It was a break-up many anticipated. Yet, it was a break-up I wished so hard would never happen. I am not naive, having played the partisan game myself. But everything I have learned along the way taught me that partisanship and noble visions are simply incompatible.
I admit that the democratic system we adopted necessitates partisanship and had built it in the political mechanism. But it was supposed to be contained to short, though short periods of time, just the months of campaigns towards local and national elections. Unfortunately, the predilection to partisanship conditioned by colonial masters in their patterned divide-and-conquer governance has made Filipinos unable to set partisanship aside.
How, then, do we break mindsets and behavior so deeply ingrained in us? Unity is more a term than an understood value. Who can teach us about unity? It seems our only experience with unity came only when invaders conquered and took away our country and freedom. Political gurus mention unity as a crucial ingredient to national progress but no administration rises to the level of non-partisanship. In short, no institution is a revered model of a virtue that can be taught only by living example.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the Duterte administration will be beset by the same problems as all others before it. My optimism was stimulated because Rodrigo Duterte was elected mainly by his own charisma, not by his membership in a political party. This optimism was further stoked by a starting popularity of 91%, representing the urgent need of a people for change and their empathy for a new president who seemed determined to be more on the side of the people instead of the government.
His appointment of Leni Robredo as a member of the Cabinet further strengthened my hopes that a rare unity at levels never experienced was doable. This elusive unity would be so necessary for Duterte’s attempt to create peace among long-warring parties – government, MILF & MNLF, NPAs & NDF, maybe even the USA and China in the South China Sea and the Western Philippine Sea. And, again, to have a strong, credible partner in Leni Robredo as he would roll out a radical heart and program for the poor.
It turned out to be wishful thinking on my part. The partisanship that made the last elections the most acerbic and hate-filled just would not let up, not even when Duterte’s popularity shot through the roof. It is ironic that Duterte die-hards were ahead even of anti-Duterte forces in creating unnecessary tension by their aggressive posture and language. Later, when it was being mentioned in social media that trolls were very active during the campaign and up to now, I concluded they were playing a great part in making this happen.
The Liberal Party was a fading force. Proof is the fact that their candidate, despite the party’s dominance of sitting local and public officials and resources, garnered only 21%. And if rumors are to be believed that there was cheating in the elections to favor the administration parties, all the more it showed how the Liberal Party had grown weak. With LP Congressmen and Senators joining the minority forces of Duterte, what other evidence was necessary? Of course, I read that the Liberal Party was being blamed for some anti-Duterte noise out there but it was a hard line to swallow.
I wonder if the Duterte administration understood deeply enough what it meant to be voted in on an agenda of dramatic, even radical, change. While Duterte talked about eliminating drugs, forging peace, fixing the bureaucracy, and being pro-poor, those were his words, his offerings to the electorate. Yes, he resonated powerfully enough with almost 40% of the voters that he beat all his rivals handily. On that basis, he created his own mountain to climb. It was not just the details of what he promised but the heightened expectations he created.
The challenge is that change is a big word, and that people say it easily even when they cannot put a clear description to what change means to them. Change is a mood, change is an attitude, change is a behavior, but most of all, change is a new direction. In other words, change can be anything or everything. This has been the downfall of all presidents after martial law – that they did not understand the mechanics of change intimately enough. They did not understand that when there is a great expectation of change, the change can include even what they do not want to be changed.
The journey for great change does not come only from great frustration, it is driven on a deeper level by idealism itself. The frustration may be a powerful driver of change, but idealism wants that change to unfold in a noble manner. That is the purpose of evolution, that life becomes better, not just changed. The anger part is not evolution but only a driver of the process. Anger triggers change but cannot define it. And if anger attempts to define change, life will remove the current agents of change and look for new ones to favor. This is why holding on to power by force or cunning is a failed methodology and has a very short life span.
History is full of despots and dictators because anger can be an instant driver of change. But those whom history remembers as the most beloved among life’s change agents with the most enduring impact all had something in common – benevolence. Change that bestows mankind with benevolence is the premier mandate of evolution because both the change agents and the people they serve are blessed.
In our dark moments as individuals or as a people of a changing nation, we must remember that there is a silver lining. It is not just out there like a flash from heaven, it is an embedded seed in our hearts. It is divinely ordained to be indestructible and is empowered to find its way to the light.
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