So we muddle along (2)/Susan Roces won’t bite

HERE'S THE SCORE - Teodoro C. Benigno -
In a previous column, we cried uncle. We vacated our ringside seat where we surveilled all the follies of our society and declared outright we had committed even the more egregious folly of predicting a social volcano would erupt quite soon. We admitted embarrassingly, of course, we were wrong. And that the Philippines would just go back to "muddling along", meaning we would remain a standstill society, not giving a hoot at all if we had any direction or not, if we were headed for the historical scrap heap or not.

Bums are like that. So it was just like saying we were Asia’s prize stumblebum, a bedraggled hobo lurching drunkenly with bottle in hand, and a bawdy, forlorn song to match.

Looking around us, we find out Asia is on a historic march. And if America and the West don’t watch out, the center of the world’s economic power will switch to Asia in mid-21st century and very possibly even political power. We made mention of China and India joining their two peoples – 40 percent of the world’s population – in what could be history’s most phenomenal spillover of power from one continent to the other.

Japan remains the world’s second most powerful economy, South Korea 12th or 13th, and it was in Asia that the economic tigers or dragons undertook their awesome push forward in the 20th century – again unprecedented.

And we mention outside of South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and now even Vietnam. Add all these to China and India, and you have a new cradle of Asian civilization bidding fair to raise the baton high over the world late in this century.

One thing more.

Japan, Dai Nippon, for decades and generations, the most feared and adventurous warriors in Asia, is on the verge of remilitarizing. In no time at all, the descendants of the sun goddess Ameterasu Omikami, can rebuild their army, navy and air force to even more powerful levels. And build up the mightiest nuclear arsenal in Asia. They have the industrial base for that.

When Japan rattles that sword this time a nuclear sword, we all have reasons to fear. Dai Nippon’s war exploits, its branding in our faces the Japan East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere during the Second World War, are too recent for Filipinos to forget, the rest of Asians to forget. This is the country applying for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council?

God forbid. A remilitarized Japan is the worst thing that can happen in Asia.

We can therefore expect a quadripartite powerhouse shaping up in Asia among the United States, China, India and Japan. Expectations are that America and Japan will forge an alliance against a China-India entente, both striving for a balance of power that can control flashpoints in the continent.

All of these countries are armed with nuclear weapons, all capable of blowing the universe to bits, all out to renew and rewrite the international the power chessboard. Throw in Iraq, Iran and North Korea, America’s "Axis of Evil" all of them located in Asia you have the pungent smell of dynamite.

And all we small nations can do is fend for ourselves, either seeking to be neutral or cowering in the shadow of this or that power.

The Philippines will be caught between two redoubtable forces. These are America on one hand and about four million kababayans in residence there and China of course already present in the Philippines with an almost equal number of Filipino-Chinese holding powerful economic, financial and trade positions.

Also upping the international power ante is the omnipresent factor that disturbs us all. This: That the homebase of "international terror" is Asia, that Osama bin Laden remains in hiding somewhere in Central Asia and that his reported handiwork Jemaah Islamiya seeks a regional geographical grouping in Asia.

Even more disturbing for Filipinos is the recent statement of Joseph Mussolmeli, No. 2 man of the US embassy in the Philippines that Mindanao and Afghanistan possess potent similarities. Mindanao particularly Sulu and Jolo has been and remains the powerhouse of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Does Mr. Mussolmelli see an Asian terrorist maelstrom emerging in this part of the world with Muslim Mindanao playing a significant battle role? Worse, will American combat troops come over by the thousands as they have done in Iraq to slay the Muslim enemy in the Philippines?

In this kind of Asia, where the future and the past will be locked up in a struggle of Peloponnesian proportions, I cannot see the Philippines taking any sensational initiative. We will muddle along like ants in the path of rampaging elephants, hoping that when the smoke clears, we shall have sided with the victors.

Maybe that’s one major reason why we have muddled along.

We have long cut ourselves off from the rest of Asia. James Fallows, best selling author and among many other perceptive international observers, spotted a very "damaged culture" a long time ago. We Filipinos were neither fish nor fowl. We were, he said, superficially westernized and Americanized, but unable to progress because we were and are strangers to the cult and civilization of Asia, now rapidly awakening to modernize.

Is this so? Are we trapped? Is this why we have a culture highly resistant to progress? We are enamored of the US dollar and the materialist society of the West but unable to budge and progress because our Castilian legacy has moored our minds to acceptance of poverty, closer to hell and heaven than anything else?

We stop there and leave our readers to ponder.
* * *
What are we to make of Susan Roces, politically the most resonant voice in the Philippines today? In actuality, she draws the line between blistering criticism of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and taking action in the streets. A rival newspaper continues to emblazon Miss Roces in headlines with the intention presumably of enticing her to take the gloves off and hit GMA with brass knuckles at the head of a massive opposition public rally.

I doubt very much that the lovely, articulate widow of Fernando Poe Jr. will get into the political ring and mix it up with GMA.

She will hit GMA, bombard her with imprecations, insist she is a bogus president afraid of the truth, raising the ante each time she talks. But she will never cross the line. She knows more than anybody else what happened to her husband, Fernando Poe Jr., Da King of Philippine movies for decades and nobody else.

FPJ was all honesty, all integrity, all sincerity when he accepted the challenge, and also a little bit naïve. Willy-nilly, he got into a political gang, many of which represented the worst elements in Philippine politics. He should have been warned but was not and so eventually they came in close like descending vultures to exact their pound of flesh. That was the first blunder.

FPJ steered clear of many of them, and that was his second big mistake. He didn’t come in with his own experts and advisers, his own savvy media group, counseling him what to do, what to say, how to cope with the media banditti who obviously did not hold him in high regard. So often, FPJ was caught flat-footed, tongue-tied, not having been provided with a script at all, a panday swinging at the wind, a Don Quixote tilting with windmills. He was particularly helpless when faced with a presidential debate. Then they dug the knife deep, very deep when Malacañang questioned his Filipino credentials. That was brutal.

Be that as it may, FPJ during the electoral campaign was drawing the biggest crowds, the most supportive, he most feverishly loyal. He beat everybody in this regard, including GMA, who could only bring them in when she had goodies culled from the immeasurable bounty of Malacañang. Susan Roces cites as proof the refusal of the Palace and GMA to open even just one Certificate of Canvas. Brother Eddie Villanueva just asked for the opening of three such certificates and was rudely refused.

That would show, she said, that GMA cheated. If not, why all the rush, why all the hush-hush, why all the government efforts to protect the CoCs as though they were the crown jewels of British royalty? Hell, they were not. They looked more like the loot of Long John Silver.











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