‘Imperfectly perfect’
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2020 - 12:00am

I do not know who wrote the description “perfect” in describing President Duterte’s performance in the four years of his term. The statement came from my friend, Harry Roque, spokesman of the President.

I have had to grope for words, even use antonyms, to make a proper reply. My counter description would be more modest – “He did his best to govern our country under difficult circumstances including the unexpected COVID-19.”

For this, he had every reason to flash the thumbs up sign. He did well on the high goals he set when he assumed the leadership of our country. Fighting a war on illegal drugs and coping with a virus pandemic cannot be easy. Eighty percent of his countrymen recognize that even with flips and flops that came from these difficulties and his character.

There is just no one in the political scene to match the acumen with which he tackled the almost impossible goals. The question now is – who could match that leadership?

The question should be directed to us – we, the people. As Roque said “Much has been accomplished but much more needs to be done. It is a continuous work in progress in achieving and actualizing the promise of genuine and meaningful change for the Filipino people.”

Many enlightened Filipinos should now face the question.

For this I have drawn excerpts from Jose Abueva’s eulogy for O.D. Corpuz, two men who encapsulated the answer to this question. Abueva led the discussions of the constitutional commission appointed by former President Gloria Arroyo.

Jose Abueva referred to “O.D. Corpuz’ valid observations on Filipino nationalism, politics, and leadership.”

Abueva highlighted Dr. Corpuz’ view that: “The decade 1896-1906 [the period of the Filipino Revolution against Spain and the Filipino war against the imperialist Americans] marked out the watershed of Filipino nationalism.”

But from that high mark of nationalism of two revolutions against colonialism it began to decline.

“The fading away of nationalism as the guiding spirit and paramount value in Filipino politics might be said to have begun with the founding of the Nacionalista Party in 1907. Its leaders were untrue to their party’s proud name.” [from O.D. Corpuz’ Epilogue in his Roots of the Filipino Nation, Vol. II. p. 568.]

The Abueva eulogy pointed out Corpuz’ major works as outstanding contributions to Philippine history, political science, and economic history. They should be our references if we are to move on from the excellence of Duterte’s governance: Public Administration in the Philippines (1957); The Roots of the Filipino Nation (1989); An Economic History of the Philippines (1992); and Saga and Triumph: The Filipino Revolution Against Spain (1999).

OD Corpuz’ works should be separated from the Marcos regime which exploited the frailties of democracy and the people’s vulnerability to deceit and manipulation.

It defiles and destroys life in the pursuit of personal aggrandizement. It rejects public accountability in favor of self-enrichment and personal glory. And it suppresses the practice of democracy and human rights and basic reforms that would empower our people and reform our society and politics.

“It might be said that ‘the discipline of the oath of loyalty to the United States governed the politicians from 1907 to 1946. Thereafter they were free of any checks except what each fancied.

The resulting deterioration in administrative institutions and politics in turn led to unmet needs, frustrations and injustice. The lack of one recognized unifying or guiding value in politics and society [nationalism] had to lead to crisis.

And here is the reason for “the proven incapacity of the political system (the presidential system imposed by the Americans) – its leadership and institutions – to serve the basic needs of the masses and to win over the politicized youth.

We therefore urged that basic institutional and structural reforms be instituted through constitutional change.

Essentially, the change of our highly centralized unitary system to regional and local autonomy in transition to a future Federal Republic; and a shift from presidential to parliamentary government.

These fundamental reforms will also transform our elections and political parties and empower our citizens. Until now too many citizens are poor and insecure.” Abueva ended his eulogy for OD Corpuz.

These are scholarly words that should guide Duterte in the next two years. We need change in our politics and system of governance. This remains the work he has to do.

During the country-wide information that the constitutional commission conducted, I will always remember the rebuke from a poorly dressed farmer.

“Kung yan ang kailangan gawin natin, gawin na ninyo. Sa sistema ng pamahalaan ngayon, wala na kaming pag-asang magkaroon ng bagong buhay.”

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