Friday, February 22, 2008

The True Spirit of EDSA

Nowadays, people are clamoring for a Gloria resign movement. Yet another rally was held in Makati last Friday to call for PGMA’s ouster. I personally wanted to take part in the rally as sign of indignation and protest over the stupid lies put up by the government. (However, I didn’t for security reasons. I am not proud about this.) The people in the government underestimate the common Filipinos’ capacity to discern what is right and what is wrong, what is a lie and what is the truth. Just today, I heard from a tv news anchor (Anthony Taberna) about his call for the supposed "universal judgment," which inevitably brings to my mind once more the memory of the great and extremely boring tracts of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
I feel ambivalent about the PGMA resign movement. I strongly believe that she should be ousted and punished for every wrongdoing she has committed to the Filipino people but on the one hand, there is a creeping cynicism inside of me which says disposing her will not necessarily lead for the better. If truth be told, I am bitterly disappointed by her performance as a president. I had such a high expectation of her as she depicted herself as the moral, religious, family-loving opposite of the then philandering actor-president Joseph Estrada. I sincerely thought she was the one who could save this country from the vicious cycle of poverty and corruption. But she proved to be worse than Estrada in the end. She presented her flashy, respectable and dignified self in the public yet in reality, there was a Mr. Hyde lurking on the background. At least Estrada had the temerity to show his real face in the public and to challenge them to either take it or leave. It may be in bad taste and a step backward to feminism, with him having numerous mistresses around, but in the Filipino psyche his act is something that can be condoned.
I believe the public feels the same way I feel now. Although they feel strongly against the leadership of Gloria, they may not be too apt to act on the thought as they simply do not want to go through the whole ordeal of deposing and replacing a government again. I daresay PGMA killed and cheapened the spirit of the Edsa Revolution when she ascended into power and proved, or rather chose, to be the wrong leader. The first Edsa Revolution and the "real" People Power in my opinion was the one triggered by the death of a true hero, Ninoy Aquino. The second one, was right in the sense that most people really wanted Estrada out of power, and yet was misguided and outright disastrous in the sense that it paved the way for Gloria to claim the power and privilege that was not rightfully hers.
It was not rightfully hers as she was not voted as president the first time she took hold of the presidency. (And thing is, she probably never really was ever voted as president, as insinuated by the "Hello Garci" scandal.) Estrada was idolized and catapulted into power by the middle to lower class majority of the society. The elite class can whine and bitch about it but their vote is as good as the vote by the lowliest street vendor (as long as gets himself registered and does not sell his vote to an unscrupulous local public official for a measly hundred bucks). The poor and underprivileged class wanted Estrada and so he became the president of the land. His only mistake was that he got caught doing his own designs of graft and corruption. He was betrayed by his "compadre" and co-conspirator himself, Chavit Singson, when he readily admitted to the Senate that yes, they were doing jueteng collection and yes, Estrada was siphoning public funds into his own wallet through various means of malversation of public funds. And of course, just like the rest, Singson did not claim he wasn’t guilty of it either, its just that compared to what his "compadre" was getting, his share was just a small portion of the pie. And so off Estrada went, together with his legion of crooks, who haughtily announced that the people can erect makeshift houses in Edsa for all they care but no, Estrada will not step down as president. A few days after, when his favored senators danced and cheered their way to prevent a vital piece of information from going out to public, Estrada was eventually booted out of office. What they didn’t know was that their desperate and pathetic attempt to shield Estrada from his plunder charges was the last straw. The public became so furious because the farcical process of unseating a president was so deliberately rigged to favor then president Estrada. And so to announce their indignation as well as to let go of their frustration over the entire affair, they marched to Edsa via a text brigade to be later supported by opposition leaders, church leaders notably, Jaime Cardinal Sin, former presidents Cory Aquino and FVR, and lastly and they key of which was the military. Alas, another "compadre" of his was to betray Estrda. Then Chief of Staff Reyes and the nominal head of the military, turned his back on Estrada, saying he will listen to the voice of the people and protect the right of the people and not the president alone. Now, Reyes is gratefully serving PGMA as a vital government official, through various posts, a happy consequence of his mighty act of choosing public opinion over his personal benefits. He is infinitely happier with his choice indeed.
