Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pieces of mind

March 15, 2010 00:24:00
Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Original Story:

THERE was an interesting letter in our Letters section last week from a Rico Magdurulang. It talked about “De Quiros’ strange turnaround.” The letter pointed out how I reacted vehemently to Cory’s and Noynoy Aquino’s position on the deaths in Hacienda Luisita, specifically scoffing at Noynoy’s claim that the leftists goaded the workers to strike. How now, the letter asked, could I possibly be supporting the presidential bid of someone I cast in that light?

In fact, I’m not just supporting the presidential bid of Noynoy Aquino, I proposed that he run when that prospect was still just a glimmer in the dark. There is no puzzle there. The strange turnaround is neither strange nor a turnaround. The things I said that Magdurulang quotes I believed then, I believe now, and I will believe tomorrow.

Workers do have the right to strike, whether they are goaded or not. You cannot goad the ungoadable. That was what I said too when the public school teachers mounted a strike in the early 1990s. I said the ultimate instigator of that strike has no known address and only goes by the name of Hunger. The strike is one of the few legal weapons left to the powerless, and the powerful may thank their lucky stars the powerless opt for that instead of more violent means.

I’ve made this clear in my columns in the past, explicitly so in one column in October where I said:

“None of it is to suggest we look up to Noynoy as some kind of savior. I did say last August that we may regard Cory herself only as a source of inspiration, not as a source of salvation. Only we can save ourselves.

“True enough, the Cory presidency had its share of problems, and the Noynoy presidency will have its share of problems. I myself have not forgotten the things I brought up during the Cory presidency, which was not just Hacienda Luisita but the human rights abuses during the anti-insurgency campaign (notably by the paramilitary groups), government’s dependence on the US (which led to its defense of the Clark and Subic bases), government’s refusal to negotiate, if not scrap, the fraudulent loans (indeed making debt payments, not education, the number one priority of the budget), and so on.”

If Aquino’s political rivals—which I suspect this letter has much to do with—had more industry or imagination, they might have dug up the things I said about the Mendiola massacre, which are far more scathing.

The reason I praise Cory to high heavens today, and trust her son to preserve the legacy she left behind, notwithstanding all this is that when all is said and done you measure a person by the entirety of what he or she has done—or not done—and not just by their individual faults or mistakes or policies you violently disagree with, or conversely by their personal virtues, or shining moments, or acts of redeeming grace. From the perspective of more than 20 years, it’s the easiest thing in the world to see that Cory was the best president this country had. Bar none.

In fact, she was the best postwar leader this country ever had, still bar none. Before and after she became president. Her government was no ordinary government that came after ordinary elections faced only with ordinary administrative tasks. It was one that oversaw the transition from martial law to democracy, from the rule of bayonets to the rule of law—or at least the democracy and law we knew before martial law, however you might disagree with how democratic and legal it really was. You might disagree too about how well she handled the challenges she faced: If so, you will be disagreeing with the people of this country.

The people rendered their verdict last Aug. 5. The people knew about Hacienda Luisita, the people knew about the debt payments and the US bases and the Mendiola massacre, the people knew about the infuriating brownouts. And still they came, trooping out of their houses one stormy day to accompany her in body and spirit to where she was going, refusing to be lured to the malls and movie houses by a hastily proclaimed holiday, those who stayed home being glued to the spectacle of a never-ending procession via television and adding to the waters sent down by heaven with their tears. Tears that did not blind, tears that allowed them to see with stark and breathtaking HD quality the depth of their loss. Enough to say she was one damn good person who walked the face of this earth.

But then the people have always seen better than their leaders.

When Noynoy Aquino becomes president, he at least can hope, or dread, to have someone like me who will continue to press for an accounting of things. I support but I do not support blindly. I maintain that the fight is a fight between good and evil, however Noynoy has yet to discover the idea, between the good that Cory’s legacy represents and the evil that Gloria’s second-rate, copycat, iron-fisted rule represents—and which her second-rate, copycat, extensions/insertions will perpetuate— but I do not see that good lasting without true people power, without the people having a say in their government.

I have not been remiss in my duties, taking the Aquino campaign to task when I thought it was trying to consolidate its numbers by veering the trapo way, which in fact only succeeded in dissipating its numbers. And throughout an entire campaign that seems to have forgotten Edsa, the one thing that brought Noynoy his numbers, the one thing that could have kept him his numbers and the one thing that could give him back his numbers. What can one say? Life is strange, and often frustrating.

I wonder if Manny Villar and Gilbert Teodoro have their share of supporters who do not mind giving them a piece of their mind. But that presumes they have a mind to give pieces out of.

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