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Bitching about GMA

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A YOUNG person relatively fresh out of college posted something on Facebook yesterday, several hours before President Aquino addressed the 2nd joint session of the 15th Congress. Her status update struck me, because it seemed emblematic—of much of what is wrong in our political culture.

I realize that large parts of Facebook remain a gray area, “personal” space where argumentative exchanges, especially political or religious, are still unwelcome and considered intrusive. I will respect her privacy by leaving her unnamed, and by somewhat paraphrasing her “stat.”

What did she write? She expressed the hope that Mr. Aquino would use his State of the Nation Address to present his vision, and not merely to “bitch” about GMA again—or words to that same salty effect.

I think I understand what she is saying. In truth, this is what even seasoned journalists, such as the panelists at this year’s Jaime V. Ongpin Seminar, agree on: The President is focused too much on the past.

But in fact the so-called obsession with prosecuting Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (to quote from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines) is a necessary one, for the good of the body politic. To describe it as bitching is to misunderstand the nature of the necessity. We are dealing not only with a short memory, but a short memory justified by an attitude.

A democracy that has been brought to the brink of a second Marcos era, when systemic corruption tempted another regime’s authoritarian impulses, must rid itself of this vulnerability. We can only do so if the administration follows the electoral mandate it received to the letter, and pursue criminal cases against high-ranking officials of the Arroyo administration. Nothing demonstrates political maturity better than a former president convicted of a crime—and serving the sentence in full.

To characterize the necessary task of pursuing criminal cases against Arroyo and her inner circle as mere bitching is to condemn the country to repeating the sorry cycle of power-hungry corruption all over again.

* * *

We haven’t paid much attention to this in the Philippines, but the chances of a US debt default have grown from merely hypothetical (the hostage of a harsh, ideologically driven negotiation on the debt ceiling) to increasingly likely. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told Inquirer editors and reporters last week it was improbable that the US government would allow the default to happen. Having followed this debate closely for the last several months, however, I worry that the intransigence of the Tea Party-influenced Republican majority in the US House of Representatives may in fact lead to a grave and self-inflicted wound.

* * *

In response to several readers, allow me to publish the brief remarks I read at the Philippine launch of “Revolutionary Spirit: Jose Rizal in Southeast Asia” on July 8—remarks I organized under the theme “The Re-Education of a Filipino,” and which I conceived as a reply to the incisive, generous remarks read by Conrad de Quiros, Howie Severino and Sandy Prieto-Romualdez at the book launch. Please bear with me:

I belong to a generation of mis-educated Filipinos, college graduates who were taught that Rizal was an incomplete Filipino.

The most influential history texts of the second half of the 20th century are essays on Rizal’s inadequacy. Here, for example, is Teodoro Agoncillo: “As a dreaming evolutionist, his clinical eye, so accurate and piercing in many instances, was, in this particular case, blurred by an unconscious attempt to defend the class to which he belonged.” And here is Renato Constantino: “He saw more clearly than his contemporaries and felt with more intensity the problems of his country, though his viewpoint was delimited by his particular status and upbringing. He was the first Filipino but he was only a limited Filipino, the ilustrado Filipino who fought for national unity but feared the Revolution and loved his mother country, yes, but in his own ilustrado way.”

If only there were more such “limited Filipinos” alive today! Our country would be a more civic-spirited, a more politically mature place. Unfortunately, the generation I belong to, and the generation that came ahead of us, took Rizal’s limitedness as a given. We looked at Rizal, and felt like apologizing.

Such was the measure of my mis-education.

My re-education began when I read Leon Ma. Guerrero’s flawed but fateful translation of “Noli Me Tangere” for myself, in the mid-1980s. Here was world-class literature, and it was savagely, even subversively funny. I was amazed to realize that, out of this tragic laughter, a nation began to emerge.

The process of re-education continued fitfully, through occasional immersion in the works of eminent Jesuit historians Horacio de la Costa and John Schumacher. (Some of the best writing about Rizal can be found in Schumacher’s “The Propaganda Movement” and “The Making of A Nation.”) It was only when I joined the Inquirer, however, and started to write opinion, that my re-education picked up pace. I read up on Rizal greedily, because in truth, the Philippines, both in terms of its limits and its possibilities, cannot be explained without reference to him.

Here’s what I have learned then: Rizal was a revolutionary spirit with an essentially religious sensibility, who sought to found a national, secular community. He was the most radical figure of his time, a true subversive who undermined the foundations of Spanish colonial rule, a self-sacrificing patriot who helped create the conditions of nationhood. That’s the truth. No apologies.

* * *

jnery@inquirer.com.ph/johnnery.wordpress.com

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=521799946 Regina Beth Parale-Moreno

    Rizal was and will always be one of the most-misunderstood Filipino. The guy was just too ahead of his time. I hope the present and future generations also learn from him. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FN3D4W6RMVV7LI6ORL3YUZOBSY Vincent

      sadly until now he still is ahead of his time. most filipinos, especially those stuck with dogma, are very left behind by the rest of the world.

  • Anonymous

     To John Nery
    You are reading too much facebook posts. You even used it to make your point. If you write something in the future, make a good argument and Please dont take advantage of Facebook again. Next time, try Google+.   Get a life !

  • Anonymous

    Wow Mr. Nery. For a comment to be posted in your space it needs approval. Whya re you afraid of a coment opposing oyur views?

