Column: Not yet, Bam, not yet

Yesterday, at a public function, a Cabinet secretary’s first words to me were, “Not now, Bam”–a playful, slightly imprecise reference to the following column, which was published on September 4, 2012.

Bam Aquino was my student at the Ateneo de Manila all of 17 years ago; he was, in a word, outstanding, the sort of student a teacher remembers long after the last papers have been marked. I still vividly remember the distinction he once proposed, just right after one particular class ended, between “convince” and “persuade”—the first was an appeal to reason, the second an appeal to the will—which I found a little too categorical for my taste then, but whose explanatory power I understand with greater clarity today.

Now Bam wants to run for the Senate; I have no doubt that he would excel in it—but I urge him not to run. Not next year, and not in 2016. Like many others, I believe that the Aquino family has sometimes served as history’s instrument; there is a family legacy we can all reference (even those critics who cannot stand the Aquinos can hold them accountable according to that legacy’s own terms).

As I understand it, part of the legacy is the spirit of abnegation: It was the seven years in prison and the three years in exile that redefined Ninoy in the national imagination; it is as reluctant standard-bearer and silent cancer victim that Cory continues to have a hold on our affections.

Bam need only look at the example of his older cousin. Noynoy Aquino did not run for elective office when his mother was president, because doing so carried the risk of winning. That’s exactly what confronts Bam now; any pursuit of the Senate while his cousin is president is a subversion of the family legacy.

I do not know whether any of this is convincing or persuasive; all I know is that “Not yet, Bam” seems to me to be the right call to make.

* * *

Seven years after starting my blog (Newsstand, now at and fighting the urge to say “blogosphere” every step of the way, I have finally joined the millions on Twitter; now I am fighting the urge to say “Twitterverse.” If you like, follow me @jnery_newsstand.

* * *

I winced when I read Larry M. Asuncion’s lead letter to the editor. It was not so much his unusual appeal to the CBCP to form an “independent audit committee” to “once and for all determine, definitively,” if the Ateneo de Manila “truly deserves the title ‘Catholic’”—although that “simple suggestion” of his strikes this unworthy alumnus as decidedly inquisitorial. It was his blithe lack of awareness of the crucial facts.

To cite just one example: He alleged that the university had kept silent about the pro-RH professors’ position paper until a bishop had expressed his displeasure. “Ateneo did not know?” This can only mean that he is unaware that in fact the first position paper originally appeared in 2008, and that the university president at that time, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J., wrote statements to assure both the bishops and the professors. In other words: the paper, the discussion among the professors, the university statements (including the one by Fr. Jett Villarin, the new president)—they all have a history, a context, without which it is imprudent to make sweeping conclusions.

Then Larry writes: “Or was Ateneo de Manila just too preoccupied with defending its basketball championship crown?” I get the sense from the use of this punch line (I am convinced, but not yet persuaded) that Larry feels comfortable making conclusions based on headlines alone. I hope I am wrong, and Larry can set me straight, but the university has been in the news lately because of its pro-RH professors and its basketball team. Curious that he thinks that’s all the Ateneo does.

* * *

It grieves me that, in certain quarters, the continuing debate on the Reproductive Health bill has taken on an anti-Church, anticlerical character; it doesn’t help that the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines seem to have discovered a new charism for alienating even the most loyal of the Church’s many children.

The issue, it bears repeating, is not an article of faith; it is a proposed act of Congress. The Church hierarchy misreads its mandate when it conflates the two.

I share the Inquirer’s view that, in this complicated issue, we must go beyond abstract discussion and argue from the practical. Any discussion about the sanctity of life must come to terms with the hundreds of thousands of abortions that already take place in the country, dangerous procedures that send tens of thousands of mothers to the hospital and claims hundreds of lives a year. Any discussion about Church teaching must come to terms with the pressing need to give the born as much protection as we seek to provide the unborn.

But I am afraid that the Church I love may not only be losing the war for allegiance (the legislative battle still seems too confused to call clearly), it may be losing a part of itself.

This would be a tragedy, because I continue to think that the cultural context which undergirds our (secular) national project is heavily Catholic in inspiration—and I still believe that there is no greater single moral force in the country than a Church in sync with the people’s deepest aspirations. I cannot forget the sense of uplift, the sense of possibility, that I and millions of Filipinos felt when the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines declared, in February 1986 after the so-called snap election, that a fraudulent Marcos regime had “no moral basis” on which to govern.

I miss that church.



Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Politics

3 responses to “Column: Not yet, Bam, not yet

  1. I urge all the other children, offspring, brothers, sisters, cousins, relatives of all incumbent elected and government officials to NOT run as well. Time for the next generation or other members of clans to show clear action in helping our country rid itself of political dynasties. Those who want to establish political dynasties keep blaming the general public for voting members of their clans in. I say first step is for these family members to NOT run for public office.

  2. too

    Bam does not come across as very intelligent. Frankly, neither do you, Mr. Nery. Why should anyone be impressed by what you say about him, or what you say about anything for that matter? Do you have credentials other than being an Atenean?

  3. seaweed

    @too – Your comments are pointless and mean spirited. They do not add any intelligent element to the discussion. Rather than merely hurl accusations, why don’t you elaborate and support your points?

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