“Trust no future however pleasant
Let the dead past bury its dead
Act, act on the living present
Heart within and God o’er head.”
– From A Psalm of Life by Henry
It is a well crafted speech and well delivered – fit for a President. But there is a giant leap between words and action – to be more specific and dramatic, a quantum leap between words and action.
Many inaugural speeches have come and gone – and many countries have remained the same from the beginning of the term of the speech maker to the end of his watch. This is one of the vagaries of life – the inspiration of the moment cannot match the translation of the vision into reality. It is gargantuan job fit for a giant not a pygmy. And the journey is for a long demanding six years of PBM M’s life and every citizen’s life in this country.
But the speech is a good beginning.
Unity and reconciliation: Unity is a very good theme as it signifies reconciliation with diverse contending forces. But as I told President Cory Aquino in the first month of her presidency when she asked me whether she should reconcile with the Marcos elements in the country – I said yes with the condition that reconciliation should always be accompanied by justice. Reconciliation without justice is meaningless because it does not heal wounds.
It is easy to say – let’s forget the past if you are not the victim. For the victim, it is not easy as in the undying words of Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis of the American Supreme Court – to forgive is easy because he is a Christian but to forget he could not do it because it is to undo history.
This is the major problem of PBB M. He should do justice to the aggrieved parties before he can give flesh to his invocation of unity.
The organizers of the celebration of oath taking and victory missed out on this very important matter – the total absence of the aggrieved, the current political opposition, the existing leadership of the Moro Liberation Fronts and the legal elements of the CCP-NPA and their fellow travelers. This would have been easy to do and the failure to do it produces a false ring on the theme of unity.
Servant of the people: This is not exactly new coming from the mouth of a President. President Noynoy Aquino said this in more dramatic though pedestrian terms – “You are my boss!” referring to the people. In reality, he used the people as his bus to achieve things which were personal to him like what is bruited about as his having spirited away to Bangkok the people’s gold bars worth more than one hundred forty million US Dollars.
President Noynoy died without giving any explanation – rational or irrational – why he did it. In a similar vein, President BB M should explain to the people, as he claims to run a transparent and accountable government, why until now he has not paid the more than two hundred twenty million (P220,000,000.00) pesos of estate taxes on the estate of his father and the more than ten million (P10,000,000.00) pesos fine on his conviction as tax evader. After giving a rational explanation – he must pay the taxes immediately otherwise his credibility as a person and as a President will seriously suffer. Who needs a President who has no credibility – he will just end up like the President he succeeded whom he praised?
So President BB M, if he wants to gain some credibility among our people, should be very careful about using his mouth – otherwise he will just end up like former P RD who is more mouth than anything else. Or, to give it a Shakespearean flavor, former P RD is mere sound and fury, signifying nothing
Give meaning: The pomp is over – work begins PBB M must translate words into action. Having a lackluster Cabinet, he should reach out to the people for help – friends and foes alike. After all, that’s what he said in his inaugural speech. He should not be like President Noynoy who misled the people into believing they were the boss but in fact he was the boss and used the people as a bus to secure personal objectives. PBB M should not be like former President Digong whose words were betrayed by his actions If he does that, with people beginning to awaken, he might suffer the ignominy of being ousted from his office. That would be history repeating itself.
PBB M should learn the lesson of history otherwise, as the great Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, had written, he will be doomed to repeat history. The thought is very disconcerting considering the traumatic experience of his father and his family ousted from the Palace with derision and ignominy.
But he and his family are back in Malacanang with a flourish. PBB M should not waste this once in a lifetime opportunity to make amends for the sins of the past and blaze new trails which his father failed to explore. This is one of the paths to greatness which is the ambition of most Presidents, many, if not all, failed to achieve. The climb is formidable but he can always try. Nothing is lost by trying.
Outline: Every inaugural address of a President always outlines the pillars of his administration. PBB M has done that and he was well applauded. The theme of unity is always a fresh wind in any forum – but it’s easier said than done. That is a fact of life and part of the game. Its pursuit must be relentless, just and transparent. Secrecy is a vice of traditional backroom politicians because they have a lot to hide. He should avoid secrecy in the implementation of policy unless it involves issues of national security.
The speech is very promising, the necessary ingredient to uplift the spirit of a people buffeted by insufferable difficulties – from typhoons to volcanic eruptions; high prices of commodities to high fees for gasoline, gas, electricity and water; graft and corruption to extra-judicial killings; Xi Jin Ping inspired corona virus to DOH corruption and mismanagement of the means to contain the virus; government shenanigans to insanities. The pains are continuous due to unending poverty, ignorance, incompetence and criminality.
