The year that was
The crowning glory came at the beginning.
Taking inspiration from P-Noy, Congress bestirred itself to impeach Renato Corona. Corona had been Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s midnight appointee as chief justice, and had repaid the favor by creating a legal moat around her to repel any attack. Corona himself had imagined he was safely ensconced in his position and could always use the law to defy justice. He imagined wrong. For the first time in Philippine history, a chief justice was brought to impeachment court to await the judgment of his peers, or his betters, who were not the senators but the citizens themselves.
The trial was short and sweet, the only downside to it being that Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senate President, presided over it so well he earned the capital to revise his personal history. Otherwise, it was a joy to behold, showing, as it did during Erap’s own impeachment, the best that the law could be, which is as the handmaiden of justice. It also showed beyond doubt that P-Noy meant business when he vowed to push corruption to the sea.
P-Noy himself articulated the sea change in attitude and culture among public officials and the public in his State of the Nation Address (Sona). It was one of the best Sonas ever made by a Philippine president, if not arguably the best. Delivered in Tagalog and straight from the heart, it gave the people, the masa along with the coniotics, the unshod along with the well-heeled, to glimpse the progress that was taking place in their midst and the change that was taking place in their hearts. It gave them a reason to dare to hope again.
The Sona was a manifesto of sorts on what good government could do. A stark contrast with the previous regime, which was a government for a few, a government for the corrupt, if at all it was a government. When the surveys came out, P-Noy busted the charts, for which the Sona was one of the reasons. Articulation matters too, particularly when you articulate the truth. Inspiration matters too, particularly where you add action to words.
Then, toward the end of the year, a luminous event. From out of the blue, peace came to Muslim Mindanao. It was so sudden it took everyone by surprise, including the combatants themselves. Nur Misuari fumed, finding the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) left out in the process, but everyone else exulted. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did, trooping to Malacañang for the first time in their lives—it had always been the lair of the enemy, they said, but now it was the home of a friend. The Muslims from Mindanao did, men and women weeping openly, the men having known only fighting, the women having known only the loss of loved ones. The whole nation did, breathing a sigh of relief that a not very silent war that had raged in their midst for as long as they could remember was over.
Or near to being over. Or with the reasonable assurance it could be over. In fact, government and the MILF had only agreed to agree. They had yet to work out the terms of the agreement, what shape the Bangsamoro would take, what character the polity would assume. Much remained to be done, but the first step of a long journey had been taken. The resolve was there, the hope was there, the goodwill was there. And that made all the difference.
It was no surprise that P-Noy’s popularity continued to soar. It was even less of a surprise that the economy continued to boom. Against all expectations, including those of the economic managers, the country posted a 7.1-growth rate, the highest in the region, and quite remarkable for having been made during a global economic downturn. It thoroughly refuted the shrill warnings of detractors, the same ones who had run down the country’s economy along with its people, that you cannot eat trust, you cannot eat confidence, you cannot eat fighting corruption.
Oh, but you can, said the 7.1 growth. As the investments came pouring in, as the roads and bridges and services came rising up, as the poor looked to uplift in the horizon.
From out of the blue as well, proving that good news is a natural magnet for good news, Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, was named a cardinal by the Pope. It caught Tagle himself by surprise, though he knew the Pope very well having worked for him when he was still a priest, and he felt humbled by the honor. That honor may not be the last: As a cardinal, Tagle may be nominated to the position of Pope after the current one dies. And as one of the Pope’s favorites, he has one foot in the door.
Stranger things have happened. And Tagle, who insists on being called Chito by his friends, is no stranger to strange things. A simple man, who has walked with the poor, talked with the poor, and broken bread with the poor, he has constantly been raised to not very simple positions in the course of his life. The Bible talks of the miracle of it in this way: And the exalted shall be humbled and the humble exalted. “Pope Chito” has a nice ring to it.
Then, before the year ended, RH was passed. To the monumental chagrin of the bishops, lay groups, and a sprinkling of House representatives who to this day refuse to give up the ghost, badgering the Supreme Court to TKO, or TRO, it. Indeed, who continue to press the public to protest against it. Forgetting that it was the public who wanted it to begin with: In survey after survey, the RH showed its tremendous acceptance by Filipinos. Showing as well that most Filipinos do not find it a betrayal of faith to embrace contraception. Contraception is not anti-life, it is prolife. It fights for life, not hypothetical, theoretical, postulated life, but life in the richness of its reality and in the reality of its richness. Faith had triumphed, superstition had lost.
Finally, well, the world did not end. A good time for new beginnings.
Happy New Year, everyone!