. It is a semblance of a vision for lack of having formulated a more comprehensive vision/ mission statement.
Wishing not to be inflicted again with the pain of watching a crummy orator that PNoy is, and the likelihood that they may have to listen again to a list of disconnected projects which probably would have been connected to one another if only there was a master plan and defined priorities, a good many have already decided to ignore the rant of the CEO of the land.
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Not, however, if PNoy plans to use the SONA platform to apologize to the nation!!! Farfetched? Let us see.
What we are talking here is not mere apology. GMA apologized following the discovery of the “Hello Garci” Tapes, which pointed an accusing finger at her alleging that she must have cheated her election. The public also demanded an apology from PNoy when eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bus hostage incident which he was witnessing in real time from a nearby Chinese restaurant. Ditto when 44 heroic Special Action Force (SAF) operatives were massacred in Mamasapano in an operation he was overseeing in real time from nearby Zamboanga. In both cases, PNoy didn’t apologize. But, we are not talking here of this kind of apologies. Such kinds are just reactions to alledged infractions, or to something more than that. What we wish is an apology more meaningful than mere reaction, if there was such, and which we now suppose there is. We are talking of an apology which is big if taken just of itself, but small when taken in context of a bigger picture.
We are talking of a SONA, remember? It is a red carpet occasion which is an imitation of Hollywood, except that the local is a copy in poor taste. Those who are invited come in their gaudiest like out of place penguins and more out of place peacocks. They are there to be seen. It is an annual event where practically all the decision makers who matter converge in one place, and there are times we could discern those who could decide from those who won’t make it. It is also that time when influence peddlers and hangers-on, who make a living out of PDAF and DAP (or whatever names these things go by now) are busy influencing the influencers. It is patronage politics in person in full HD.
Imagine PNoy making an apology in front of that August Body in July, a month that normally does not know if it would rain or shine. Imagine if he accompanied that with eye-dropper-induced crocodile tears that look real as those in teleseryes of ABS-CBN and GMA7. To an audience dominated by melodramatics? Whew, that would be some SONA. And, if it is convincing? It would be the SONA that shook the West Valley Fault Line.
Thereafter, he will be known as the Apologetic President. If rationality is what is being sought, there is rationale for such a monicker. Among the presidential candidates, PNoy was the least qualified. He was thrust into the position because of a wave of emotions that followed the death of his mother, who herself was thrust into the same position following the assassination of her husband, who was an opposition leader to a dictator. Because of what has just been said, it seems PNoy always felt he was entitled to the position despite his lackluster performance in the Senate and Congress.
While we have to believe that those who aspire for the highest office of the land have honest-to-goodness good intentions for the country — otherwise, what is the point in participating in a democracy — unfortunately, the administration of PNoy, which had been called a student council, has groped from blunders after mistakes after mis-steps. In the end, we ourselves groped for evidence that there was good intention, or if all that was simply the outcome of plain incompetence. So, PNoy as an Apologetic President has not only justification, but also has a cleansing power for the society. (And, it is up to the ad agencies to call it either an Ariel, a Tide, or a Breeze, if it needed further branding.)
That legacy wouldn’t be bad at all. Consider the Past Presidents of recent memory. Cory Aquino is called the Transition President; indeed, there was nothing solid and stable, hers was all about transition like a mahjong being shuffled, after which nobody knows who wins. Fidel V Ramos is called the Unlucky President. FVR spent most of his energies patching up a neglected energy sector. And, when his economic pokicy, Kaya Natin Ito, was about to take off, the 1997 Thailand financial crisis came and wiped out whatever gain there was. Thereafter, economists said: hindi na natin kaya ito. But, FVR was unlucky because he was succeeded by Joseph Estrada, who was probably worse than the Thailand financial crisis.
Erap, despite his enormous support from the hoi poloi, remains a Study of Failed Leadership. Taxes in Manila now have tripled under a Mayor Erap; why? Gloria M Arroyo is called the Most Hated President. GMA tried to be a Mother Teresa at times, but she was very Machiavellian in her approach. But, we have to apologize to Mother Theresa for the administration of GMA has been characterized by allegations of corruption. So, there is a clarion call for an Apologetic President. Not only will this allow a cleansing of the past, but provide a much needed relief for a nation that has already endured so much.
