Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama and Philippine Politics

It is the height of arrogance and presumption for Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to say that U.S. President Barack Obama can learn a lot from our own President. This is unless, of course, Sec. Ermita means that President Obama can learn what not to do based on our President’s example. Given the fact that President Arroyo’s popularity rating is even lower than that of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, there are a lot of things then that President Obama can learn; the lessons, though, are completely different than what Sec. Ermita, in his hubris, had in mind.

Ermita’s statement is just the latest stupidity coming from our politicians trying to jump on the Obama bandwagon. It’s right up there with Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay’s claim that he’s the “Obama of the Philippines” and Makati City 1st District Representative Teddy Boy Locsin’s assertion that Obama is the “Binay of Chicago”.
The sad truth is that, among the current big names of Philippine politics, there is no one who even comes close to the presence, confidence and charisma that President Obama wields. If ever there is anybody who can be compared to Obama, that politician is still quietly toiling in the grassroots level, anonymous and unknown. Unfortunately, the moment such a politician is discovered, he or she is sucked into the quagmire that is Philippine politics.

This is the tragedy of Philippine politics, where the corrupt politicians and the political dynasties hold sway, that anyone with any amount of virtue finds his or her virtue quickly tarnished. It’s getting to the point that the only way any sort of social change can be established is to tear down the existing system, and put up a new one, this time with safeguards to prevent any abuse. However, wasn’t that what the members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission attempted to do, to make sure that the abuses of the martial law government of the late President Marcos would not be repeated? And look where their Constitution, overwhelmingly approved by a Philippine populace still blinded by the brilliance of Cory Aquino’s magical win over the dictator, has gotten us.

It seems that our politicians are wily enough to exploit whatever system of government is established, and maintain their level of corruption. This makes it difficult to expunge them from the system.

At the same time, it is the fault of our countrymen that our government is the way it is, as we allow the situation to happen because we don’t properly exercise our political power, preferring instead to be led like sheep, lulled by the promise of quick cash and empty promises. We prefer to be children, looking to our politicians to be our parents , transferring our power for them to use.

But can you imagine a Philippines wherein our people are aware of the power they wield and make the conscious decision to take hold of that power and grow up? Like the ants in the movie “A Bug’s Life”, we might finally realize that it is we, not our politicians and government officials, who are powerful, if only because of our sheer numbers.

A person like Barack Obama can only become President of our country once we grow up politically, not before. But change like that takes time, and I’m not sure if we’ll see the maturation of the Filipino people in our lifetime.

Still, that doesn't mean that we should wait passively for that day. Rather, we should all work together in order to bring that day closer.

And, who knows? Perhaps we will see the maturation of Philippine politics in our lifetime.

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