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Theres The Rub
This nation can be great again

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:23:00 05/25/2010

Filed Under: history, Dictatorship, Graft & Corruption, Governance, Benigno Aquino III

?We have come upon a phase of our history when ideas are only a veneer for greed and power in public and private affairs, when devotion to duty and dedication to a public trust are to be weighed against private advantages and personal gain?.

?Our people have come to a point of despair? You know that the government treasury is empty?. We have ceased to value order as a social virtue. Law, we have learned successfully to flaunt. We have become past masters at devising slogans for the sake of recorders of history but not for those who would live by them?.

?I have repeatedly told you: each generation writes its own history. Our forbears have written theirs. We must write ours.

?We must renew the vision of greatness for our country. [We must have] a government that acts as the guardian of the law?s majesty, the source of justice to the weak and solace to the underprivileged, a ready friend and protector of the common man and a sensitive instrument of his advancement and not captivity.

?This nation can be great again.?

The person who said these things was not Corazon Aquino or her son Noynoy. The person who said these things was Ferdinand Marcos. This was his inauguration speech after he won the 1965 elections.

It?s not without epic irony now. The situation he was describing was the one that presumably obtained at the end of Diosdado Macapagal?s (four-year) term, a national lot so desperate it required nothing less than heroic action to get out of. And he would be the man to lead it.

In fact, Marcos might have been describing the situation he left 20 years later. His depiction of Juan de la Cruz?s plight when he was sworn in on Rizal Day 1965 was a lot longer than appears above, but just consider what?s there and see if he did not jack up every item tenfold. The turning of public trust into private gain, the ransacked national coffers, the practice of using law to thwart law, the warped narrative for the recorders of history, the utter despair. Such are the twists in the story of this magic-realist country that 20 years after he delivered his speech all those who could still remember would remember was that Macapagal?s time was a golden age.

The ironies do not end there. Another 30 years later and we?re back to Marcos? proposition?except that this time the devastation and despair are real and the person expected to lead the charge offers a true hope. More: The person who caused the devastation and despair is the daughter of the man Marcos wrongly accused of doing so in his time, and the person who offers the hope of leading the country out of it is the son of the opposite of Marcos, who is himself the opposite of the daughter of the man Marcos maligned on the grave of Jose Rizal, the daughter who like the maligner of her father vowed to do?or not do?a sacred thing on the grave of Jose Rizal but did not do it. Whew!

We?re back to Marcos? proposition, but the stakes are higher. Much much higher. At the very least that is so because our situation today is direr. Nine years of misrule, like those of martial law, have devastated the country in ways that redefine devastation. You look at the eve of Marcos? ascension to power and you will see not a place darkened by blight but a land teeming with milk and honey. The forests and seas were still intact, industries continued to thrive despite the ravages of Macapagal?s decontrol, and the notion of Juan de la Cruz surviving like Blanche DuBois on the kindness of strangers was beyond contemplation. None of that is there today, and the kindness of strangers has been much diminished by a worldwide depression (that is what it is).

This country hasn?t just been given a second chance, it has been given a last chance. If you can theorize that an economy can reach a certain height where takeoff may no longer be prevented, you can just as well theorize that you can reach a certain depth where takedown may no longer be stopped. It goes beyond the economy. If you can theorize that you can reach a confluence of creativity from all sides or a sudden outpouring of raging talent from all fields, enough to spark a renaissance, you can just as well theorize that you can reach a scale of depravity or a universal belief in ?each one for himself, the devil take the hindmost,? enough to induce collective suicide. This country will not survive another Marcos or Gloria.

In fact it will not survive another tepid rule, another mediocre rule, another lost-opportunity rule. That is so not just because only heroic effort can push this country out of its black pit, that is so because only heroic effort is expected of the person the people thrust into a heroic role. Noynoy Aquino?s campaign was a people?s campaign, given a bungle or two to mar it (no pun intended), and his government is expected to be a people?s government. To whom much is given, much is expected. To whom the wings of Edsa are lent, the bills of Edsa are sent. When Noynoy was running for president, I kept saying that in his case there could be no separation between the pragmatic and the idealistic because the pragmatic was the idealistic and the idealistic was the pragmatic. Idealism was what birthed him, idealism was what saw him through. Now that he is president, I say: In his case, there can be no separation between the doable deed and the impossible dream because the doable deed is the impossible dream and the impossible dream is the doable deed. Our situation today is not one where we either survive or die, it is one where we either prevail or die.

I am hopeful Noynoy Aquino can do it. I am hopeful Noynoy Aquino will do it. As it was during the time of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini, he can make this nation great again. He has to.

He has no other choice.

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