It may just be that it could usher in a new era in Philippine politics, a new way at looking at things. For one, Vice President Jojo Binay will no longer have a basis for his complaint that we have an incumbent President who is a teka-teka at hindi marunong humingi ng patawad. VP Binay himself might learn to ask for apology if allegations against him are to be believed. Mar Roxas might also want to apologize for the fiasco after Yolanda (Haiyan), among many, many other fiascos.
True, an apology would be totally out of character for PNoy. But, isn’t he just being a true-blooded Pinoy? One of the biggest aggravation of expats based in the Philippines is that Pinoys simply don’t know how to apologize. They take criticisms personally and don’t know how to differentiate the message from the messenger, although we know there more to that than meets the eye. Filipinos in general have extreme inferiority complex and are passive-aggresive. But, how could one move forward if the one at fault will never acknowledge anything. That is allowing problems to linger on. That is exactly the opposite of what progressive countries do. In Japan and Korea, it is very natural and normal to immediately issue an apology vis-a-vis mere allegations, or accusations that may, or may not have basis. They value the stability of institutions and respect the dignity of high offices unlike our institutions that have now been fractured; our high offices cheapen. So, if PNoy has the courage, he could rise above the crowd. If he wants a legacy, he cannot ignore the proposition contained herein.
Courage, of course, does not mean recklessness. Already, there are a thousand and one lawyers who individually want to make a name for themselves. They are already itching to jump into the fray of what promises to be a circus to prosecute PNoy after his term. Then, there are the cynics and sceptics who will always view differently any move towards uncharted territories; they would be the least of his worries. His sycophants will be the ones who will give him the headaches. At first, they may feel betrayed. But, if they are that close-minded, they will never comprehend the opportunities. But, nobody said it was going to be easy, and through dificulty is how legacies are made. It is about confronting a very dangerous proposition. But, there is no doubt he has with him the best speechwriters; they should be able to help him navigate through treacherous waters.
PNoy may continue to project to the public that he has no problem. In fact, we get the impression that he truly believes his own propaganda. Just recently, Ping Lacson has disclosed that his team has discovered that PNoy and DBM’s Butch Abad continue to play willy-nilly with “lump sums” of the National Budget despite Supreme Court’s ruling against pork barrels. Ping said that Abad has managed to hide at least Php442 Billion which could be used by PNoy even in contravention of the legislated budget. Ping suspects and estimates these amounts that are at the personal disposal of PNoy could total to 700 Billion, or 25% of the National Budget, once they finish their investigation. Is PNoy really that hard-headed as Senator Osmeña has often alledged? If he is, then we have to admit that we will never see an Apologetic President in our history.
The point is there comes a time, in some quite moment, when CEOs of large corporations (so imagine presidents and prime ministers of nation), as some CEOs have admitted, that all of sudden they sit there with mind boggling awe at the offices/positions they hold. As they say, such positions provide a very humbling experience just reflecting at the enormity of the responsibilities they have to account for. Some just ignore the feeling, and to cope with it, they show more braggadocio to the public. Those who have inner virtues in reserve are the ones known to do a continuous and intense self relection in order to grab the big bull by its horn. These are the ones known to be successful and admired. What we just don’t know is if PNoy, deep down inside him, is in awe of the Office of the President. Or, does he take the office for granted?
But, there is higher dimension, a higher level, to all these. And if the above could not convince PNoy, it is here that, hopefully, he could be convinced. It is a fact that there have been great people who hold on to the proposition that THERE IS POWER IN WEAKNESS. They are also the ones who have learnt one thing in life, and that is that Paradoxes are not meant to be solved; we just learn how to live with them. People like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc can be counted as among those who believe the above proposition. Isn’t it that they found their vision/ mission when they were at their lowest?
Now, the question is: Does PNoy have the character to use his weakness as his power? Or, is he a wimp? Or, is he destined for greatness? Why? And, Why not?
GRP Featured Comment hall-of-famer. Former executive of the Far East Regional Office of a US-based multinational company living out of a suitcase covering the market from Tokyo to Mumbai to Melbourne, and all the countries within that triangle. Got tired after logging 300k air miles per year. Now, I just have a little trading biz on specialty chemicals.