Running on faithBy Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Noy came out swinging last Wednesday night, trying to turn around what has been turned around.
“I am not a thief,” he said. “Those who have been accused of stealing are those who are sowing confusion. They want to dismantle all that we have worked so hard to achieve on the straight path. We were stolen from, we were deceived—and now we are the ones being asked to explain?
“If you think that this will stop me from going after you, if you think that you can divert the public’s attention, if you think you can get away with stealing from our countrymen—you have sorely underestimated me and the Filipino people.”
There are a couple of strong points there.
The affirmation he is not a thief is one. The issue, lest we forget, is corruption. He is not a thief. He lives a simple life, given to simple needs and simple wants. The entire weight of his parents’ legacy has fallen on his shoulders, and he has not shirked it or shown any sign of buckling under it. He has not pocketed any money or property or resource that belongs to the people. More to the point, he is not perceived as so by the public. On the contrary, he continues to enjoy their trust, despite a dip in ratings. His worst enemy has not called him corrupt, not in public, probably not even in private.
The declaration of war against his enemies, or those he means to punish for corruption, isn’t a bad deal either. It restores perspective in a radically altered view of reality, in a violently twisted picture of reality. The real culprits are the ones his government is prosecuting, not his government which they are prosecuting—in the court of public opinion in lieu of the court of law. When he begs the public not to fall for the tricks of the devil, also called PR hacks, who have been trying to turn things around, making white black and black white, his plea is not going to fall entirely on deaf ears.
Unfortunately, even these strong points have their weaknesses. The “Great Reversal” was itself largely self-inflicted. Quite mind-bogglingly, it came off the back of something so pathetically spineless. That was Jinggoy Estrada’s privilege speech charging that the senators who voted against Renato Corona got P50 million each for their pains, albeit much later in the day. I myself was astonished by that speech, and said so in a column. It was an exercise in self-immolation, which could only have been the product of a distraught and fevered brain. Estrada practically admitted his role in the Napoles scam, not bothering to deny it in the face of a paper trail that bolstered it, and added yet another crime to it, which was accepting a bribe, though he refused to call it such.
Yet, lo and behold, instead of being sunk by that pitch, he floated, like a bloated body from the Pasig River. Instead of taking it to him, the Palace became defensive, denying any bribery had taken place. Butch Abad added an even bigger blunder to that blunder, justifying the P50 million given to the cooperative senators as part of government’s economic stimulus program called the Disbursement Acceleration Program. That took on the tragedy or farce of something like, “Oh, the guy may be forgiven for running after his drinking mate with a knife, he was drunk.” The excuse itself is inexcusable. Overnight, the public took notice of the DAP, and overnight a host of people, including friends and supporters, called its legal standing into question.
There and then, you have an object lesson in how to bungle things big-time. If the wind changed overnight, government has only itself to blame.
The weakness in P-Noy’s self-affirmation of character, “I am not a thief,” is there as well. As everybody pointed out immediately afterward, who’s calling him so? That is not the problem. The problem, as one group, which included “Million People March” organizer Peachy Bretaña, pointed out, was that he might not be a thief, but the system was so. Specifically, pork was so, DAP was so. His refusal to do away with both, to scrap both, made him, if not so himself, a primary accessory to it.
Indeed, the problem, as yet another group, suggested, though not always in the plainest term, was that while he himself could say, “I am not a thief,” and be believed, his people could not and be so. What was clear was that the means his government was using to justify the ends was questionable. What was clear was that his government was exercising a power it did not, by law and tradition, have a right to. Could we trust P-Noy and his people not to abuse that power? Could we trust P-Noy and his people to continue to take shortcuts with only the welfare of the people in mind?
P-Noy, probably yes, though that is problematic enough in itself. His people, no.
To buy the notion that P-Noy’s character extends to his people, indeed to buy the notion that he and his people are fellow travelers, possessed of one mind, one spirit, and one purpose is to make one hell of a leap of faith. He has a track record of being honest to the core, they do not. He means to go away after his term, they do not. They—Mar Roxas, Butch Abad, Frank Drilon, and the other pillars of the Liberal Party—mean to stay long after he leaves.
Those are two different agendas, those are two different destinations, those are two different journeys. Hell, those are two different roads, or daan. People who are going away, freely, unhesitatingly, blithely, may think only of doing good for the country, however what they do bends the rules. People who are staying, or mean to, ardently, desperately, atat-na-atat-ly, can think only of doing good to themselves especially when what they do breaks the rules.
And now to the weaknesses: (to be concluded)
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