It was P-Noy who originated the concept and used it to powerful effect over the years. That is the “Boss,” the ultimate ruler of this country to whom even presidents bow down and serve.
P-Noy unveiled the word during his inauguration in 2010, and all the circumstances conspired to make it a brilliant idea. His inauguration was a transition from past to present, or indeed from a sordid past to a promising future, to be marked by the symbolic ritual of the transfer of power at the Luneta.
P-Noy highlighted the drama of the event even before he stepped into Rizal’s favorite place. He did so by being driven to it without a fleet of cars leading, trailing and flanking him. He did so by stopping at every red light they came up to along the way. And, a thing that never happened during his predecessor’s time, he did so by not tearing out a path before him with blaring sirens.
At the end of his inauguration speech, P-Noy spoke about a new order, a new way of life, a new style of governance. One that would banish the wang-wang forever. That image resonated with worlds of meaning, the proposed silence of the wang-wang unleashing a roar in the mind.
Henceforth, he concluded, the country was going to have a new sheriff, and that wasn’t the one of Nottingham. Or, as he explicitly said, the country was going to have a new master, a new governor, to whom he himself had to report, from whom he himself had to get orders. That was Juan de la Cruz, that was the people, that was the Boss.
In the years that followed, P-Noy’s State of the Nation Address drew its power from that proposition. He made of them an occasion not just to apprise the nation of its state but also to make a report to the Boss. The Boss took on an aspect of solidity in the people’s mind, a palpable entity hearing him out, particularly as he ticked off the things he had done for him, or her, or them.
That was what made the people listen to P-Noy’s Sonas, notwithstanding that they have gotten longer and longer over the years, notwithstanding that the enumeration, the singling out of his officials whom he deemed to have done well, the testaments of the beneficiaries of uplift, have gotten longer and longer. You need no further proof of that than that everyone, from the media, mainstream and social, to the barbershops, old and new, would be weighing in on the President’s report, debating its merits and demerits for days to come.
Indeed, you need no further proof than that P-Noy’s predecessor’s Sonas, despite their enumeration of accomplishments, too, despite their singling out of the presumably meritorious, too, despite their attestations to uplift, too—the “bangkang papel” comes to mind—were largely ignored the next day. Quite apart from the not very small matter of credibility, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Sonas lacked the “dramatic conceit” of a president talking to someone, who is his Boss.
There’s an upside and downside to this.
The upside is patent. P-Noy’s “internalization” of talking to his Boss gives the impression of a leader who truly means to do well by his people. An impression reinforced by P-Noy personally never having been tainted by corruption. Indeed, by P-Noy personally not being weighed down by self-interest: He was loath to run from the start, but which, as he said last Monday, would have been like turning his back on his parents. He has no desire to cling to power but will walk away quietly after his term ends. Of course, that also calls attention to the fact that his people won’t, but will seek another six years of power. But no matter, P-Noy’s own light is strong enough to cast it at least for the nonce in the shadows.
The downside is not as patent, but is there. That is that if you call the Boss the Boss, then you must not just be talking to him, you must also be listening to him. You must also be receiving orders from him. You must also be doing his bidding. You may not presume to know what the Boss wants. Or worse, you may not presume to know what’s best for your Boss. In short, the conversation must be two-way. In short, the dialogue may not be a monologue.
P-Noy has always been strong about reporting to his Boss what he has done; there is no doubt about his sincerity. He has not always been strong about knowing what the Boss wants; there is every doubt about his willingness to do so.
You saw that last year in his reluctance, if not hostility, to dialogue with the antipork people who managed to mount a Million People March at the Luneta. Doubtless the leftists were there, doubtless the Arroyo people were there (Renato Corona was there), doubtless those who feared the ax falling on them in the wake of the Janet Napoles scandal were there. But so were the nuns, the priests, the teachers, the students, the housewives, the ordinary folk who were beside themselves with rage at the criminal waste of their money.
You saw that as well in his reluctance, if not hostility, to listen to the people arguing for the passage of the freedom of information bills. You saw that as well in his reluctance, if not hostility, to dialogue with the netizens not all of whom are kulang sa pansin and just want to shout themselves hoarse, many are perfectly capable of expressing thoughtful thoughts.
Toward the end of his Sona last Monday, P-Noy sounded a note of warning at his detractors. He sounded a note of resolve at those who mean to thwart reform, at those who mean to derail transformation, at those who mean to stop change. They will not succeed. They will find themselves on the other side of government, they will find themselves on the other side of the people, and they will find themselves crushed.
The question, though, and quite an elemental one, is: Who really are the people?
Who really is the Boss?
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