Eyesores in the Philippine Senate
My training in sociology has allowed me to see individuals and situations from the vantage point of a subdiscipline that examines the language, ways and appearances of people, especially those who nurse public images. Reading the Inquirer every day, I cannot help but turn my attention to the everyday scenarios and personalities being reported. I think the cases of Senators Nancy Binay, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are worth examining.
While browsing through the latest news on the Internet, I chanced upon a news article in ANC dated Oct. 29 (“Nancy slams VP Binay’s ‘hacendero’ critics”). I will not dwell on the content of the article which has nothing to do with the subject of this piece. Instead, I want to focus on Senator Binay’s appearance and language.
By her appearance, I do not intend to discuss her physical attributes. I will leave that to beauty experts. By her appearance, I refer to the way she carries herself in public and the way she speaks and comments on the issues currently hounding her family. After all, the truth about one’s self, according to the pragmatic notion of identity, is not about being faithful to reality, or not. It is all about managing an identity that allows a person to command respect from others and to track her/his goals as an individual. As our friends from the nearby province of Batangas would say, “Dapat may golpe de gulat (A surprising, dramatic action is needed)”—e.g., of a politician, an opponent, etc. This is what Nancy Binay so terribly lacks, I think. Credentials-wise she has nothing to flash either.
Browsing through the same news site, I saw the name of Senator Revilla as one of the trending names in the social media. Wondering how and why, I googled his name, expecting to see recent news on the accusations against him involving the pork barrel, or his petition to be allowed to post bail on grounds of lack of strong evidence. But what caught my attention were images of his stints as a movie actor. Images of him wearing a “Panday” costume and wielding that legendary sword still dominate a Web search of him these days despite his being a supposedly seasoned politician.
I could not believe what I was seeing, so I decided to study his resumé in the Senate webpage that features the profiles of the senators. Interestingly, his profile does not contain his curriculum vitae. All it contains is some sort of a narrative saying that what he depicted in the movies has now become a reality for him and for the people. It’s clear “pambobola” (falsehood), but what do we expect, anyway? That’s the stuff Bong Revilla and his ilk are made of.
On another front, all that one sees of someone like Senator Estrada are pure arrogance and a great deal of ignorance. He and and his colleague in show business, Revilla, have not been able to outgrow their tendency to “act cute” even if they have become politicians. I recall seeing them in one news segment kidding and calling each other “kakosa” (prison cell mates) during Estrada’s birthday party at the height of the Senate investigation of the pork barrel scam. That was not how they were supposed to speak as honorable men. I may be stating the obvious, but in my heart of hearts, I know they have no business being in an august body once peopled by the likes of Jose Diokno, Benigno Aquino Jr., Jovito Salonga and Lorenzo Tañada. My old former village chair in the remote little town where I come from displays more honor and nobility than they do.
What has gone wrong in Philippine society? How did we come to this flawed system in the recruitment of political decision-makers? It is a mind-boggling issue that requires us to reflect on the kind of society that we have become, as shown by the quality of leaders that have been elected to make decisions in our name.
To my mind, it boils down to the conditions of poverty and desperation. The argument that our people get the kind of government that they deserve does not really hold water. They deserve more. But until we empower and give them the capacities to contribute significantly in nurturing a young democracy such as ours, the sword of “Panday” and the Robin Hood in Wilson Sorronda are mightier antidotes to their everyday struggles. This can only be accomplished through solid education and economic justice.
In his efforts to dissuade me from entertaining the crazy idea of becoming a politician, my father used to tell me: “Ang pulitika ay pa-lintik ka (Politics will put you on a downward spiral).” But, if we take politics to mean “the society’s way of producing collectively-binding decisions,” as the German thinker Niklas Luhmann puts it, does choosing Senators Binay, Estrada and Revilla represent the collectively-binding, intelligent choice of the majority of our people? I think not. If it were the contrary, by golly, I will choose to embrace statelessness over tastelessness.
Binay, Estrada and Revilla are the personification of everything that’s wrong in Philippine politics, the lowest that a political system could go. They are the disfigurement of what our founding fathers envisioned for this country, which can well enrage Rizal and Bonifacio to rise from their graves and admonish this generation for its exceedingly low value of what they fought and died for. These elected leaders fail so miserably to make us proud as Filipinos.
They are eyesores in the Philippine Senate.
Joseph Jadway “JJ” Marasigan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing director of Adeptima Consulting Philippines, an IT consulting and executive search firm.
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