COLUMN: HYSTERIA AND A QUESTION OF HONOR

MANILA, January 23, 2004 (STAR) BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - Efforts to "disqualify" Fernando Poe Jr. (alias Ronald Allan Poe) have reached, it seems, the level of hysteria. What is the public to conclude? That the Palace is deathly afraid of the FPJ challenge.

C’mon. Nobody doubts that Malacańang is behind the moves to boot Poe out of the race, even those rabid GMA supporters who very furiously and publicly deny that the Administration’s fingerprints are all over the . . . uh, dastardly deed.

All that ek-ek – about violation of the Constitution being made by well-baronged lawyers, tendentiously pontificating about the sacred need to make certain every candidate for the highest post in the realm is naturally-born, and does not come from Mars, or, worse, from Spain or America – is disgusting. Beware: They’re making harassed Poe look like the underdog, his accustomed movie hero role.

One of the major issues raised is about the legitimacy of birth of Ronnie Poe. Susmariosep, guys. Don’t throw too many stones. Or, as Manila’s colorful, double-barreled-tongued one-time Mayor, the late "Arsenic" Lacson, used to quip: "People who live in tin houses shouldn’t throw can openers."

When experts begin to inspect their calendars to find out who was born before wedlock, some surprises might spring up.

If you ask me, this is a non-issue. The problem with the Administration’s clumsy moves is that the public is beginning to smell fear. Just as a horse’s nostrils pick up this scent when a nervous rider mounts it for the first time, and it begins to buck and gallop wildly with the ornery intent of throwing off the would-be buckaroo, the people might decide that they want to side with the winner, not the loser.

My suggestion is to let Poe go. The President may have absolutely no knowledge of what’s going on, but her overzealous supporters ought to know that if she can’t beat her rival fair and square at the hustings, she can’t beat him by trying, even before campaign season begins on February 10th, to knock him out of the race. This is a formula for trouble – enough trouble, perhaps, to derail even the election itself.

Karl Marx, the man who invented Communism with its first handbook. Das Kapital, wrote an earlier book. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1919). In it, Marx pointed out that "historical events occur twice – the first time as tragedy, the second as farce."

In the FPJ citizenship brouhaha, what we’re witnessing today is farce. In its second part, we might be plunged into tragedy.

There are some who’re now blustering that it is their patriotic duty to unmask someone unworthy to aspire for the proud Presidency of our land. Mark Twain (alias Samuel L. Clemens), the author of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Prince and the Pauper, said in one of his more celebrated essays: "Patriotism is merely a religion – love of country, worship of country, devotion to the country’s flag and honor and welfare."

What we see lacking in these coming elections, indeed in our confused and cynical society, is the vital ingredient of honor.

Finally, while everybody remembers United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address in 1933, in the cusp of the Great Depression, in which FDR rallied a dispirited nation with the words, "the greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself," few recall his Second Inaugural Address on January 20, 1937, when he and his New Deal had defeated that terrible Depression, vanquished fear, and made the sun shine again for America.

Roosevelt reminded his listeners that four years ago, "We of the Republic" (one of his favorite phrases) had pledged "to end by action, tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day. We did those first things first."

He ended his address with the following words: "Today we reconsecrate our country to long-cherished ideals in a suddenly changed civilization. In every land there are always at work forces that drive men apart and forces that draw men together. In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up, or else we all go down, as one people.

"To maintain a democracy of effort requires a vast amount of patience in dealing with differing methods, a vast amount of humility. But out of the confusion of many voices rises an understanding of dominant public need. Then political leadership can voice common ideals, and aid in their realization."

In conclusion, speaking of the American people, Roosevelt vowed that "I shall do my utmost to speak their purpose and to do their will, seeking Divine Guidance to help us each and every one to give light to them that sit in darkness and to guide our feet into the way of peace."

In 1941, however, FDR was at the helm of his nation when it was sucked into war by a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

In war and peace, however, Roosevelt was firm. He is the only person to have been elected to the Presidency four times, serving in the White House from 1933 until his death in 1945.

It’s important to recall that FDR was stricken with polio just as he was on the ascent as a politician, as Governor of New York – a disease which crippled that once-athletic man and put him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Yet, undaunted, he rose above his infirmity to win the Presidency, and never looked back.

Stuart Chase, an exponent of semantics, asserted that "with words we govern men."

FDR’s words were his weapon, but it was his indomitable spirit and sense of rectitude that made his words sing, to enrapture and move his people to do things, even beyond human reach or endurance.

In our country, we are eloquent to the point of glibness. But we seem to be governed by verbosity, not the wisdom of sincere speech. And our pettiness and selfishness are ungovernable. It was our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who uttered the prophetic and sorrowful words: "Liberty? Why liberty, when the slaves of today will only be the tyrants of tomorrow?"

Rizal, however, gave his life in order that we might be reminded of the demands of honor, and in doing so inspired men of action like Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo to raise the banner of Revolution and fight for independence, and place in the sun for our people.

In typically Filipino fashion, alas, Aguinaldo killed Bonifacio. To be fair to him, the General had wanted to amend Ka Andres’ sentence of death based on trumped-up charges in a military tribunal to "exile". But two former Bonifacio-faction generals (to suck up to their new "boss") had whispered into Aguinaldo’s ear: "As long as Bonifacio is alive, the Revolution will be divided."

This is what sealed Bonifacio’s fate. He was shot to death on a nearby hillside in Cavite.

Our family of Katipuneros was unashamedly pro-Bonifacio, and we revere Ka Andres to this day. But we know that Aguinaldo was the more astute military leader.

This time, let our nation, in peace, be undivided. And honor placed foremost. This must be our hope. This writer, as earlier said, has covered seven Presidents. They usually come and go. In this, our day, however there exists a situation which could deteriorate into great harm.

It’s time we woke up – and reconsecrated ourselves anew to what our forefathers so valiantly sought and defended: A nation under God, united and free.

Only thus can we survive the crisis which threatens to overwhelm us.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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