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Legacy and fairness

“Legacy” projects are often otherwise known as ego-boosters, paeans of praise paid for by people, most often government officials but also business tycoons and civic figures, to boost their images, burnish their reputations, and build myths around their time in the limelight.

So it’s no surprise that toward the end of every administration, the outgoing president or his or her people would seek to create a permanent record of his or her time in office, beyond news clippings or compilations of speeches. This is true also of the P-Noy administration, which recently released what it calls “The Aquino Legacy Videos” that, according to Assistant Secretary Celso Santiago of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), “are not your usual government propaganda videos that extol each and every government program to high heavens.”

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Launched at this week’s “Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel,” the collection of five CDs devoted to particular areas of governance are, in Santiago’s words, “mini-documentaries that tackle and analyze the complex problems of Philippine society and discuss the logic and rationale behind the solutions pursued by this government.”

They are, in a sense, a summing up of, yes, the accomplishments of the P-Noy years, but also of the basic problems that beset Philippine society, from poverty to peace, the rule of law, to the pursuit of economic growth, the search for economic justice and equal opportunity, even the coping mechanisms for an environment undergoing drastic change.

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Which is not to say—and the documentaries do not even attempt to claim—that these problems, rooted deep in history and systems, were all solved within the six years that P-Noy was president. After all, Philippine democracy and the creation of a more prosperous but also more equitable society is, as political scientists put it, an “ongoing project.”

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In the day-to-day coverage of and commentary on the affairs of government and the performance of officials, a lot of nuance and perspective can be lost. There is little opportunity to step back and look at the “big picture,” and to appreciate the context.

Doubtless, the approaching end of a president’s term of office is an opportune time to remember, recollect, and review. Not just to put a positive spin on a president’s performance, but, more important, to understand what took place and provide a stepping stone for the next steps onward and, it is hoped, upward.

Foolish, indeed, is an administration that seeks only to tear down what has been accomplished or turn back and return to Step One. What a colossal waste of time that would be!

So aside from data and explanations of specific policies, the videos also provide interviews with other officials, commentators and columnists, and, most important, beneficiaries. The people behind the video, spearheaded by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, PCOO head Secretary Sonny Coloma, and consultant Maria Montelibano, intend the videos for use by students in public schools, “for social studies, civics and history classes in basic education.”

According to Santiago, a total of 2,000 DVD sets will be distributed to public schools nationwide, “to help mold students who will become ‘solutionaries,’” which he defined as “citizens who can propose solutions and not just join the noisy mob of ranters in social media.”

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Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro, who was on hand to receive the video collections in behalf of the millions of students who, it is hoped, will learn from them, admitted that “the administration has not always been good at communicating about the change that we have created.” But, he added, “when the political dust has cleared, history will look back at the past six years and say the biggest changes, the most sustainable reforms, have happened in the past six years.”

He recounted the demands made on the members of the Aquino Cabinet, saying that “the only thing that the President wants are real numbers that will have an impact on the lives of Filipinos however far they are from the central government.”

Ochoa, who closed the program, likened the evolution of public opinion on the administration’s performance to that of a TV series, with the audience “so wrapped up in succeeding seasons they forget what had happened in the first or second seasons.”

And perhaps recounting the drubbing that P-Noy and his other officials would get almost daily from the news media and now in social media, Ochoa made this appeal in behalf of the Duterte administration. “Give them a chance; everybody deserves a chance,” he said.

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Perhaps the thought that a “legacy project” awaits the Duterte administration by 2022 will give the incoming officials the impetus they need to keep their eyes on the ball. Not just to put out fires as these occur, but also to keep the long view, to keep aware of the real stakes at the endgame. After all, they are serving in the government to usher in change, and to raise the lives of more than 100 million Filipinos.

The goal can get lost in the everyday details of governance, so they must, this early, even before they take their oaths of office, keep in mind the larger picture and the ultimate goal.

True, the murmuring and grumbling, especially from the combative media, can eat at one’s resolve, wear away the initial idealism that led one to the unrewarding field of public service.

But a reckoning will and must come. One can only hope that by then, the summing up will be not only favorable but, foremost, fair.

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TAGS: Aquino administration, Benigno Aquino III, legacy
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