FVR operated on, given world’s first heart pacemaker with GPS, slams ‘slapstick politics’

WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - December 19, 2015 - 9:00am

I believe we Filipino citizens cannot just allow the downward spiral of our imperfect and often oligarch-dominated but still working Philippine democracy without doing anything to salvage it. Seriously.

How can we uplift the standards of the ongoing national horse race for the 2016 presidency in terms of intellectual and emotional maturity, work ethic, not to mention character?

By the way, I urge the Comelec Chairman Atty. Andy Bautista (who GMA Network, Inc. CEO Atty. Felipe Gozon said “has a great political future if he does well with the credibility of the 2016 polls”) to please allow at least one or two more days for final biometric registration for an estimated remaining three million voters. 

We, the citizenry, should demand higher quality elections in 2016 focusing on genuine reform commitments, not just allow this race to become — once again — a cynical exercise in overspending, PR or “praise release” blitzes, back-room negotiations for command votes along religious lines or regional/ethnic tribal loyalties, patronage politics!

In recent months, there’s been an alarming decline in the quality of our politics (which to start with has not been high caliber, but often decent). Look at the number of ad hominem, personal attacks, instead of debating socio-economic issues like the urgent yet blocked lower taxes reform bills in the House of Representatives and Senate.

Slapping threats no better than ego clashes of ‘Heneral Luna’ era

The latest new low in our politics was the descent into what I’ll describe as “slapstick politics,” which is worse than corny slapstick comedy because the former is not so funny.

We saw the recent circus show of two serious presidential bets threatening to “magsampalan” (slap each other). I was so aghast that I unabashedly commented to Anthony Taberna for his DZMM radio show: “Baka sa susunod, magsasabunutan na sila (Maybe next, they’d pull each other’s hair already)!” 

Should we allow our democracy to transmogrify into a theater of the absurd?

Since President Noy Aquino has not called for a halt to this political circus or convened the national security council meeting to stop this absurdity, I, as an ordinary citizen, immediately invited the 87-year-old retired former President Fidel V. Ramos to be the next guest speaker at the “Pandesal Forum” of the artisanal Kamuning Bakery Cafe in Quezon City.

My opening salvo first question to former President Ramos was about the petty quarrels of our 2016 election bets. FVR was ready like a cowboy quickly unleashing his firepower, challenging our presidential wannabes to please act presidential, dignified and globally competitive leaders. Bull’s eye!

Ex-President Ramos also reminded the 2016 presidential contenders that they should not act in the scandalous ways of our “ilustrado” politicos of the revolutionary era over a century ago, such as President Emilio Aguinaldo, accused of masterminding the cold-blooded killings of Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio and the reputedly ablest military leader General Antonio Luna due to a clash of egos, insecurities and dirty politics.

The purpose of Pandesal Forum is to help elevate the quality of public discourse in Philippine politics and other issues. Before the media and educators, FVR discussed the true state of the nation from politics, economics, dismal state of sports, our declining human development index ranking, the mismanaged MRT, chaotic traffic, needs of World War II veterans (in response to a question by Philippine Veterans Bank VP Mike Villa-Real, who reminded us that their once-bankrupt bank was revived with Korean War and Vietnam War veteran FVR’s help), national security, etc.

FVR also ably discussed geopolitics like an elder statesman and consummate diplomat. He urged that we in the Philippines should leverage our strategic location between the South China Sea (part of which, he added, is the West Philippine Sea) and the Pacific Ocean and to advance our national interests by deftly engaging both rival superpowers, US and China, to our advantage. He noted that China is emerging as the world’s biggest market (for exports, for tourism).

Despite Dec. 16 being a typhoon day with many schools and office work suspended, and living far away in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, the disciplined 87-year-old Ramos arrived at 7:30 a.m. for the forum, or one and a half hours earlier than our 9 a.m. schedule in Quezon City!

The non-partisan, issues-focused, pro-people Pandesal Forum is where I invite leaders to dialogue and literally break bread with mass media, also public school teachers as well as professors from University of the Philippines (UP) and Ateneo de Manila University. It was inspired by the centuries-old tradition of the “tertulia” — the informal yet learned salon discussions of Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, also inspired by ancient China’s “li lun” intellectual discourse tradition.

Advice for having a good heart, genuine education & a good long life

Here are some nuggets of wisdom from the hardworking, wise, humble and strategic-minded FVR, whom I admire as one of the best presidents in Philippine history:

1. On the world’s first heart pacemaker with a GPS. When talking about his health, the strong ex-president told the media, educators and me, while standing to open his shirt to show his chest, “Two months ago, I was operated on and given a heart pacemaker upon their insistence, so I will be good for 50 more years (Laughs). If you will get a pacemaker, do not get this one (pointing at his heart), which has a GPS link to your wife.” (Laughs)

FVR also revealed he has had only one kidney for the past 65 years and that he had a carotid operation as president in 1996 after he almost had a stroke. He added: “But it was remedied on time and three days later, I was already working in the office, no time out.”

2. On true essence of education. When asked about presidential candidates arguing about their education and whether high academic degrees are a good barometer of leadership ability, FVR said: “Academic degrees really should not count. The conventional wisdom is you must make sure your education goes to your mind and not your head. In the Philippine context, most important is pakikisama sa mga mamamayan (getting along well with our countrymen) so that eventually you can get them together and mobilize them as one team.”

3. On secrets to long life and good health. FVR could still do 31 pushups and squeezed my hand in a powerful tight grip handshake. He kept winking at pretty women and young female journalists, exhibited good humor and wit throughout the forum. He revealed his longevity secrets: “It is not so much personal habits — although that counts a little — but more having good human relations. I’m not referring to relations with your girlfriend or wife, but your relationship with the public at large, especially towards strangers, whether equal to you or not in stature.”

FVR added: “We should have an optimistic outlook in life. No. 1, think that we have a good job. No. 2 is that we can face anyone — even, in my case, now out of office — with a straight face, (knowing) that you did a good job.”

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 Thanks for your feedback! E-mail willsoonflourish@gmail.com or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/.

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