Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Third View (Plot in Manila)

The Third View

While many of us lament what happened last week during the EDSA 1 anniversary celebrations, the antics of various individuals and parties revealed again their priorities and hidden agendas. In the end, there were no saints last week. All were tainted. The personalities and institutions we expected to provide maturity, wisdom, and guidance on the nation’s political economy have once more shown how short-sighted and impotent they are. On the brighter side of things, this catharsis will be good for us as a nation. The past week only urges us to immediately get on with remaking our political and social institutions if we are to be independent of the clowns in government, the legislature, opposition, civil society, church, and media. As I have been writing recently, we need to focus on creating individual wealth in order to develop our respective communities, because it will be individuals active in the Community that, in the end, will be both the defender and promoter of our liberties. By community, I mean us ordinary citizens, working hard and helping one another to sustain our families, our neighborhood, our town, our province, and nation; what scholars have referred to as real people doing real things.

Let me get a few things clear. I am no fan of GMA. I think she is just our employee, appointed by us, the citizens, to get the Philippine development program started. Because we took a big risk in getting Estrada ousted, GMA is indebted to us. After EDSA DOS, we demanded genuine reform from GMA, as expected of a leadership gained by extraordinary means. That is the social contract GMA entered with us. So far, she has done a poor job vis-à-vis the enormous social capital she had when she became president in 2001. The poor perception on her family members and relatives, her ‘cronies’, the incompetence of her appointees, among others, reflect on her own competence, integrity, and leadership. The economic gains we are currently experiencing are only partly attributable to her administration and are most probably due to OFW remittances and good corporate earnings. I think that she knows she is under severe scrutiny vis-à-vis her performance. We demand performance because we "hired" her, are not scared of her, or are in awe of her.

The fact that the citizenry is not scared or in awe of her is an important distinction. Opposition parties, biased columnists, idealistic rightwing military officers, and the malleable media think that Proclamation 1017 is a harbinger of military repression. There will be military repression, but it will be these personalities that will be directly affected. Not us, because we can take care of ourseleves. They have lost credibility with most Filipinos because of two critical aspects, namely, their hidden agendas and interests, and their Machiavellian attempts at usurping political power. Let me reiterate what is already common knowledge.

Cory Aquino and the Cojuangco clan are under threat of their 6,000 hectare Hacienda Luisita being land reformed. Soldiers protecting the hacienda from striking workers shot and killed several of them last year. Cory and her supporters have teamed up with Estrada supporters and Marcos loyalists to force GMA to resign. Is GMA’s administration so bad that we must strike unholy alliances with the Estrada group that nearly (allegedly) turned the country into a narco-state, or with the Marcoses that (allegedly) led the country into bankruptcy, devastated our environment, and committed countless human rights violations? Is this the price we need to pay to kick out GMA? Have Cory, that group named after a hotel, and the civil society folks reflected on the immorality of this alliance and the distaste that it generates on us who risked much in EDSA 1 and 2?

The other point is that newspaper columnists, once very influential, are steadily losing their credibility and high moral ground. As columnists, they naturally write about their view of a situation. Nevertheless, they need to do a little basic research and fact-checking. They have brought the term “arm-chair” writers to a new level with their biased and hysterical writing. Was there really a coup attempt or not? Who were the plotters? Why has the Tribune still been able to publish despite the clampdown? Do you think it is solely because of the courage of Cacho-Olivarez? Why was there no People Power IV? A friend, a political economist, raised the gender issue in the unceasing attacks on GMA and Cory during her own presidency. Has anyone explored this angle? Many questions have been raised but institutions tasked to provide timely and nuanced information have not done so now or in the recent past.

The fact is the media and newspaper columnists are both generally biased and malleable. To get a clearer picture of an event, one needs to read the reporter’s probably biased account, the pro-administration columnist’s viewpoint, and the oppositiion columnist’s version. By triangulating these three versions, one hopes to get a clearer picture of what is happening. This is too much effort and is unfair to the paying reader. In this aspect, media has failed its most important constituent, the reader. Thus, there is little sympathy when an opposition newspaper is invaded by the police or a columnist is arrested during a rally.

Some anti-GMA columnists write about the indifference of the citizenry to what is happening. I think this is insulting to us citizens. The perceived indifference of the citizenry should be interpreted to mean this: non-participation at last week’s events or even the past year is an indictment of the opposition, the biased media, and the power grabbers. Our issue with the opposition is their unconstitutional power-grab attempts. Our issue with media is their bias and incompetence. Our issue with rightwing military officers and the communists is their long history of human rights violations and perceived lack of management skills. How could you expect the citizenry to rise up? Rise up in defense of them? Defend what, institutions that these parties have coopted to further their hidden agendas?

Our issue with GMA is her governance, which should be dealt with on a daily basis. Filipinos are not stupid. They are watching from the sidelines as these detested personalities fight it out. Filipinos will act to protect their liberties when the time and need arise. EDSA 1 and 2 proved this. They will not, however, be used by parties with hidden agendas. I disagree that the reservoir of People Power has dried up. I think it is transforming. The Gawad Kalinga, RockEd.org, and OFW movements are examples. The burgeoning debate on basic income or even hypwerages is another. A third way is on the way. It is neither right nor left. It is about Community.