Let's look at history from the front end, where we are today, and mull over a few things.
It was enlightening and uplifting to me to see the Senators lay out their cases during the impeachment trial of ex-Chief Justice Corona. First of all, the senators are generally young politicians. Enrile is old, and three or four others are seniors, but the bulk are in their forties, I would guess. Or fifties. That is young from the perspective of Enrile.
The second thing that impressed me was the senators' ability to think conceptually about the broader issue of public trust and integrity, and to express their decision in terms that mean a lot to the Philippines. Transparency is the root of integrity, eh? The tangible commitment public servants make to transparency helps build public trust.
Another thing, the public eye is sharper these days. This was a group of senators very aware that their constituents were watching with avid interest. Two senators close to jailed Ms. Arroyo bent to the pressure of public impressions, much to Ms. Arroyo's angry dismay.
The internet observers and social media, along with sensationalist mass media, do not allow much wayward behavior to persist unnoticed.
I believe we will see a lot more integrity in future SALN's, and I hope more use of them by public media and watchdog organizations to observe the wealth of our public servants. Compared to ordinary Filipinos, public officials are paid well. They have benefits that rice workers do not. If they need additional money, most have the ability to get it, legally. And that's fine, if it does not infringe on their ability to be competent on the job. Manny Pacquiao is a clear example of a public servant with a misplaced priority on self-enrichment over public work. He might as well be corrupt. He is certainly not contributing much to the betterment of the Philippines at his legislative desk. He is giving Filipinos false cheer, false pride. And getting paid by the taxpayer whilst doing it.
I'm not able to tell if the anti-corruption movement is getting beyond the top level of politics of not. I sense that places like Customs, DENR, PNP and LTO remain fundamentally rich with people enriching themselves illegally. I hope the President devises ways to move his sledge hammer actively from big name villains to the broader reaches of the lieutenants and sergeants who are sucking off the nation's legitimate wealth.
President Aquino is an interesting fellow. Personality-wise, he fits no model, Philippine or American. He is not charismatic, being an odd introvert who has learned not to be shy. Single. Active but prone to bouts of passiveness. Slouched and sobered from carrying around the hefty backpacks of Catholicism and the Cojuangco family name. Perhaps he does a little bit too much gloating, or taking accident like economic progress and claiming intent.
I wonder what he hopes to accomplish in four more years? Will he just sit back and whump on Ms. Arroyo and say "that's a good legacy for me; I'm happy with that"?
I hope not.
I think he has no idea how high he rides atop the waves of history, from this side.
He ought not squander the opportunity to become a truly great Filipino. Not just another face of another president in the same old same old roster of complacent achievement. He ought not to dive off the surfboard he is on, atop those waves. He ought to ride them right into a huge legacy.
He can do this by:
- Slowing outrageous population growth that is eating jobs. It is in his social plan, but he has done nothing to stop the over-birthing. Getting behind the HR Bill, or a simple PR campaign, will do the trick. "It's more fun with a small family" maybe. Get the slowdown started. While he's at it, give women a way to get out of abusive, broken marriages. It's called divorce, the lack of which has the rest of the world looking at the Philippines as backward. That is profound achievement, on top of his corruption fight.
- Building economic fundamentals, like more manufacturing of world-class products. Not junk. The tourism effort looks promising. Gambling? Okay if you don't mind the reputation. Call centers? Great, world class. Agribusiness? Its good, but not the powerhouse of Asia that it should be. Manufacturing? Not much. Find something. That would be a profound achievement and the foundation for a roaring economy.
- Ending cronyism and favoritism as the basis for filling jobs; he apparently does not get how "competence" is not yet built into the dynamic of Philippine production. It is as serious a drain on wealth-building as is corruption. He, too, plays favorites; case in point, the original China Ambassador, a friend, whose nomination was rejected for insufficient credentials. Build the search for competence as infrastructure. That is profound achievement.
- Jailing people who shoot journalists. Profound; ask Human Rights organizations.
- Continuing to work on the sticky internal enemies, the Muslims of Mindanao and NPR gangsters. The potential is there for profound progress.
Here is the legacy he ought to shoot for, the other end of the front side of history:
Noynoy Aquino: Wiki bio 2025, the Presidential Years 2010-2016
Noynoy Aquino. Son of assassinated presidential candidate, Senator Ninoy Aquino, and former President of the Philippines, Cory Aquino. President Noynoy Aquino achieved what his parents could only dream of, laying the groundwork for a modern Philippines, a nation substantially free of the corruption that had been the norm within government for over a century. He fostered an energetic and productive nation that began with seriousness to address the great scourge of poverty. He oversaw the emergence of a rising Asian industrial star anchored on tourism, gaming, technology services, minerals, agribusiness and manufacturing. His foreign policy advanced Philippine territorial and national interests while strengthening diplomatic and economic ties with super-powers China and America. He raised the nation's image and contribution to the Asian community of nations. President Aquino substantially ended the corrosive internal rebellions by Muslims and communists that had lasted for decades. He repaired human rights violations from extra-judicial murders to child trafficking. He modernized social standards for women to permit (1) family planning, thus slowing a non-sustainable birth rate, and (2) divorce, thus ending the bondage of women to abusive or deadbeat husbands.
He arrived in office a quiet, unassuming man carrying a legacy of grief and good will. He left having energized a nation, giving the Philippines new life founded on principles of honesty, integrity and good work.
Ride those waves, Mr. President . . . ride 'em all the way . . .
Get to work, eh?
And write a State of the Union message that motivates the citizens of the Republic to do good deeds, not blows smoke in their ears about how wonderful you are.
Historians will decide if you are wonderful or not.