WE USED TO have statesmen.
Intrepid individuals who grasped the gravity of governance and knew how to direct the affairs of state. The likes of Manuel L. Quezon, Jose P. Laurel, Claro M. Recto, Sergio Osmeña, and Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, Nacionalistas who wrestled America for independence and won that battle in the arena of ideas.
They were men of high ideals who intensely loved the Philippines and envisioned her potential. They engaged in vociferous debate with other patriots to refine the common view of nationhood, and thereby enunciated the lofty goal of self-determination. Nothing less than a truly sovereign Philippine Republic would satisfy.
Though the Philippines was the less experienced and weaker party, they dauntlessly defended her cause before America-the-great. They brought the campaign Stateside in order to better prosecute their case, forcefully arguing with the colonist in his own tongue with impressive eloquence.
Understanding that independence would only be achieved through negotiation and compromise, they bargained like virtuosos to cut their losses. They succeeded in establishing the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935, the government that triumphantly ushered in the Third Philippine Republic in 1946.
These were men of vision. They had their flaws, but they understood that the stewardship of the state demanded respectability as well as intelligence. Despite their private foibles, in public they carried themselves with the dignity befitting their office. I imagine it was the weight of their political burdens that produced in them the gravitas that made them exemplars for the nation. They maintained public debate in the realm of policy and kept it at a reassuring distance from the brothel and the gutter. They inspired confidence and emulation.
I wish we had leaders like them today.
If they resemble them at all, our present officials bear only fading vestiges of the statesmen of yore.
They may sometimes bellow with the bravado of a Laurel or Quezon but disappointingly lack their substance and the commensurate will to transform government. They may be diplomatic like Osmeña or savvy like Amang but lack their integrity and courage; nor do they command the loyalty from their colleagues to steer their party to greatness. And glaringly absent from the current political milieu is the tremendous intellect of Recto.
Instead, they have stag parties and twerking playgirls, these trapos who see nothing malicious in the lewd gyrations of their “sexy dancers,” and who find this kind of event “ordinary.”
They are not idealistic but pragmatic, and will unabashedly block reform legislation to ensure their political survival. Neither are they patriotic but avaricious, and will unconscionably sell the country down the river if they can make a profit by it.
Their sense of destiny is personal, not national in scope, and their vision extends only to the extent that they are benefited by endorsing a particular cause. They are not described by nobility but by banality, and by a peculiar mendicancy of character that makes these elected officials palpably pathetic.
I feel increasingly frustrated that my choices in 2016 seem limited to the usual suspects. I am praying and hoping and waiting for better options to emerge, because the current ones are, I’m afraid, not enough.
I do not want to vote for puede na next year, nor sige na lang kasi wala na. I truly want to hold out for candidates who will elevate our social consciousness with their own soaring ideals.
People who have the boldness and wisdom to lead and not merely rely on advisers. People who will help the middle class improve their quality of life and not merely report economic improvements no one can feel. People who will have the compassion to lower taxes and not merely cover their inefficient revenue collection by digging in their heels and pulling rank.
I am waiting for those who will not exploit the people’s valid yearnings by falsely identifying with them. I am looking for candidates who will inspire.
I will pray and wait and hope. But if I do not find them in next year’s field, I will not give the unworthy my vote of confidence. I will abstain and let my silent ballot be my keening in the wilderness.
“They lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the LORD.