Senator Sotto is in his last term. He's done. Cooked. So is Senator Enrile. It is not just his age. If he were 10 years younger, or 20, it would not matter. He's done.
They are patriots, no question. Years of service to the Philippines. But they are not the modern Patriot, capital P, quick to discern what is on the public's mind, and what is in their interest. Adaptable enough to let go of the back-room deal-making, horse-trading, and favor swapping. Willing to define personal best-interest by accurately reading public best-interest.
The Philippines is moving fast these days, moving past the trudging moral fossils who have hitched their ideals to a rusty wagon that does not fulfill Philippine needs. Moving past those without the courage to open their minds to change, to work hard for a modern, open, liberated Philippines.
Most members of the Senate get it. And I think maybe the House, too. Because they are young enough and smart enough to read the digital handwriting on the wall.
The Corona trial did not prove the power of President Aquino, as most suspect. It proved the power of a public tired of being conned.
The force of public opinion these days is being brought to bear at the speed of electricity. The oligarchs may still control most businesses in the Philippines, but they no longer command all the influence. That is moving sideways to an amalgamation of high-speed information gurus. These gurus are everywhere, with cameras and researchers and inside information.
- Rappler, on topic, on the mark.
- The Inquirer and other newspapers in print electronically. TV News, too. Timely, colorful, meaningful. Conrado de Quiros and Randy David can't keep up with the blast of comments their editorials generate.
- Blogger Raissa Robles, crisp and edgy, on topic, on the mark. A whole force of perhaps 100 bloggers pounding out the ideas, usually strikingly aligned with the same viewpoint. Out with Corona, don't let Ms. Arroyo flee, get RH passed, get FOI passed. Ridicule and condemnation greet public utterances that are out of touch. Ask Senator Sotto about that. He is clueless in Manila.
- The Facebook and Twitter armies, zipping out their observations, updates, and opinions. Thousands and thousands of well-synced Filipinos, driving their nation to a new style of action and interaction.
- Text messaging, the common man's tool for staying in touch.
- Advocacy groups: PCIJ, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, women's groups. Even the UN and WHO and WTO and Pulse Asia pound out their observations, their information . Yes, the CBCP, too.
This is a tsunami, a force of information and opinion never before seen in the Philippines. The force is not formally organized to do so, but it often moves as if synchronized, the loud voices that join becoming a roar. No trip to Edsa is needed.
Only a rational view of the public good is needed.
And this is a young power, pubescent, still growing its muscle and personality. It has not yet matured as the strong-armed force of public interest it is certain to become.
You saw the Senators in the Corona trial. Some were like deer in the headlights, frozen by the power of public condemnation of Mr. Corona. Knowing their political lives were on the table if they chose unwisely. They chose wisely.
You heard the roar to the rafters when President Aquino said two words during his 2012 SONA: "Responsible parenthood". A nation spoke. Loudly. They cried out for a responsible Philippines. They had been unified by electronics.
A deaf church turned the other cheek, winced, then started slapping out in desperation.
You see what Senator Sotto is dealing with now, a case of Senatorial plagiarism. How will he squirm out of this gross ethical lapse? His early remarks were to blame the people asking the questions, those challenging the good Senator. He even blamed the bloggers. Trying to pile guilt on them in the best Catholic tradition.
He can't win against "the force". He may not get it now. He will soon.
A lot is on the line with the RH Bill. It is a checkpoint, a demarcation line. Is the Philippines ready for liberation or still hooked on antiquated Catholic values? Is it ready to move into the modern global society of gender equality and care for citizens, or will the nation remain aloof and apart, mistaking that for independence?
If the RH Bill fails, it will strike a blow against all that President Aquino has done to bring the Philippines out of the dark alleys of corruption and connivance. The outer world will shake its collective head and cry, "still backward after all these years."
The electronic force says clearly, we want the RH Bill.
The Legislature can defy this force. They can reject the RH Bill. They can bow to the demand of an imposed morality that is holding the Philippines back, as it has for 400 years. They need not listen to the heads of 20 government agencies responsible for fighting poverty. They need not listen to the UN or WHO or Human Rights Watch or the WTO or women's groups.
They can deny the force. They can, like Senator Sotto, imagine it as a foreign attack on Philippine sovereignty.
Yes, they can do that.
There is a certain kind of courage to that, too, I suppose.
Rather like spitting into the wind.
All I can predict is that the names of those voting "no" will shoot across the Philippines within an hour of the vote.