‘Transforming leaders’ (conclusion)
FERDINAND E. Marcos—the transactional leader —betrayed our country. This is manifest historical truth. And yet, his family wants him to be buried as a national hero in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Under Marcos, we were a garrison state with war zones where human rights were regularly violated by the combatants from both sides. In addition to the suffering and misery of so many, the nation lost priceless years, ultimately its scarcest, most irretrievable resource. The hopes for the future of innumerable young men and women were crushed forever. The careers of some of the finest political leaders were aborted, while a number of unworthy politicians flourished, as well as minions of the dictator and unrepentant officials and loyalists in the post-Edsa era.
Truth be told, some of the difficulties and compromises in the drawn-out efforts to recover the Marcos ill-gotten wealth reflect the ambivalence, contradictions and corruption of self-serving transactional leaders in resolving transcendent issues of public morality and illicit private gain.
Without public discernment and virtue in these aspects that would epitomize the community’s high-minded sense of right and wrong, the Filipino nation and government cannot command honor, self-respect and credibility among its own citizens, much less in the international community. For this, Filipino leaders are much more to blame than the citizens, for it is the challenge and responsibility of leaders to lead and uplift the people toward a national vision of “a just and humane society” and a vibrant and effective democracy.
Failure of Filipino political leadership is one of the best explanations for the country’s persistent problems of poverty, injustice, ineffective governance and corruption—and its continuing underdevelopment when compared to other countries since the late 1960s.
To be able to choose better leaders and improve our government, our people must be empowered by their education, their improved practical skills and earning capacity, and their political participation. We all have to learn from our experience; from study and reflection on our recent history and national development; from the teaching and guidance of our religious and lay leaders; and by our involvement in the work of various organizations in business and civil society. We should also learn from the example of the leaders in the more advanced and progressive nations.
Good governance in a democracy requires the involvement and enlightened participation of all citizens inspired and challenged by the vision, idealism and morality of transforming leaders. We sorely need such leaders to free our people from continuing poverty, corruption, violence, injustice, bad governance, and flawed institutions begging to be reformed. We must develop such transforming leaders from the local communities upwards to gradually replace the many self-serving members of our ruling class or political elite who perpetuate our dysfunctional presidential government, centralized unitary system and political parties at the people’s expense.
As long as Filipinos, and especially their highest leaders, avoid resolving those issues in favor of basic moral principles, the national interest and the common good—and get away with it—no clear national standards of right and wrong can be established and consistently enforced, much less prevail. This is evident in regard to the issues of loyalty to the nation and collaboration with the enemy, whether Filipino or foreign; graft and corruption vs. honesty and integrity in public office; the inviolability of human rights and their violation and abuse by officials and functionaries; public accountability and the impunity of corrupt government officials; civilian supremacy over the military; mutual accommodation and protection among members of the political elite; and so on.
While commendable in itself, President Aquino’s passion for restoring morality and rationality in the conduct of public service, known as “ang daang matuwid,” is not enough. He can do much more as a transforming leader in his remaining five years, a very short time actually.
In truth and in our experience these past 24 years, our presidential system of government, centralized governance and party system under the 1987 Constitution have failed us terribly. These have blocked progress toward our constitutional vision of building “a just and humane society” and an effective government and democracy “under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace…”
President Aquino should lend his invaluable support to overdue Charter change proposals that did not have a chance under the Arroyo presidency. In this way the President will greatly enhance the Cory Constitution of 1987 for the benefit of our people now and in the future. Along with “daang matuwid,” reforming and revitalizing our system of democratic governance can be the President’s greatest and enduring legacy as a “transforming leader.” He will fulfill our urgent need for structural and institutional change in addition to curbing corruption.
We end as we began this commentary, by respectfully urging President Aquino to be a “transforming leader” like Ramon Magsaysay, Emmanuel Pelaez, Raul Manglapus, Jose Diokno, Jovito Salonga, Fidel Ramos, Antonio Meloto and—most especially—his revered parents.
Dr. Jose V. Abueva is the president of Kalayaan College and UP Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public Administration, a trustee of the Eggie Apostol Foundation, and a former president of the University of the Philippines.
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