Political martyrdom certainly becomes Gloria
By Dean Jorge Bocobo
INQ7, January 6, 2003
TRADITIONAL politics has suddenly become the dirtiest of occupations, degraded to an even lower moral status than ever before, by the single puissant stroke of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Rizal Day speech, in which she unexpectedly bowed out of the already-roiling 2004 presidential race. It was a victory for noblesse oblige on the altar of personal sacrifice that marks an early high point in 21st century Filipino politics and destines Gloria for greater, but as yet, unforeseeable things. For now, the only thing sure is that she will get a lot of unsolicited advice from every pundit and politician reformer who thinks he has the answers to all our woes and she, the means and freedom to implement them. Both would be dead wrong of course and she would be better off charging for listening to such unsolicited advice, to put a dent in the budget deficit.
But certainly, political martyrdom becomes Gloria. If anything, that speech should negate once and for all, the accusation that she was just a spoiled brat before this, an opportunist, into whose undeserving lap the presidency once upon a time fell when Erap's plutocracy imploded and the Supreme Court blessed the civilian-military coup d'etat that deposed him. It was a speech that clearly showed Gloria as a person with class, with no inclination to be grasping, ready to give away what mere happenstance gratuitously dropped her way, until a real opportunity to win and deserve one's fortune should present itself.
It also messes up everybody else's plans, schemes and timetables because Gloria has merely decided not to run in the 2004 elections, she has not entered a political nunnery. Not only will she wield considerable power over who gets a crack at the presidency in 2004, she has in fact, extended her own political viability and shelf life. She could still run for the presidency, on her own considerable merit in 2010 or in any conceivable rearrangement due to Charter change, before then. Noble sacrifice or royal blunder, the decision gives Gloria the moral high ground from which to show everyone what she really believes in and what she is really made of. This moral clarity and unequivocal purpose, I hope she will apply to domestic policy in the balance of her term. Her leadership of the country, post 9/11 and the war on terrorism and through all the travails imposed by the Abu Sayyaf, would come to naught if the "outdated social system" which she refers to as preventing our progress as a nation, were to survive much longer into the brave new world of this century.
Conventional wisdom says her withdrawal from the 2004 race opens the door to other candidates. But she's not going away any time soon and the likes of Loren Legarda, Raul Roco, Noli de Castro and other non-opposition aspirants cannot easily ignore the need for her approbation and support, without which it might now be difficult to mount a successful presidential bid. The queen may be more comfortable as kingmaker in a season when political assassins abound and the 2004 race incites the basest passions in other men.
Besides, it is the prospect of opening the door to other ideas and tapping new sources of human energy for saving the Philippines from the Filipinos and the Filipinos from themselves that has been made greater by Gloria's decision.
By putting on Jose Rizal's overcoat of noble personal sacrifice and calling on all Filipinos to do the same, Gloria has issued to her generation, the Filipino baby boomers, a clarion call to public service in the manner of a John F. Kennedy. Many of their number have already been recruited to that enterprise under her administration, which still straddles the generations, but is getting a decidedly younger and younger cast as time goes on. The promising entry of Cito Lorenzo into the Department of Agriculture and Bebet Gozun at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources signals this continuing generational shift under Gloria's reign. They join the other young Filipinos in Gloria's Cabinet to whom the baton is being inexorably passed.
Gloria is certainly assured of a place in that communion of living political saints maintained around Corazon Aquino and vouchsafed by Cardinal Sin, to which she is already being canonized by a crescendo of approving praise for her recent action. This is coming from erstwhile Church, media and civil society allies that had become less than enthusiastic in their support for her this past year or so or have even been alienated from her camp in the series of breakups with the likes of Vice President Teofisto Guingona and former Education Secretary Raul Roco. The quick rebuilding or reaffirmation of her support from these significant sectors has been an immediate windfall of the Rizal Day speech, despite the pestiferous fulminations of self-appointed presidential tormentors and harpies, in the likes of Pastor Saycon and Linda Montayre. The support of these sectors will be important if she intends to go on a moral crusade to reform the government, fight corruption and save the economy.
What will actually happen depends on the pureness of her intentions and the willingness of the citizenry to do the right thing in the difficult days ahead.