Perspective is everything. If you look at a building from the side, you see 40 stories reaching majestically toward the sky. If you look from the top, you see a square squashed flat against the earth.
If you believe the sun and moon and stars are gods, they are gods. If you believe the earth is flat, it is flat. If you think a word is obscene, it is obscene.
If you think President Aquino is incompetent, I am unlikely to change your mind. You can cite the bus massacre, the witch hunts, the loopy walking and smirking personality, the Hacienda history, or any number of warts.
But, for any president, the backward perspective of history is what determines his enduring reputation. Not the chaos of today's tangible deeds. History tends to gloss over little things, as our memory forgets the incidentals. Trivial details get washed away in the relentless scrub-brush of time. The kind of car the President drives, his girl friends, even the bus massacre and style of walk fade to irrelevance. What stays are the big incidents, or the defining moment.
We don't know what the Corona or Arroyo trials will mean. They may be just brief notations in the history book or they could start a revolution. Well, probably not a revolution. But they have the potential to be material to the history of President Aquino.
However, if I put on my gauzy glasses of time, the ones with Polaroid filters that skim off the irrelevant details of day-to-day chaos and leave only the profound, I don't see Corona or Arroyo other than as fuzzy sidelights.
Instead, what comes into clear focus is a Philippines stabilized by an honest president. A nation anchored in good will rather than bad. Oh, yes, he is Filipino, and he belongs to a family, and he is subject to the "influence of the oligarchs" (a nice dramatic title rather like the "Flight of the Bumblebees" or "the Silence of the Lambs"). He must work within the political net which tends to splatter dirt on must things and suspicion on everything, and too much attention to gaffes. But the overriding readout is what investors see. And they see stability that was not here before.
The importance of stability can't be overstated. A banana republic is unstable, coup machinations always working, distrust overwhelming good intent, honorable government castrated by corruption.
But that is no longer the Philippines. No longer are there midnight raids on the Constitution or multi-million peso rip-offs attached to the first family. No fertilizer scandal, no ZTE scandal, no bags of cash handed out willfully in open forum to legislators. The biggest money scandal so far is the puny $100,000 payment from gambling baron Okada to the Gaming Board. The generals are no longer categorized and promoted by graduating class, and the only coup griping is being done by generals who are on the corruption suspect list. And it is a wimpy gripe, indeed.
The executive branch of government is at work. The Department of Tourism is finally into substance instead of hyping the Philippines on self pride. It has a working plan that promises real progress. Foreign Affairs is successfully treading that neat line of diplomacy between push and concession. A rational China policy is in place, a rational U.S. policy is being followed. The Department of Justice is on the hunt, pit bulls, like the boss de Lima. As they should be. The Office of Ombudsman is once again honorable and hard working. Commercial developments in Manila are robust, supporting two emerging anchors, call centers and casinos.
Some problem areas remain. Customs for sure. Education, which simply can't keep pace with the population boom. DENR, a disaster. Energy will come into the limelight as Mindanao hits the wall on electricity supply. Agriculture and land reform remain pits of confusion and tension.
But the public's light gets shined on wayward agencies through internet discourse and media attention, and this pressure can be expected to contribute to the overall stability of the Philippines and progress in the right direction.
The main point here is, this is stability at its best. Problems, issues, complaints. Always. That is like the frictions that occur if you step on the brake or gas or turn one direction or another. You can't get where you want to go without friction. To avoid friction, you stay in place.
Then, on top of the stable platform, either nothing emerges, or promising shoots sprout that give hint to a different landscape in the future.
I see the shoots.
A Manila known worldwide for its abilities to field phone and internet inquiries in English, gracefully. An entertainment hub known for its splashy casinos and reasonable costs and, yes, girls and booze. A gradual setting aside of the yoke of Catholic values that bind the nation to overbirthing and poverty. Sparkle returning to the jeweled beaches splashed with sunshine; visitors crawling all over the striking wonders of the Philippine islands from the awesome rim of the Pinatubo crater to the eerie underground rivers in Palawan to the soulfully misty peak of Mt. Apo.
An active, vibrant nation, fending off typhoons and political bullyism from China, orchestrating the relationship with America rather than bowing to it. What has it been? 115 years since the Philippine American war began, and finally, finally, we have the camaraderie of friendship without angst. Stability. A nation working hard to keep its people fed and clothed and plugged in to electricity and piped in to gas. A Philippines emerging as an agribusiness powerhouse producing fruit products and coffee, coconut products and chocolate. Feeding its own with rice, and exporting the leftovers.
That's what I see.
That is what I foresee as the Aquino legacy.
It is one that he should be proud of, if he achieves it. It is one that Filipinos should be proud of, if they help him achieve it.