Sunday, June 27, 2010

Will P'noy be a Lee Kuan Yew?

All we have of Noynoy now is great expectations. For so long the Philippine political horizon has had no bright light which would promise an end to scores of years of corruption in government. What started as a flicker of hope when Noynoy announced his candidacy for the presidential post has now kindled into a real flame with his successful bid for the highest post in the land. We have high hopes that he truly is the one who would lead us out of the morass that we are in. Our belief is bolstered by Noynoy’s corruption-free track record in congress and the senate, his seeming resolve to pursue to fruition the advocacies of Ninoy and Cory, and the legacy of honesty and sincere concern for the Filipino bequeathed by heroic and legendary parents.

What may be in question are his capabilities and strength of character. He will have to rely on his capabilities of judiciousness and clarity of discernment in the inclusion of trusted and well meaning advisers. Should he exclude anyone with kinship to him (Kamaganak, Inc.) or those whom he feels beholden to due to favors and friendship (BFF, Inc. using showbiz jargon – Best Friends Forever) which include Mar Roxas, showbiz friends and funders of his campaign? Is he being suckered up to the ploy of some detractors so that his selection will be hamstrung by these restrictions? Perhaps he should have faith that his sincerity will carry him through and that he should not worry too much about the criticisms that Kamaganak, Inc. and BFF, Inc. will have influence on some decisions. Perhaps his uncle Peping is right when he said that those close to him would offer the best advice because they are allied to his cause and that they are sincere in wishing him well. It will just be up to his good judgment to separate the chaff from the grain.

What is suspect is his strength of will, the weakness of which might translate into a lack of political will at the trenches. While his tenures in office have been without blemish it was also marked by non-achievement or little achievement. Though it does not signify the lack of political will it somehow signals an indifference or even the turning of one’s back on the responsibility at hand which in a way is an abdication of will. Through what we know from background info about the family he seems to be dependent on what others in the family say, notably the sisters, headed by the eldest, Ballsy. There is nothing wrong with getting the consensus of family members for things of utmost importance but it seems that he is not assertive enough to prevail on the rest of the family. It doesn’t sit well in the mind to know that we will have governance that is heavily influenced by a “sisterhood” and not from the strength of a determined president. I hope I am wrong in this.

While Ballsy seems to be the strongest of the sisters because of the primacy her position in the family the one who wields the strongest outside influence is decidedly the youngest, Kris. She probably contributed a lot to Noynoy’s success at the polls knowing that we do have a “star struck” voting population. Her loud antics and memorable though silly pronouncements have kept the Noynoy effort above the din of election noise. Now that the cause is won she should start being more circumspect. The family is quick to defend her by saying that she has had the most traumatic childhood experience being deprived of a father during the family’s turbulent times after the assassination. This does not exacerbate the inanities that she has shown thus far. While Noynoy’s tolerance of these does not constitute an impeachable offense as they seem to be innocuous enough, their harm, at worst, is that they chisel away at the dignity of the Presidency.

No, I don’t think that we could compare Noynoy’s challenges to that of Lee Kuan Yew’s. Lee Kuan Yew was the astute politician who had a lot of political savvy and the strength of will and character to navigate the small city state to where it is now. The nature of the problems that faced Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore at the onset is not similar to the Philippine one.

Nonoy’s challenges are far more complex and at a bigger magnitude than those encountered by Lee Kuan Yew. Dismantling an entrenched system of corruption in the bureaucracy, putting a stop to political dynasties, going after the robber barons and warlords who control financial institutions and landholdings, disarming their private armies and spurring a moral regeneration to erase the ill effects inculcated on “martial law babies” who grew up with the wrong heroes through education and by example from the new dispensation are just a few of the things that need to be addressed urgently.

Should Noynoy succeed in his quest, as we all are praying for, then it would be a far bigger achievement than that of Lee Kuan Yew’s. It would take more than this legendary Singaporean leader to solve the problems of the Philippines. Let us hope that Noynoy is the man equal to the challenge.


Carlos said...

One of the important things to carry when faced with a new leader of any stripe is patience. When Obama took over here in the US, people thought change would be immediate and tangible, but the truth is closer to the adage "Rome wasn't built in a day".

Obama's challenges include two (undeclared, not entirely legal) wars inherited from George Bush the Younger, an economic recession caused by irresponsible banking and credit usage, massive inequity in health coverage ... so on and so forth. Now we have quite possibly the worst ecological disaster in the history of mankind, landing right on my state's shores one tarball at a time.

One must take care not to mistake a President for a Messiah. That is a very quick road to disappointment, especially when one considers the compromises and deals a candidate must make to become successfully elected in the first place, even in the most transparent and honest nations of the world.

Obama and Noynoy may have very different family backgrounds (Obama is about as far from political aristocracy as possible in the States) but one interesting common thread - both were one-term Senators prior to becoming President.

What Obama and Noynoy bring to the table that many of their predecessors have not is the spirit of elevation - the idea that we ourselves can help elicit the changes that need to happen to improve our home nations. What we need to do is to let them, by their efforts and actions, inspire us to face our challenges rather than hope someone else does something about them. Too many people are convinced that change must come from without, that an Obama or a Noynoy can wave his magical presidential wand and make all their problems go away. That's just not how it works. Executive orders can only go so far - democratic governments have systems of checks and balances and multiple branches to prevent the presidency from being all-powerful. By definition, Presidents should not be omnipotent - the desire for that power led Marcos astray. Lord knows what George Bush the Younger would have done with 20 years in office, seeing as he was one of the physically fittest US presidents in history.

It takes a long time to accumulate the mistakes that led our countries down their paths - rectifying those mistakes will necessarily be gradual and painful. Those of us overseas will be watching carefully to see how Noynoy traverses the minefields of the Filipino presidential experience - and wishing him the best of luck, and whatever support we can offer.

This will be very interesting indeed.

wayfarer said...

The main difference between the situations Obama and Noynoy are quite basic. Obama has the advantage of having constituents who may be less impatient in seeing change. Noynoy's constituent is made up poverty stricken, homeless, hungry, shirtless and the disease threatened. They would comprise more than a majority of the population. Their idea of change is having food on the table, better hygiene, roof on their heads, basic education, equal justice and other modest werewithals for daily existence.
It is true that both Obama and Noynoy have stepped up by enjoining their constituents to participate and have ownership of a vision for the country. It would be difficult to rally the poor who are engrossed with their daily struggle from wretchedness. Even amongst those who are qualified to help there would be a scarcity of "stout hearted men" to join Noynoy in his mission. He has a tough fight ahead of him. On top of his sincerity and strong resolve perhaps a dose of divine intervention and maybe a magic wand would come in handy.