Selective morality and the aftermath of the 2007 Elections

I’m… amazed at the statements and reactions following the 2007 elections. Of course, dominance in the Senate by Genuine Opposition (GO) candidates was expected; it wasn’t as if there were better choices in Team Unity, yes? Haha, in fact, my top choice for Senator – Majority Leader Kiko Pangilinan – ran as an Independent. Come to think of it, my top three “assuredly-I-shall-vote-for-them” candidates had one in GO (Chiz Escudero) and one in TU (Mike Defensor).

From what I can glean from stuff going around post-elections, many of the Republic’s citizens voted not along GO or TU lines, but rather on a criterion that included the perception that this person will do his/her job in the Senate as well as their track record of service. I guess it really just so happened that many of the candidates who could claim such were in GO, partly because of the successful media-created perception that any candidate under the Administration is there simply to keep Gloria in power.

Besides, it really DID look as if TU had a trapo lineup, didn’t it? Its hard to sell something that doesn’t look good, and Reli German’s campaign style wasn’t able to get past the perceptions. I was there during their kickoff and my thoughts as the 12 TU Senatoriables were presented was, well…

It’s the “hardliner” comments, though, that astound me. People who claim to have voted straight GO say they did so on the basis of a rejection of corruption and all the evils of politics. For me, this best illustrates a phenomenon in the Philippine political sphere that has caught my attention since July 8: selective morality.

I find it astounding that people, and especially the so-called leaders of the equally so-called Civil Society , could claim that their GO votes were based on the principles of morality and “good politics”, of reform-oriented politics. It clearly shows how much people would go to just to give their actions a veneer of justification.

Take Trillianes for example. I saw some of the posts in one of the Inquirer blogs, and due to outrage I just HAD to post in response to them. People so quickly forget that Trillianes acted not like the hero they say he is but like some common bandit or terrorist by rigging explosives around Oakwood and essentially holding a lot of people hostage, all to demand reforms from the AFP and make Gloria step down.

There is nothing that could ever justify these kinds of acts in a democratic country from its own military. If his grievances were legitimate, there were several dozen avenues for him to take. He could have taken it to the JAG. He could have gone to Opposition members of the House and Senate Committees on National Defense, especially in the Senate since a former AFP Chief of Staff in Pong Biazon is there. And if all avenues within the system of the AFP and government fails, then he should have resigned his commission out of disgust and went to town; the media would have made him their darling with such juicy accusations, and him being oh-so-pretty and all.

But more than a million people still voted for a clear-as-day rebel. I told them, so now we’re telling our kids its ok to resort to such extreme measures just to air our grievances? That one can break the law and not only get away with it but be rewarded handsomely as well? If it was a statement against Gloria, then there were better ways to make one than legitimize rebellion, lawlessness, violence and a disdain for our Constitution.

Or what about the likes of Allan Peter Cayetano and Koko Pimentel? How can such upstanding gentlemen do something so crass as running for the Senate when they have 1st-degree relatives there?

Okay, maybe it should have been expected of Cayetano. Like with Raul Roco, I never saw the guy as the paragon media made him to be. You can see if someone is taking stands because they genuinely believe in what they’re fighting for and someone who’s doing it simply for something else. I’m not saying Cayetano doesn’t exactly believe in the causes he purportedly espouse. But if he’s such a law-abiding, exemplary citizen of the Republic, he should have adamantly said no to running for the Senate while sister Pia is there. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, you see.

As for Koko doing the same… I knew the man, back when he was one of my bosses in the National Youth Commission, being Commissioner for Mindanao. In a sense, he reminded me of Mar: smart, well-educated, comes from a well-known and respected family, comes across as more academic than bureaucrat. Essentially, he was someone who you expected to do the right thing, given his credentials and background.

So I just couldn’t understand whatever the hell possessed Koko to run while his sainted father still held a Senate seat. Or, come to think of it, why Nene Pimentel would give his imprimatur to such a move. No matter how you spin it, such a move as that of Koko and Cayetano reeks of “dynasticism.” Although there is no law written to enforce it, our Constitution I think was clear about this issue. If families holding onto elective key positions in a whole province is a travesty of democracy already, then two persons of first-degree consanguinity sitting in the Senate is something like spitting on democracy’s eye.

And people have the gall to justify their votes given these realities?

Preposterous.

Make no mistake: I am actually impressed at the gains responsible politics has made this last elections. Grace Padaca managed to still beat the Dys in Isabela. A priest managed to beat the Pinedas and Lapids in Pampanga. Mayor Jesse is still Naga City’s mayor. These and others nationwide show that the Filipino electorate is slowly realizing its stakeholdership.