These are not easy problems to solve by one who former President Rodrigo Duterte denounced as a spoiled son of a rich and powerful family, weak leader and a cocaine drug user. Former President RD owes PBB M and the people an apology otherwise the charge will stick and always linger in the minds of the people. This charge, if not withdrawn, will be a shadow hounding PBB M during his incumbency. Problems are hard enough to solve, shadows, as they linger in the dark, are even harder to contain.
On guard: This is in response to PBB M in his inaugural address. He wants the help of the people. This is another help I’m offering to him as part of the response of the people as I, too, am part of the people contrary to the position of some of the members of his Cabinet.
President BB M should not pursue the offer to former President Digong Duterte the position of Drug Czar. This is a slap across the face and a Manny Pacquiao hit on the solar plexus of the families of more than twenty thousand (20,000) victims of extra-judicial killings orchestrated by former President RRD and his national death squads in police uniforms as well as a virtual repudiation by PBB M of the letter and spirit of his inaugural address. Why?
It would mean PBB M approves the extra-judicial killings during Duterte’s administration, the unequal enforcement of the illegal drug law – tokhang for the rich and privileged but tokbang for the poor and powerless; non-prosecution of Duterte’s drug lord friends, importers , protectors and coddlers; delayed prosecution of criminal policemen and drug enforcers. It will undo the encouraging and hopeful message of his inaugural address. And on top of all these, PBB M will be building a house founded on the sand, if I may wax Biblical.
So PBB M should beware of this kind of move. This appointment, if pursued by PBB M, will confirm former President Duterte’s accusation against him that – he is a weak leader, an illegal drug user and a spoiled son of a rich and powerful family. And who needs that kind of a President? Anyone who makes that kind of appointment should have his head examined. Why? The explanation is plain and simple – it’s just common sense as that kind of appointment is not only stupid, it is insane.
Danger: This possible drug czar appointment is fraught with danger for PBB M. It could lead to impeachment under Article XI of the Constitution. The good start with the inaugural address will turn sour with this appointment.
Some people may argue – what’s Bon Adaza talking about? PBB M controls Congress – he has the numbers, so the complaint will go nowhere. I am not new to this kind of argument. I was the principal author of the impeachment complaint against President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, PBB M’s father, in the regular Parliament (Batasang Pambansa). When I told our Minority Floor Leader, the legendary Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jose B. Laurel, Jr. that I was filing an impeachment complaint against Marcos, he said, “Bono, don’t waste your time on that, we don’t have the numbers.”
I replied, “I know that, Mr. Speaker, but impeachment is not just a game of numbers, it is a fight for the hearts and minds of men and women.” I left him determined to pursue my plans. After I secured forty-five signatures of Members of Parliament, the number necessary to bring the complaint for floor debate in the plenary session of the whole Parliament, I went back to see Speaker Laurel, as a matter of courtesy, telling him, “Mr. Speaker, I have the needed signatures so I’ll file the complaint today.”
He replied, “Give the complaint, I’ll sign it.” I gave it to him with an impish smile. After signing the complaint, he said this to me, “You know, Bono, you deserve to be a national leader.”
“Why, Mr. Speaker?” I asked him in reply.
“Because, may utak ka sa bayag at may bayag ka sa utak.” (You have brains in your balls and balls in your brains.) We both laughed and I left to file the complaint.
As expected, we lost the vote but we won the argument. Why did we win the argument? Marcos was ousted in a coup with support of the United Opposition and a segment of the people of Metro Manila, accented by Former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos whom I met after her exile, in the launching of a book of Joe Lad Santos, editor and publisher of The Reporter when she said to me, “You, know, Homobono, were it not for your mouth in Parliament, we will still be in power today. My only consoling thought is that we are out of power and so are you.”
With a lot of respect and civility, I replied, “Ma’am, that’s the law of life and part of the game.” And we both smiled.
Reminiscence: It is good to remember the past, especially when strategic players are still around – then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, now Chief Legal Counsel of the President; former PC Chief Fidel Valdez Ramos, later President and now a citizen to monitor and watch; Former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, mother of the President; this writer, a Former Provincial Governor of Misamis Oriental and Member of Parliament, now an insignificant citizen of this country writing his Facebook columns and incoming books; and now President BB Marcos who was a young man then when his father was ousted as President.
It is good to remember the passing scenes to avoid the pitfalls of the past and avoiding the pitfalls is important for President BB Marcos. And while reminiscing, these lines from IF by Rudyard Kipling could lend flavor to that remembering –
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you but none too much
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it
And which is more, you’ll be a Man, my son.”