Theres The Rub by Conrado de Quiros “Plain honest truth for the Filipino to absorb”

October 17, 2009

Oct 2009

Theres The Rub
by Conrado de Quiros

from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Ronaldo Puno had some pretty hilarious things to say last week:

“A word on the euphoria … those things are not enough to win an election…. If you’re going to tell me if the same kind of mood of exuberance and opposition is going to be present eight months from now, I can tell you that from my entire experience, nothing has lasted that long.”

That is not the hilarious part. It is this: “The ‘Noynoy phenomenon’ holds the key to the success of the administration party because we have to deal with it and we have to deal with the root causes that any people feel about this government…. The first thing we need to try to do is to understand where this is all coming from, what is fueling this apparent discontent that has taken over the minds of, according to their surveys, 50 percent of our population.”

What are the root causes of the way this country feels about this government? Do you need research to find the answer to that? Do you have to consult the universities, the polling agencies, or the Delphi Oracle to divine the answer to that? Do you have to wrack your brains to dredge up the answer to that?

The root causes of the way this country feels about government are Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and people like Ronaldo Puno.

Puno, of course, is right: euphoria alone won’t win the presidency for anyone. But the “Noynoy phenomenon” is not just about euphoria. It is also about tyrannyphobia. Or a newfound unwillingness to tolerate tyranny that burst its banks with the death of Corazon Aquino. The outpouring of love for Corazon Aquino is matched only by the outpouring of hate for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Why has Noynoy become phenomenal? Simple: Because he is the opposite of Gloria. Or is seen as so. In the same way that Cory was the opposite of Marcos and Obama was the opposite of Bush.

I’ve always proposed that the one person Barack Obama needs most to thank for making him possible was George W. Bush. It was Bush who made Americans so desperate for change, even radical change—or especially radical change—they were willing to do what they had never done before, which was to bring either a woman or a black man to the White House. John McCain never figured in the equation. The real choice was between Obama and Hilary Clinton.

No Bush, no Obama. No Arroyo, no Noynoy.

I recall a riddle that was posed to me when I was a kid: “What makes light bright?” I answered variously, electricity, the bulb, the filament. Not at all, said the riddler. What makes light bright is—dark. I have not forgotten that Zen-like answer.

Its power is right there before our eyes. Euphoria alone won’t get anyone to the presidency. But euphoria and tyrannophobia will. The story line of light and dark, right and wrong, good and evil will. The one element pushing the other into stark relief, the dark making the light brighter, the wrong making the right stronger, the evil making the good an absolute necessity. And vice versa: The light making the dark blacker, the right making the wrong more reprehensible, the good making the evil an absolute necessity to stamp out. The one fuels the other, producing a spiraling vortex.

It doesn’t help Puno’s cause that he is there to remind people epically about what Noynoy is the opposite of. Like McCain, who was seen by the Americans as just an extension of Bush, Puno (forget Gibo—how can you take seriously anyone who gets zero in surveys?) is seen by Filipinos as an extension of Gloria. More here than there, Arroyo not having been counted out by Filipinos in the unfolding drama. It helps even less when Puno makes observations about what wins elections based on his experience. Because based on our experience with him, euphoria truly doesn’t win elections. Cheating does.

I most ardently wish Puno will appear more in public saying those things: He won’t just keep Noynoy’s ratings at the astronomical levels they are, he will push them further up.

That is the key to the “Noynoy phenomenon.” The people who say it’s too early to tell, the ratings may still fall forget one vital thing. Which is that these are no ordinary elections, a point I’ve been making again and again. One way to view this is that there have been elections in this country where the vote has been profoundly “ideological.” Another, and probably better, way to see this is that there have been elections in this country where what’s at stake was so profoundly life-and-death they went past the framework of elections.

Two of them easily come to mind. The first were the November elections of 1971. The event that preceded that was the Plaza Miranda bombing which was widely attributed to Marcos. When the smoke cleared after the senatorial elections, only one Nacionalista was left standing. The people almost universally voted Liberal, making the worst victim of the bombing, Jovito Salonga, a humongous No. 1 though he wasn’t around to campaign.

The second was the snap elections of February 1986. The results of those elections may be debated endlessly, but that those elections were more than elections—they were not defined by platforms, pa pogi appeals, electoral promises and the other paraphernalia of ordinary elections—may not.

Those were not elections, those were a fight between light and dark (brilliantly captured by Joe Con’s “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness”), truth and lies (as embodied today by Jun Lozada), right and wrong (they were a matter of fundamental justice).

So are today’s elections. The only thing that lies in Noynoy’s path to the presidency right now is the same thing that lay in the path of his mother to the presidency in the snap elections.

Ask Puno what it is. He was there, too.


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