This is what essentially what the opposition leaders are asking the public again to go through. To experience once again the hysteria and mob of deposing an unrighteous and according to Lozada’s word (told to him in confidence by CHED Chairman Romulo Neri) "evil" president. To what extent the current sitting president is evil, we might never know as Neri himself claims he does not recall ever naming the president as such or even being in such a position to have him say those words. But interestingly, when the press people pressed him further to describe PGMA in one word, he says that he could not and when pressed again to elaborate and to use more than a word if he must, again he seems to be at lost for words on how to describe his own boss. Was it fear that stopped him to utter any potentially politically incorrect word that might come out of his mouth? Is it fear now that is stopping him to go the path that Jun Lozada has taken? Just like Lozada said, Neri was concerned about his financial and physical security, the top two things he will invariably lose once he goes against the president (and who in his right mind wouldn’t be really?) Lozada was reluctant to go the Senate precisely on those reasons and yet, in the end, he chose the more difficult path as he was more concerned about saving his morality, about losing his soul more than the physical comforts of this life.
What is the lesson we can learn from all of these? I personally learned that good intentions do not necessarily lead to good results. The intention of Edsa, both I and II, were definitely aimed for the greater good and yet, the results were not all satisfying, especially with the latter one. Filipinos are clamoring for change and genuinely want reform from the government and yet sadly, their leaders have failed them one after the other. The spirit of the first Edsa still burns alive in the memory and hearts of all Filipinos and this is what led them to again dream of change and a break of the status quo when they marched to the streets once more for the second Edsa. The Filipinos spirit is always pure and strong, always searches for the truth and never settles for what is only second best, and yet it is their leaders that are found wanting. This particular Jun Lozada expose might not go anywhere, his wave of truth might not be strong enough to topple down a greedy and evil president firmly entrenched in her hold of power, but his lesson will never be lost, his courage in the face of danger and evil will never be forgotten.
In the end, the choice is ours to make. We could choose the path that Lozada has taken, a path towards the greater good, the path that will save our souls. Or we could take the road Neri has taken, a path towards personal good and security, but a path that might make us lose our soul. In his unusual display of both courage and fear, Lozada, has emerged the moral victor in this quest for truth. His unmasked sincerity and surprising wit, as shown in his Senate hearing appearances, struck a chord in this nation’s soul still hoping for the realization of the spirit of Edsa. Like he said, "In my choice to come out for the truth, my only intention was to save my own soul. I didn’t know that in the process, I will also touch our nation’s soul as well." As long as there is still one man (or woman) standing and bravely defying the odds for the higher good of this nation, all is still not lost with the Filipino’s quiet quest for idealism and good governance, and as such the true spirit of Edsa remains.

Memorable Quotes resulting from the J Lo Expose:
"Moderate your greed. Exterminate your breed." – from popular poltical slogan these days as lifted from Neri’s instruction to Lozada to moderate the greed for kickback of Abalos and FG Arroyo.
"I thought I was merely standing up for the truth. But now, I learn that the truth is the one standing up for me." –Jun Lozada from his Tagalog version (Akala ko, gusto ko lang maisalba ang katotohan kaya ako nagsalita. Pero ngayon ang katotohanan na ang sumasalba sa akin.)
"I simply cannot recall saying those words." –Romulo Neri, when asked about the veracity of Lozada’s testimony that he called PGMA evil. It is important to note that he did not categorically say, no, I never said it, but only no, I do not recall saying that. This saves him from the accusation of being a complete liar as in effect what he was saying is that he might or might not have said those words. Nevertheless, oppositionist Senator Ping Lacson, after hearing Neri’s answer, immediately called him a liar, telling he was there when Neri said those words just December of last year and further accusing him of having selective amnesia.

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