Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One dinner that costs too much?

The now popular dinner that cost PGMA's entourage $21,000 got the people even madder than they already are. "It's just a simple dinner," as Remonde puts it. "Not a single centavo of taxpayers' money was spent for that dinner," he added saying that the famous repast was hosted and paid for by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez. Furthermore, "A Php1 million dinner tab in Manila can be too much but not in New York," says QC Rep. Danilo Suarez, adding that he could have foot the bill..."

Several things come to mind. First, the simplicity angle. A dinner of soup, salad, a main course, drinks and coffee or tea may have been considered simple for their tastes but with that kind of bill, I cannot consider it simple. If we go by Rep. Suarez' argument, why then did the New York Post publish the cost of the dinner? If that was not news for it was indeed ordinary, NY Post would have just ignored it. Dog bites man is not news as opposed to a man biting the dog.

Remonde is quick in saying that he would ask the deputy executive secretary to release this week a financial statement on all expenses incurred during the visit. I do not have any doubt that it will yield nothing with regard to the dinner for it has been paid for by someone else, another government official. Hmmm, could he also look into the pork barrel of the said representative? Or yeah, maybe he is extremely wealthy like Mr. Suarez who is willing to foot the bill for he has lots of cash to spare. But then, the money could have been spent elsewhere, like education where hundreds of children could have benefited like, uhm, the place which he represents.

But of course, I can never understand their ways. Maybe what they have done is justified considering the fortunes of their circumstances and based on what they have. I remember a scene in Jesus Christ Superstar when Judas confronts Christ why He allows Mary Magdalene to use brand new, expensive fine ointment on Him, Jesus answers, "There will be poor always, pathetically struggling, look at the good things you've got." meaning He cannot save the poor by not using expensive things. But then, that's Tim Rice and the play is kind of blasphemous anyway. But maybe, just maybe, there is some truth in that. I will never understand what it is to be rich. I am merely an ordinary man trying to earn a living doing honest hard work. Working hard and staying poor, that is.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A lesson learned

As we mourn Cory's death, let us reflect and seriously think about what it means to us. If there's a lesson we all should learn about Cory Aquino's passing, it will be that a true leader is someone who has the people's blessing. Sure, one can use all the tricks in the book to be the top honcho but it does not necessarily mean success. And that is true even for someone with the noblest of intentions.

A true leader is made more by outside forces, circumstances that surround him/her. Cory is such. She never meant to be president. She never meant to be "the one" to oppose and stop the Marcos regime. She never meant to be the people's hero. And yet, all these happened. She was such by circumstance. Only a select few are chosen to lead like this. Cory was and she accepted it and did well.

We have seen political leaders who forced their way to office and how much the people hated them. More often than not, these self-anointed ones cling to power like their lives depended on it. And rightfully so. Their lives do depend on the powers they have arrogated to themselves. As Lord Acton said, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. As their powers grow, they tend to be dictators who have almost godly powers who can not be touched by mere mortals. Eventually, they begin to rule using fear and intimidation. How many lives were lost so that they can remain in power? You can just imagine how they would be once these powers are taken from them. Dictators fall and when they do, they fall really hard. We saw how Nicolae Ceaucescu of Romania was shot after a two-hour session with a kangaroo court, we saw how Idi Amin fall to nowhere, or Haiti's Francois Duvalier, dying a well hated man. We need not go far. Our very own Ferdinand Marcos, bright as he was, is now regarded as one of the greatest thief in history.

Cory Aquino is a hero by circumstance. She happened to be in the right place at the right time. Who would have thought that Marcos would be forced to call for a snap election while being interviewed by Ted Koppel? She became president simply because of her marriage to Ninoy Aquino, who was felled by a lone bullet of an unknown assailant. As a widow, she had the people's sympathy. As a leader, she had the charisma to lead a nation against a strongman who has ruled for twenty years. She never had any experience to run a country. As a matter of fact, the common joke when she was in power was saying her name with gestures like "Corazon (spanish for heart) and pointing at the heart, then saying C (si, yes) Aqui (here) then pointing to one's brain, and completing it with no!" She was definitely not as bright a politician as Marcos was but she had the determination to continue her husband's fight. She did not even seek vengeance and merely allowed the wheels of justice take its turn. She had the will to govern the people towards peace and contentment. She survived three coup attempts and even emerged as victor.

I recall the time when she had to address the US congress. I could never have been as prouder seeing my president being hailed and given a standing ovation by the leaders of a powerful nation. A nation, who for almost fifty years, would rule us making them our superiors for a very long time. Her speech was interrupted several times by a deafening applause that lasted for several minutes, probably one of the longest this august men and women gave to anyone. Then US House Speaker Ted O'neil regarded the speech "as the finest speech he's heard in his thirty four years in Congress." I believe it simply because this was one speech delivered with sincerity and with a lot of heart. Just as wonderful was her last address to the nation when she bid everyone goodbye. She was even being told that the constitution's prohibition for re election did not apply to her since she did not come into power under the present one. However, she refused saying, "I had not been inaugurated under the present Constitution and it did not bind me in strict terms, but I had campaigned for it and therefore took upon myself the moral obligation to follow, if not its letter then its spirit, that a presidency must accomplish its goal within six years.” Such an inspiring anecdote in the life of a real hero.

To all political leaders and would-be president, heed the lesson history has taught us. If you want to be great, do what great men and women do - selfless devotion to the country and its people.