Insanity of the tallest order

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - October 23, 2016 - 12:00am

There is a phenomenon in Philippine governance that I describe as "ghastly." I use this term because I cannot find a better word, although I think political and societal scientists have an appropriate term for it unknown to me. This phenomenon is almost impossible to comprehend because we tolerate it even if we hate it.

 I am referring to the situation involving most of our elected leaders. During the election campaign period, candidates pamper us, the electors, in the most pleasing adulation. Is it not that they address us as the "Haring Lungsod"? They tell us that they, the wooers of our votes, are aspiring to be our servants and that we are their masters. Using their most persuasive elocution, they plead for our support upon their solemn vow that they will neither do anything without our consent nor undertake something that is displeasing to many of us.

But when they are given the reins of our government, things turn out to be humiliatingly different. Most of our elected officials arrogate unto themselves the mantle of authority to speak for us as if only their ideas matter. They take our thoughts for granted. Do they really know our collective aspirations even if they have not, in any form, asked us? I doubt that. All I can say is that they forget that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from us.

Indeed, these politicians, fueled by our apathy and emboldened by our tolerance, tend to become, upon election, our domineering lords and insensible masters. Perhaps, power, the one that we bestow upon them, has a germ of madness. Some, maybe most, of them do not feel any obligation of letting us understand where their administrative direction is heading.

It is doubtless true that we have a democratic and republican state. Our elected officials hold office as a matter of public trust. We put them to power. Yet, the simple minds of millions of Filipinos, like me, do not matter in the running of our government. In fact, our opinions are not at all reckoned with when our leaders pronounce what amounts to be national policies. It is insane because as if, we are not part of the state at all.

A fairly recent event props my suspicion that this insanity might have afflicted the highest office of the land. I hope the president can find a space in his heart to forgive me for saying so. The other day, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was in Beijing, on his state visit to China. During a formal ceremony, our president looked in the direction of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jin Ping, and uttered words that will forever be etched in the pages of our history as they, at present, reverberate throughout the world in unbelievably indistinct and lurid perceptions.

President Duterte announced, in words that nurture confusion, that he was separating from the United States of America. Well, he earlier made profane-laden remarks against American President Barack Obama, Ban Ki Mon of the United Nations and the EU that could have cushioned me from the harsh impact of his misguided tongue. Still, I fell of my chair when I heard him plagiarize the lyrics of a song, to say words to the effect that he was embracing Russia and China "against the world."

Duterte is our president on the votes of about a third of the voting population of the country. He might have imagined that his overwhelming political mandate gave him the authority to assume that what he thinks is what our countrymen also think. But, for him to say that it is Russia, China and the Philippines against the world, did he realize that it might not be in the hearts and minds of Filipinos to sever our friendship with the USA? A survey said that Filipinos have a 66+ trust ratings of the Americans but for the Chinese, a startling low negative 33 grade. Is he dismissing that cold fact? It is plausibly not in the interest of the greatest mass of Filipinos to turn our backs to an old ally in exchange of a suddenly beneficial attitude of an ideology that does not run parallel to our democratic ideals.

How can our president, perhaps carried by the Chinese pamper he received, personally disregard the fact that an international arbitral body condemned the rapacity of our neighbor in usurping our territory, a ruling that should represent the interest of our entire citizenry? Yes, for him to speak his mind as if it is the collective sentiment of our people is, sadly, both ghastly and insane.


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