Elder statesman

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison () - April 3, 2006 - 12:00am
Should former leaders stop meddling in the current affairs of the State and its myriad problems and endless controversies? This is one of the more debatable questions that keep on cropping up as three former Presidents who had their chance at the helm refuse to simply fade away especially during these troubled times. Not only are they criticized for needling the incumbent President GMA with unsolicited advice. One of them has even been blamed for committing acts of destabilization by repeatedly asking her to resign; and suspected of plotting to topple the present dispensation by funding the last coup attempt.

But one former President who has so far given some valuable insights and suggestions that are worth considering is Fidel V. Ramos. His speech at the Rotary District 3780 Convention last Saturday somehow changed my previous assessment of the man. It is really more reliable to get it straight from the horses’ mouth than from mere news reports and views in the Op-Ed pages. Listening to former President Fidel V. Ramos in person (he does not want to called "former" President but a "Re-former" President), I was convinced that he has no hidden personal agenda and has only the country’s best interest and common good at heart. He appeared to me more as an elder Statesman than a "has been" politician whose wise counsel deserves to be heeded.

As early as five days after GMA assumed office following EDSA 2 that forced former President Estrada to leave Malacañang in what has been judicially construed as a "resignation", FVR already foresaw (or warned) that "We cannot have a citizens’ revolution – no matter how peaceful – every 15 years. We cannot always be as lucky; we cannot always be as blessed, as we have been on these two occasions – in February 1986 and in January 2001. Neither should we always count on the Armed Forces being there to tip the balance in favor of civil society". Call it a warning or a prediction, his words at that time seem to be heeded or coming true now. It is obvious that several attempts to mount another people power revolution through street protests and demonstrations have failed; and the Armed Forces have not broken the chain of command and withdrawn their support to their Commander-in-Chief.

FVR’s audience in 2001 were not Filipinos but those attending the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. So many Filipinos even in the middle class may not have properly appreciated why we cannot be always as "blessed" and as "lucky" to have another citizens’ revolution. So it is worth repeating what he said then and reiterated at the Rotary convention. He gave useful advice especially for the guidance of both the present government and of the "civil society" who still entertain the thought that people power is an effective way of changing it. FVR aptly explained that: "Our country needs a prolonged period of political stability and sustained economic growth – so that our workers and business people

can create new social wealth. But we may never have such stability for as long as civil society must intervene to repudiate a specific administration or overthrow a government… Filipinos must not allow their political processes, their political institutions and the government leadership to fail again. We must put a stop – once and for all – to periodic crises that corruption, extravagance, cronyism, irresponsibility and incompetence inflict on our national society… We must first deal with the fault-lines in our reborn democracy… particularly the weakness of the party system which makes our parties susceptible to turncoatism, dynastism and factionalism; and unable to check and overcome the influence of lobbies, crony capitalists, corporate interests and oligarchic families"

As early as 2001, FVR has already seen the danger of the military playing a decisive political role because "civilian supremacy over the Armed Forces may still be incomplete" as can be seen from the "violation of citizen’s rights including the use of State agencies in the surveillance and wiretapping of the political opposition; the government management of media; and the dirty tricks undertaken against the enemies of an incumbent administration. Eerily some of these dangers he foresaw in 2001 are happening now – a sign that his advice has fallen on deaf ears.

FVR in his speech however warned that the greatest and most imminent danger our country faces now may not be our political turmoil or economic problems. He said that, "It will be the poverty of the ordinary Filipinos and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor that could trigger the nationwide outrage that will sink our Ship of State". Like Dr. Bernie Villegas who spoke after him FVR said that the Philippines needs to grow at 6%-8% in GDP for at least 10 continuous years to make a significant dent on mass poverty. In fact Dr. Villegas even said that politics and politicians are almost irrelevant when it comes to this most pressing problem.

In his speech FVR confirmed that our country indeed "went through a period of near-armed violence that could have led to the fragmentation of our Armed Services and sparked protracted civil strife among Filipinos". But he implied that this could not have happened if his previous Cha-Cha proposal was seriously considered and adopted as survey shows that 54 percent of Pinoys backed such proposal. May be the Cha-Cha express train will move faster if its movers led by "Engineer" Joe De Venecia will revisit FVR’s proposals.

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