TEODORO BENIGNO: THAT FULL-PAGE AD FOR GMA/PACHECO & 'KAPATIRAN'

Manila, August 11, 2003 (STAR)  HERE'S THE SCORE By Teodoro C. Benigno - It was a full-page ad that leaped at your eyes. It was an exhortation ad, a billow-or-bust ad that mirrored the upheaval now shaking the Philippines, that called on the Filipino people "to rally behind the President in this moment of crisis." The 64 signatories defined that ad which appeared Saturday in all the major broadsheets. They comprised the cream of the Establishment led by former presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and a cluster of archbishops and religious sisters. Surprisingly, the signature of Jaime Cardinal Sin was absent. The titans of business and high finance were there in great number, Catholic educators. And, of course, the prime movers of EDSA.

Why the ad? Obvious.

The July 27 Oakwood mutiny of about 300 young Armed Forces officers and enlisted men shattered all illusions that the Republic was well, democracy was strong, the leadership on stable ground, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo entrenched on a high hill. It was not the Oakwood mutiny alone. Evidence had mounted that some powerful opposition politicians were massaging the mutineers long before July 27. They reportedly stoked spreading unrest in the military, funded and equipped the uprising, and would have overthrown the GMA regime had they not been discovered in good time. To hear it, Gringo Honasan was just the plotters’ stalking horse. Lt. Sonny Trillanes, SG, was the ventriloquist’s willing and handsome dummy.

If indeed this is all true, Ariadne’s historical thread is pulling out from the past, and renders clear the maze of events that continue to confuse and stagger the public.

Maybe we have to quote the legendary Barbara Tuchman’s classic The March of Folly and find out what kind of government we have since Independence 60 years ago. Ms. Tuchman underscores four: (1) tyranny or oppression, (2) excessive ambition, (3) incompetence or decadence, (4) folly or perversity. The first two we can ascribe to the brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The third to none other than that mustachioed sybaritic Joseph Estrada. And part of the fourth – folly – to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And even she admits her commission of folly several times in the past.

And yet, even as we ascribe folly to GMA, she had the redeeming quality of resolving the Oakwood mutiny, as the ad underscores, "without bloodshed, and without damage to property, in less than 24 hours".

And she has another advantage. Under the circumstances, gripping as they are frightening, but which gave her the high political ground, who would really elect former PNP chief Panfilo Lacson to the presidency in 2004? Or Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco with the martial law baggage of the dictator riding his back? Or Ronnie Poe, whose movie muscles are not worth a tinker‘s damn in presidential politics? Only the name of Raul Roco remains as a serious contender. But he has botched many months playing the role of political hermit, disappearing when his verbal guns were sorely needed.

The August 9 call to the Filipino people hit the real issue in the fourth paragraph. The urgent need "to wage war against the poverty that is being experienced by the majority of Filipinos". And again in the fifth paragraph: "We appeal to all Filipinos to come to the defense of democracy."

How do we wage war against poverty, mesdames, messieurs? We have beaten the horse of poverty over and over again, held it up as a skeletal relic of a people once close to progress and prosperity. But outside of talking and talking, and issuing manifestoes such as that full-page ad, the elite of our society has done virtually and figuratively nothing. Neither has the Church. Neither has our political system. Neither has our business community. Neither have the so-called respected elders of society. We all know what our neighbor-nations in Asia have accomplished to eradicate poverty from their midst. As we talked gobbledygoook they trudged to high hills and treacherous mountain passes to advance their economy. Many of their people died along the way, but they succeeded. We are still in the pits.

And that appeal "to all Filipinos to come to the defense of democracy".

We don’t even know what it means. We have elections. Does that mean we have democracy? We have two houses of Congress to legislate bills "for the welfare of all Filipinos." Has that given us three meals a day, even two? Has that clothed our children? Has that adequately fed our families who live per capital on just 36 centavos daily? Has that afforded them education, access to the knowledge society? Do you call the abysmal ignorance of the Filipinos democracy? The graft? The shameless corruption? The Crime? The cascading violence? The insolence of our leaders? Their wretched arrogance? Their residence in mansions? While the poor wither and rot in smelling shanties? Democracy? Hello?

C’mon ladies and gentlemen. There’s a lot of hypocrisy there.

I’ll agree. There is a need to rally the people – now, this very moment. The enemy that has emerged is within our midst — the military establishment. Mao Zedong hit it right on the nail – Political power flows out of the barrel of a gun. It’s all right if we have a professional military, a military that agrees to stay in the barracks, a zealous, a patriotic, a fighting military. Within that military we have young idealistic officers. But they are easy prey to the blandishments of right-wing politicians who have money, and the consuming greed of the Romanovs. That was Oakwood July 27. Idealism for rent, as another columnist said?

On the topmost level, we have the generals.

They too ambition Malacañang. They feel that more than the politicians, they have the right to rule since they command the forces engaged in fighting the enemies of the republic. They probably feel they can no longer abide a political system dug deep in the sinkhole of venality. So why not they, the generals. Yes, except that they are just as corrupt. And once they take over, we become Asia’s most notorious banana republic.

And that was the main reason for the full-page ad. It was a booming shot across the military’s bow. Never again should the military take over the Philippines, as it did when it rented itself out to Ferdinand Marcos.

There was another thing notable in that full-page ad. It left out the nationalist component of Philippine society. The notables of the Left, particularly the Communist party, were also excluded. But most conspicuous of all, the nation’s politicians were not called upon to join the rally. Nor members of the judiciary. The ad definitely categorized Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Jose de Venecia as not rpt not "concerned citizens of the Philippines". Also scrapped were COPA and Kompil, the twin spearheads of EDSA II and their top leaders.

* * *

So many nights ago, I had dinner with an old friend Nandy Pacheco. We were supposed to be a trio, but Atty. Mario Ongkiko was stuck at an important meeting. The two are chairman and president, respectively of Kapatiran. Or more lengthily and officially, Kapatiran ng Pangkalahatang Kabutihan (Brotherhood for the Common Good).

I have gone through Kapatiran’s documents, papers, articles written about it, plus of course my long dinner conversation with Nandy. About this man, all I can say is that he should have been a priest or a vicar. For he wears God everywhere on his person, spreads no ill or ill will, and invokes the blessings of the Lord on everybody, friend or foe. I wish him and Atty. Ongkiko well. Atty. Ongkiko I also knew way back when he was the chief counsel of Hubert Webb, wrongfully and disgracefully convicted, in my view, for the murder of the Vizcondes.

Kapatiran intends to become a political party and field candidates for the 2004 elections. It has all the best objectives and intentions, and so we will not labor that. What probably sets Kapatiran aside is that its gospel is strongly similar to the gospel of the first Christians. Goodness is steeped, white wings flutter everywhere, the breath of the Lord fills the surroundings with the sweet smell of sacramental incense.

The kapatids of Kapatiran intend to spread their preachments by example, turn the other cheek if needed. In the long run, goodness will spill all over like a divine filament from up high. Our world in the Philippines cannot be changed overnight. Evil, greed, chicanery will remain for some time but they too will melt for no obstacle can stay in the way of the Almighty. Ah, but tilting with Nandy Pacheco is like tilting with a statue of the Santo Niño. How do you argue with a man who deals with the infinite?

Everything passes, he says. And he is right.

To join the ranks of Kapatiran, to enfold yourself into its wings, you must endeavor to live a life of piety, at least of good works and good deeds, cupped by a character that avoids cuss words, sorties into profanity, and bursts of terrible temper. That I am, Nandy. I am a scorpion by birth. I had thought anger belonged only to the youth.

I am an angry old man.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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