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Teddy Locsin is right: the mainstream media is not asking PNoy the right question. All they care is to talk about the personal and trivial about the president. And that is not more obvious than in the online poll of ABS-CBN News that puts the president’s love life and marriage prospects as the number in their survey of what the people would want to hear from PNoy’s State of the Nation Address.
The Al Jazeera interview was an intelligent one, and PNoy has given us a glimpse of the depth of his knowledge of the situation of the country.
the cbcp’s response to the pcso scandal seemed to be clever at first look. by responding as a group, the bishops hope that they can bring with them the weight of the church as a moral organization and institution, thus minimizing the possible impact of the scandal to their already dwindling moral authority. it may also appear that the church as an organization is being wrongly attacked by a government to weaken its influence on the issue of the rh bill.
but what if it fails? the possibility of failure here is substantial considering that this is an issue of perception, and that the ploy that this is related to rh bill battle is holds no water. whether or not the bishops can clear their names will not really matter in the end. the perception alone that they were involved in corruption will linger and sow doubt in the minds of the people, even to the most fervent believer. clearly, this most recent scandal has rattled the organization that it now appears on a total defensive posture. it might be that the fight against the rh bill, the rekindled divorce issue in the country, and now, the corruption in its own ranks, have taken its toll on the bishops that it is now unable to discern which is a proper thing to do. perhaps they now have too much on their plate as ‘attacks’ are now coming from different directions. on the other note, these bishops can only blame themselves for their misfortune. while they have been astute politicians in cassocks, they must remain, at least in the public eye, morally uptight.
while the number of bishops benefiting from the previous administration is only limited to a few, the statement from cbcp maintaining that their ‘conscience is clear’ without even investigating the concerned bishops threatens to further weaken their moral and political influence. with this, the organization can easily be accused of double standard and hypocrisy; that it quickly condemns perceived bad behavior of individuals other than their own, but turning a blind eye on the erring members of its ranks. religious institutions have been dabbling with politics for far too long under the guise of service to god, now one of its sources of legitimacy is being threatened by the fire that they have been playing with.
it’s been a while now since i last read and actually finished a book. as far as i can remember, the last academic book i read was on philippine political economy written by walden bello. there were a few novels but most of those were ebooks i read when i’m bored in the office; but none that requires rigorous thinking and undivided attention, or a dictionary at the least. it’s also been a while since i last bought a book, with a chess guide that i just browsed for about a week and left it to be covered by dust as my latest acquisition. clearly, i’ve lost something which i am used to be proud of myself of: a vociferous reader. maybe it has something to do with my work, but may also have something to do with my access to other forms of getting information.
for the past few months, i’ve heavily relied on audio and video downloads. i can remember that when i didn’t have access to the internet, i had to look for, and read all of john grisham’s novels in paperback. now, i only need to search for, say, lord of the rings trilogy, a few clicks, a couple of days of waiting, and done, i have my audio book read by a british and complete with sound effects. i can listen to it while engaging in other activities such as traveling or playing computer games.
this generation is said to be less inclined to reading, at least, the print materials; i do not necessarily disagree. in a way, i am one of those. for my part, i am simply take advantage of the opportunity and access that i have. i admit that i am able to retain more information when i see and read it rather than just listen to it, but repetition can compensate for that. i am traveling approximately 2 hours a day, which i spent on listening to audio materials, from the audio edition of the economist, to podcast, to novels. by the time i arrive at the office, i am already aware of what happened to the world without reading anything. if didn’t understand something, i will repeat it while going back to the apartment, so by the time i arrive, i can proceed with my part time job. given the choice, i would love to read, but i don’t have that luxury right now, maybe after two years.
it is also good that i do not read excessively anymore; just two semesters after i entered college and i was already wearing eye glasses, a product of reading an average of 6 hours a day on weekdays, and considerably longer on weekends where i have more time and when the dorm is very quiet. i am not wearing eye glasses anymore; i first left my glasses at home when i went to manila but i didn’t bother to have my eyes checked after that. it doesn’t bother me so i guess it’s just ok. in fact, it must be ok because i am currently spending (sometimes wasting) 16 hours a day in front of a computer and laptop monitor without having problems with my eyes or vision. well, it actually makes me wonder…
however, for all the convenience and practicality of listening to audio materials of books or conference transcripts, if available, there is still something great about reading them. it has something to do with the ‘feel’ of the paper or of the fine print or the smell of the ink and the pages. and for a margin scribbler like me, i love to see my notes on the edges of the pages and in between lines and paragraphs; there is an illusion that you understood what you read when you see your handwriting there. but maybe this is just a product of being born in age of transition from papers to monitors; you tend to romanticize it.
In 1998, joseph estrada embarked on a populist campaign platform to capture the presidency, depicting himself as the savior of the masses. His strategy was so effective that now, some 13 years later, populism has become the de facto choice of candidates seeking for public office. But it is without its curses to the candidate who wins on such campaign platform.
A few months ago, the approval rating of President Aquino was soaring at an all-time high. You call it honeymoon period, over optimism of the people that borders despair and impatience for progress, or whatever. However, with the onslaught of after-effects of global financial crisis, the increase of the prices of petroleum products and practically everything else, people are now thinking that the president is lazy and incompetent. Aquino is now seen not as a solution, but a problem.
During the campaign period, all presidential candidates wooed the poor by promising an end to poverty. Aquino’s anti-poverty campaign is anchored on the political, even vengeful: the elimination of corruption and the persecution of former president. The political is so far a failure, and so by the same logic, the economic. The institutional limitations and barriers erected by the former president is enough to make Aquino inutile in pursuing her. And now, the economic problems are catching up, has even overtaken, the political. Like all populist candidates, he positioned himself as the cure-all to the problems of the country. In order to win an election, one must promise the impossible, and suffer afterwards. Now he is the single biggest target whenever something not right happens.
On the institutional/systemic level, populist campaign strategy makes the presidency synonymous to the person occupying it—seemingly capable of everything. The fact is the presidency, even though it is the highest and most powerful position in the land, is still an office, an institution. This means that it is part of a larger system of government, has limitations, subject to laws and rules, part of the bureaucracy, a co-equal of two more branches and therefore subject to checks and balances, and most importantly, a power player that must engage in conflict and compromise with other offices as necessity dictates.
Populism seems to be very fit the ‘Filipino political culture’. But if the past events are to be the bases, populist strategy could backfire in short notice. But then again, if you are a candidate your only objective is to win, and populist strategy is the most promising way to get what you wanted. Forget that it will haunt you afterwards; after all, the curse is not as powerful as the presidency.