But perhaps the biggest threat to the emerging maturity of the Filipino voter is media itself. If one can dispense even for a while his/her knee-jerk disdain for the little girl in the Palace, you would notice that media has not been all that responsible in its coverage. There is already a pre-set bias versus Administration bets. There is the presentation that any Opposition bet that wins is for good governance, and that no Admin bet could win if the fight were fair.

One of our pol ops here in the HQ pointed out the question of Maguindanao and the 12-0 for the TU that happened there. Although shocking, he had a point when he said it was possible. In the first place, not everyone subscribes to the views and opinions of Imperial Manila. It is remotely possible that, somewhere, somehow, people just don’t like the GO. That they’d rather have peace and stability and whatever little progress there is.

Actually, the question is: if the GO managed to blank the TU anywhere, would Media bring it to the public’s scrutiny with the same suspicions as when the TU did it in Maguindanao?

No. Because our media organizations have switched from being Informers to Agenda Setters, to Strategic Constituents aware of their power to influence the public’s positions and opinions.

Our media orgs have forgotten that their sacred duty as society’s Fourth Estate is to allow people in a democracy to make decisions, on their own, based on as complete a set of data as possible in a given issue. Both sides must get equitable airtime and print space. Remarks from facilitators and hosts must be unbiased.

Even the vaunted PCIJ has fallen into the StratCon trap, perhaps due to the acknowledgement of its blog as one of the key sources of information by the online public on any issue. PCIJ has been relentless in its questioning of officials and in the presentation of condemnations by groups – regardless of how small it is or irrelevant – of Admin bets. But did PCIJ even once make a post questioning Cayetano and Pimentel? Was there a “reflection” piece on the implications of a Trillianes victory in the polls? And what about the fact that people who were adamant to see Erap go and get convicted were all smiles and filled with pride as the former President raised their hands during their “proclamation” at Tanay?

This, sadly, is the milieu post-Garci. Our political landscape is a moral desolation. It seems as if the Communist ideal of “everything for the revolution” has dominated even those who supposedly lead us in reforming the whole system. And many of us blindly follow them because of “pedigree politics,” where actions, no matter how contrary to the values and principles we believed in, are justified or at least unquestioned because of the person espousing the cause.

The Drilon wing is recognized by people, especially civil society, simply because the “names” of the LP are there. No one even questioned whether the acts done from July 8 onwards are liberal and democratic in nature, simply because the likes of the Abads, the Acostas, the Aquinos and the Tañadas are there. Every action of theirs is mantled in purity and justification because of pedigree even if it has become quite despicable already. I bet no one asked Noynoy how he could make democracy as the cornerstone of his campaign when he himself has denied the LP the surcease from its suffering that adherence to the democratic process would have given.

But that’s how it is now, I guess. Its hard to look deeper into the dynamics of an issue, its context, to get a clearer picture of what really is happening. Most people would rather depend on “known variables”, like an advocate’s pedigree, to help them determine what is right or wrong, who is good or evil.

Which only shows that a little bit more maturity is needed by the public. They must learn to ask the hard questions, even to those considered as heroes. Back then, pedigree counted for something because you never expected your paragons to do anything that would severely compromise of contradict the ideals they embody.

But after showing that even they could sacrifice the truth and democracy even if their backs weren’t to the wall, and do so for so long that I think they themselves believe their own propaganda now, then we should be worried. Who watches the watchmen? Who will bring them to task?

In the pre-21st century Ateneo, it is said that you would know an upperclassmen if he scoffs at any intensive praise of Rizal. It is not about disrespect to the national hero – who is our schoolmate, after all – but about context and backgrounds. Ateneans at Junior year are presented not just with the grade school depiction of Rizal but an in-depth look at the way the man lived and thought. There is a high degree of deduction involved as to what motivated Rizal to do this and that. There is a particular emphasis on the “historical” Rizal, the one who had a temper, picked fights with his fellow heroes and had a girl in every port or city he went to. We intentionally demystify the “mythical” Rizal, not to take him down from his perch but to both gain a better appreciation of the person – that despite his legend, he was, refreshingly, human, too, and therefore it is possible to achieve what he did – and to further teach the Atenean to not only place things in their proper context but also to question our beliefs to see which are worthy and which are junk.

That’s what the Filipino public needs now, I think. We question, yes, but stop when confronted with what I call the “Sedmak Conundrum.” We are faced with the prospect of accepting Truths we don’t want suffer the Consequences for, and thus we cease questioning. We are happy at this level of inquiry.

But if we don’t question further, actually demand more from our paragons when they go against the values and ideals they had the gall to represent, we might just end up replacing one tyrant for another. Enlightened, perhaps, even benevolent, but democracies abhors tyrants.

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