Published on March 11, 2008
What happens now? The answer depends on our sense of the situation. It does not seem to me that it is the middle of February 1986 or the second week of January 2001 all over again.
The more I think about it, the more it strikes me: We are back in 1984 or 1985, when the outrage over the assassination of Ninoy Aquino had put the Marcos regime on the defensive—but people power was not even a dream.
To be sure, there are two crucial differences between then and now. The economy was in dire straits then; and Marcos moved around in a pharmacological fog, his instincts that of a dead man.
But the similarity is all-important: Then, as now, it is the opposition’s state of preparedness that will determine the outcome.
Rooting through my old books, I found, in Loyola Papers 15 — a 22-year-old collection of “interdisciplinary reflections” on “The ‘Miracle’ of the Philippine Revolution” — a reminder of the work that needed to be done then (and must be done now).
Here’s the late Fr. Jose Blanco (“Derps” to many who came to share the gospel of active non-violence): “I remember from November-December , the pattern of my thoughts was that, in the words of St. Paul, our struggle is not with human beings but with principalities and powers. So, the discernment is to find out where evil is taking hold of people within the system and taking hold of the system to perpetuate the sinful condition … The ultimate explanation is the presence of a principle of evil, of powers, who make people work and fight among themselves and destroy themselves.”
And this: “Now I would like to enter the area of the non-violent aspect of the liberation effort … And here, I say there is a quality of preparedness but there is also the fact of, in a sense, unpreparedness—unscripted events.”
* * *
One of the many “points of preparation” Father Blanco remembered was “the campaign to get a million signatures” to convince Cory Aquino to run for President. If, as Pulse Asia tells us, only 16 percent of Filipinos are willing to join street protests today, perhaps a reverse signature campaign is in order?
* * *
The results of the Pulse Asia survey in Metro Manila last month found that Senate witness Jun Lozada, among the six “personalities involved in the NBN-ZTE issue who [were] trust-rated” in the poll, was the only one with a majority trust rating of 52 percent. In contrast, “public distrust is the most predominant sentiment among Metro Manilans” regarding four other personalities: Romulo Neri (57 percent “small or no trust” rating), Benjamin Abalos (69) and the First Couple (at 76 percent each). Voting-age Filipinos in the national capital region were ambivalent about Joey de Venecia, however, with 42 percent saying they could not tell whether they trusted or distrusted him.
This sounds about right. Moral ambiguity is De Venecia’s gift to the nation; Lozada, with the help of a phalanx of nuns, brings moral clarity to the discussion.
Or does he? Impassioned sources paint a vivid portrait of, not so much outright corruption, although there is that too, but of eminent corruptibility. Lozada, a source I have no reason to distrust told me the other day, is a man on the make, assisted in no small part by his considerable powers of rationalization. (My source called it his “gift of gab.”) That is why Lozada found himself in the middle of a hundred-million-dollar deal, with no official portfolio except that of facilitator. And that is why he was able to ask Sen. Panfilo Lacson to consider raising “patriotic money” for his principal and close friend, Romy Neri.
(Unlike political blogger John Marzan, who does me the honor of reading me, I continue to hold that in the resultant meeting Neri found Lacson and Sen. Jamby Madrigal wanting.)
As far as I can tell, Lozada’s current role as credible truth-teller (and Cory Aquino’s prayer partner) is based both on the details of his story (they have for many the ring of truth) and the circumstances of the telling: abducted from the airport, rescued by religious, overcome by great emotion, serene in the truth.
His credibility is that of a witness, not a philosopher. At one point in his first Senate appearance, he joined an ongoing discussion about corruption in government with the words, “May I share my experience?” He then proceeded to talk, not about his experience, but about his reflections on experience. His intervention, using the abstract language of reflection, was by far the least compelling part of his testimony.
Does it matter? It is his abduction from the airport by armed and unknown men which reveals the dangerous and duplicitous nature of the Arroyo administration—and allows us to evaluate the ZTE-NBN mess in the right light.
I’m afraid it does matter. Lozada is not only getting a free pass on his official indiscretions; he is pushing people away by pontificating on the issues, instead of re-telling his experience.
Consider, out of many possible examples, what he said at a “Mass for Truth” at his alma mater the other Sunday. Reacting to what he said a priest “close to the cardinals” had told him about the political conservatism of many bishops, he let loose with a confession of un-faith:
“I replied, Father, if you’re telling me now that the Church where I seek refuge is being indifferent to the truth and justice just because of your own geopolitical considerations, Father, you have to teach me to unlearn all the homilies, all the liturgical sharing, all these doctrines that you have [taught] me before, because I have to renounce my faith if that is how you will answer me.”
Obviously he got carried away. To renounce the same faith of the nuns who protect him requires an act, a leap, of rationalization.