A learning experience

I remember when Bam (Aquino) and I first brought the draft program of the Second National Youth Summit (otherwise known as the Pamabansang Ugong ng Kabataan, or PUNK) to our partners. The partner’s representative gave one important critique: it looked so ISY (or in-school youth).

This was a revelation for me. Up until that time, I thought that, after years of designing such programs for major conferences, I was “open” enough to keep out the biases of my own culture and upbringing. Certainly, I never saw the initial design of the PUNK as having an overly-ISY bias. I was sure I was aware enough of the other sectors of the youth to make the design of the conference inclusive.

I suppose you can say the same of my life as a Guardian before and after Garci. There were many things you took for granted or regarded as “gospel truth” in those heady days when the Liberal Party was whole and at the cutting edge of political reform. Although we had… “questionables” in our ranks, you could say that we had more than enough people who could, supposedly, stand the scrutiny of even Osiris with his scale.

In short, in a general yet very true sense, I was of the opinion that many of the men and women who were our leaders in the LP – indeed, of civil society as a whole – were people of probity. People who could do no wrong. People who you could trust to hold the moral high ground with little, if any, ambiguity.

Garci, of course, showed me wrong. Of the corruption and “unmoderated” greed in public office, I think no one who is active in the Public Sphere should be surprised by it; in fact, I think many of us have been inured to it. The thrust of the LP for political reform was, after all, about gradually instituting the mechanisms that would prevent this culture of greed. As Liberals, you believe more in… “evolving” the public into the gestalt you want rather than forcign them into it, the way communism does. Like I told Little Sister Rhealeth, it’s the people who are the problem, not necessarily the system. Change the system without changing the people, and you have the same banana, only of a different variety.

And if you think I am of the opinion that Gloria is a nice person, than you’re dead wrong. I have never entertained the illusion that she is, nor – oh, the horror – of her being a saint. While everyone, including Drilon and Abad who now lead in ousting her, were tripping over each other to get on her good graces, I studiously avoided shaking her hand. I remember when she arrived at the Manila Hotel for the Philippine Political Parties Conference. Everyone wanted to line up to shake the President’s hand. I ducked into the CR so the Protocol officers won’t put me in a situation I didn’t want to be in.

(Make no mistake, though, that I do respect her as President of the Republic. And at least she’s a workaholic. Erap was an alcoholic. Given those two vices, what would you prefer? And I believe she won in 2004, just that she or her advisers were so adamant about getting a 1mil lead over FPJ to “justify” her new admin)

What surprised me in the whole Garci episode – and this latest show starring Jun Lozada is but the penultimate chapter in the whole saga – was the way the paragons of the Movement comported themselves. I always said a communist allying with known enemies as part of a “tactical alliance” is nothing new; if everything must be done for the Revolution to succeed, then “everything” covers a very broad range of topics indeed. But what if you said you adhere to certain standards? Like “rule of law”, “due process” and all the principles that liberal democracy and social democracy supposedly hold sacrosanct?

I judge people based on the statements they issue, their pronounced beliefs and worldview. One of my good friends back in college had some pretty radical ideas with regard to the Public Sphere and business in general, but at least I knew where he was coming from and respected that, in the same way I in one sense respect the likes of Tinay Palabay (now with Gabriella) and Mong Palatino (still with Anakbayan, it seems) and are not surprised by their actions and reactions because it falls within the sphere of the systems they said they believed in.

To me, calling for the reform of the Public Sphere is a very, very hard road when you’re not a radical like the communists or even the socialists because of the fine-wire act you play between what is moral and what is immoral. But as Liberals, as Democrats, I keep telling people that the lines are actually clear. There are things you do not, cannot, subscribe to and remain where you are. If you are going to call for reforms based on moral grounds, then you’d better be goddamned sure you have the grounds to do so.

Cliched and trapping as it may sound, but the pot calling the kettle black is a reality a reformer must face. How can someone demand for the resignation or removal of a liar, cheat and oppressor if the means to do so by that someone also made use of lies, cheating and oppression?

That is why this has been a learning experience for me, this whole Garci thing and the major front in that war that is the Liberal Party leadership crisis. Because before that you never questioned someone’s actions if they had the pedigree to back it up. You never asked the hard questions so long as the statements were consonant with your campaign. You never asked, period, when it was people you trust, people who you knew could do no wrong, who were talking or acting.

I suppose I was a fool, really. I mean, look at Chito. Dun pa lang eh, dapat natututnan ko na.

It’s just sad because, really, what else is left to believe in? You fight because you believe that there is a reason you sacrifice so much for. A good reason. I once taught our kids in KALIPI that, if anything, you have to admire the young man or woman that goes up a mountain to come down with an AK-47 in his or her hands. They found something they’re willing to die and kill for (which is why I have no qualms about killing them, too. They made their decision as I did mine. If they ever win their stupid little revolution, would they hesitate putting a bullet through my skull?).

Dr. Clemens Sedmak once taught us that you have to be careful of the truths you believe in because they will determine the consequences you must face. In one sense, Frank Herbert, speaking through his Dune novels, reinforced this with this quote:

My father once told me that respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality. “Something cannot emerge from nothing,” he said. This is profound thinking if you understand how unstable “the truth” can be.-> from Conversations with Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan
As a Communications major, and one extensively trained in public relations and advertising, I think I have a very good idea how… unstable the truth can be. We were trained to manipulate it, after all, and hate Goebbels as we do, the man was a genius when it came to doing so. I think most of the principles we were taught in Comm. class came from him, hahahaha.

All that being said, I think I’m pretty close to making that career shift I’ve always said I would but, as my friends point out, I never do.

The battle for the truth means nothing anymore. People are already convinced of the positions they have on issues and take from the data presented to them what they will. Even worse, our leaders, our very paragons, have no qualms in manipulating the truth to further their own agendas.

You fight and sacrifice so much because of a so-called higher purpose. I guess I don’t see that anymore. And I’m not exactly young anymore, eh? Since every other Guardian I know of except for Denni, Candy, Tin and me (I don’t know if Ben Ella is still into the Young Farmer’s Program or not) seems to have “decamped” to the private sector, anyway… why shouldn’t I, too?

Don’t worry, though: it seems the People are maturing. If Jose Public doesn’t let itself be used by Jun Lozada’s handlers, then we’ll see if the Filipino people deserve their country, their freedoms and their democracy in 2010. Gloria better watch out then.

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One Response to A learning experience

  1. Thank you for droppin’ by my blog.

    Hipon coming back!

    Loi Reyes Landicho
    The Professional Heckler

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