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on a well-written article! Especially on Rizal, who like the scriptures, is the most misquoted, misappropriated hero out there. Even the corrupt, when accused would exclaim, “what would they accuse me of next, killing Rizal?” Por Dios por santo.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JS2L5G6FBKJH6VRAMERMCCJLIY Gagami Tuladyu

      & you’re making a fuss out of the use of rizal’s name in jest but it’s ok to say “por dios por santo”? lol, typical DAMASO! ;)

    • Anonymous

      Rizal mastered Spanish and other different languages, yes, but has written a single Tagalog piece, “Sa Aking mga Kababata”, only during his teenage life! Is that Nationalism at its best?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O2P6DLGPDZN6T6QS53FV5XY4VQ angele

    Former Pres. Cory Aquino and the Filipino People had more grievances against the Marcoses compared to Noynoy against GMA (which includes the assassination of Cory’s husband Ninoy). I was young student during Cory’s presidency and while she condemned in the strongest term Marcos’ dictatorship, she was forward looking and never appeared vindictive. She left it with the PCGG on how to recover Marcos wealth, never commented on the legal cases in progress, and hardly blamed in public her predecessors for the ills of the country. I remember he slogans: Magnanimity in victory, Reconciliation based on justice. What makes the difference between the mother and the son is sincerity on the former, political opportunism on the latter.

    • http://twitter.com/emigrea anonymouser

      because the PCGG was so effective and free of blemish and we have recovered so much of Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth over 15 years later, huh?

    • Chua Bee

      Agreeing with you angele. We are tired of sick of the blame game. Let the courts deal with GMA. This government should be mum about this issue. Too much vindictiveness as an excuse of shortsightedness is devoid of truth under the guise of illusions in the absence of clear VISION for this country. All I can say is: Enough.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BCEWOO6RAKPSC6D5ZN57UI4HPY Pedrino Gonzales

    All well about Rizal. But do not forget that it is much easier to be a “revolutionary spirit” if you live safe and comfortable in Europe while others have to fight it out personal in the Philippines at the risk of their life. Sensing others to fight physically is easier than to go and also fight out the own  sense. Too easy the real fighting heroes are put behind.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I25Y7RDBSH2TM2V5KZGB6VVOMM Super Man

      “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Have you heard of it?
      Rizal was enhancing his knowledge while encouraging others to also do so but those who luck knowledge always thought about war and freedom. A war they couldn’t win and freedom they cannot handle.
      If the Bionifacio revolution was the right one then we would have been a great nation today.
      Rizal refused to be enslaved by the church that’s why he was killed and since a lot of Filipinos today never understood Rizal who never even able to read his writings that’s why it’s still the church that controls the Country.

  • Anonymous

    @Mr. President in your SONA you’ve mention that maraming di nagbabbayad ng tamang buwis, You’ve told us to pay correct taxes but the tax payers are yet to ask you same thing kung ano ang pinag-gagawa mo sa tax na binabayad namin.

    You’re wasting our taxes on programs na di na naman kami ang nag bebenifit like “Pangtawid Gutom Program”, “Pabahay” at kung ano-ano pa but nakalimutan mo ang mga kababayan natin ginagatasan mo sources of fund in a form of e-vat and taxes. Just how many percentage ng mga populasyon nag binibiyaan mo ng grasya na nagbababayad ng buwis? We are not asking you to include us sa mga programa mo but in exchange help us atleast improve our daily lives simple lang po like  improve the government services nasubukan nyo na po bang atleast mag process ng papers kung anong inconvenience na nagagawa nito sa mga kababayan natin? I think start from here, we want to see more improvements sa kalsada at mga magagandang proyekto ng nagdaang administrasyon na atleast di pabayaan.. We built but forget how to maintened po iyon makailang proyekto na po na ganito ng ganito… May DPWH tayo but itong mga taong to gawa-lang-ng-gawa kulang sa mga maintenance ang mga ginagawa nila kaya di umaabot sa estimated life ng proyekto, PhilHealth ito ay magandang nasimulan ng nakaraang administrasyon at dapat punduhan ng kasalukuyang administrayon.

    As OFW and Businessman din dito I agree on mga kababayan nating di nagbabayad ng tamang buwis  di rin naman din tayo ang nakikinabang kasi puros lang pasikat ang ginagawa ng ating gobyerno ang thema palagi ay PRO POOR saan ka po maghahanap ng bansa na for decade even before marcos
    ang lahat sinisigaw PRO POOR….. If you need to encourage tax payers you must also appreciate of what they contribute to our nation by providing what they deserved. Dito po sa host country ko kahit almost 20% ang tax ko dito I’m very happy of what I’m been paying for kasi nga naman nakikita mo ang binabayaran mo good education, security, good tax system, good government services at may pabunos pa affordable housing and maraming pa utang program like sasakyan intended to improve our
    daily lives.

  • Anonymous

    Rizal the most radical… and revolutionary in spirit????????… Hundred of years before Rizal was born, there were already many indios in different provinces who waged revolts, attacking spaniards and many have perished because of this radical means. Bonifacio was the only man who have the brain and spirit to organized revolution in an area where the spanish government sit- that is in Manila.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I25Y7RDBSH2TM2V5KZGB6VVOMM Super Man

      If you think of Bonifacio what comes to your mind? What is his biggest influence to you? Going to war? Independence without knowledge?

      Have you read the writings of Rizal? If you didn’t see what was(and still is) wrong with the Filipino people through the writings of Rizal then something must be wrong with you.

  • Anonymous

    Rizal wrote “Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit pa sa hayup at malansang isda” (or didn’t he?) Most of his famous writings are in Spanish, even his “Mi Ultimo Adios” not in Filipino, whence Pinoys during his time could have easily read and given more fervor on Nationalism!!!

  • http://jaoromero.wordpress.com Jao Romero

    you’re terribly naive if you’re worried about a US default. the bankers control Washington (both Dems and Republicans). there’s no way the debt ceiling won’t be raised. it’s exactly what the bankers want. for America to be more in debt to them. default is the real solution to the problem, not borrowing more.
    i tell you now that the true terrorists of this age are the bankers.

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