Saturday, August 6, 2011

Read between the lines

There are those who blame the laziness and weakness of the masses as one reason why we have so many demagogues in our midst. They say people relish a firm leader, a benevolent dictator. The popular belief is that the iron resolve of such type of leader would help create a greater and better society, or on the other hand, that it would help protect its demise.

This is not only without basis in fact or history but also untrue. When a cabal controls the media and has the backing of the economic elite, it is easier to twist popular support in their favour. The poor masses, bereft of economic power and politically marginalized, could undoubtedly fall for deceit and promises of a better tomorrow.

That’s how Germany fell for Hitler, or Chile and Argentina for Pinochet and Peron. Ferdinand Marcos used his mastery of guile and glib to subdue an entire nation into submission to his goals of a “New Society.”
Is Philippine President Benigno Aquino III under siege? Photo courtesy of Photo
 of the Week (IRRI). Please click link below to view interview with Butuan Bishop
 Juan de Dios Pueblos:
According to a contemporary Filipino historian, President Noynoy Aquino’s “daang matuwid” (straight path) could very well be his generation’s battle cry for social change as in the old “Bagong Lipunan” (New Society) of the Marcos era. The comparison may sound ominous but could bear some kernel of truth.

The recent state-of-the-nation address by President Aquino demonstrates how eloquent speech can mask the hollowness of his accomplishments after a year in office. This is, by the way, the hallmark of a demagogue. If he continues this way in addressing or leading the Filipino people, Noynoy Aquino might be on the straight path toward building his vision of society based on his moral values, without delivering the economic and social benefits of his so-called agenda for change.

But Noynoy Aquino should be very afraid of the masses when they finally get angry and fed up with false promises and lofty but empty rhetoric. It wasn’t that long ago when the EDSA People Power Revolution helped his mother topple the despotic Marcos regime. The autumn revolution in the streets of Eastern Europe brought down the powerful Soviet Union and its satellite block. The same phenomenon is happening right now in the Arab Spring where leaders like Egypt’s strongman Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were deposed after long years of dictatorship, all because of the intense civil resistance of the masses. Perhaps Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad are the next ones to fall.

One thing is certain. History has shown that the masses are not forever asleep.

Only last July 3, Colonel Generoso Mariano, the deputy commander of the Philippines Naval Reserve Command, published a video on Facebook and YouTube calling for the overthrow of the government of President Benigno Aquino III. In an overt defiance of his Commander-in-Chief, Mariano said that the “Aquino government is not doing anything to keep poor people from going hungry and dying.”
A contingent of Philippine marines marching at the navy headquarters in Manila.
Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse. Please click link below to view video of  
Col. Generoso V. Mariano calling for the ouster of President Noynoy Aquino:
According to Mariano, when the government has no intention to save the plight of the greater majority of the people from their suffering, “it is the right of every Filipino, including soldiers, to replace the government.”

Brave and daring words from one of Noynoy Aquino’s foot soldiers. President Aquino should not forget that his own mother’s term as president of the country was beset by a series of failed military coups. Col. Mariano himself was involved in those coups and also imprisoned for his participation.

This was not the first time a call has been made for Aquino’s ouster.

Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos also made a similar call during a radio interview where he asked President Aquino to step down because he is “not worthy” to lead the country. “Aquino does not plan…he does not make his own decisions and just lets his friends decide on how to run the government,” the prelate added.

The bishop also revealed during the interview that there are similar groups preparing to depose Aquino from Malacanang because they believe that Aquino was not doing his job as president. There were reports that the Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4) had also been active in trying to unseat Aquino, the same group that had been involved in similar efforts to oust former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo.

What is the Aquino government’s reaction to all these campaigns to apparently destabilize his government?

Col. Mariano was immediately confined to military quarters and a formal investigation was ordered that could lead to a court martial. The Aquino administration dismissed Mariano’s allegations in his video and claimed that the marine officer used to work closely with former President Gloria Arroyo, who is now facing several graft and corruption charges.

Butuan Bishop de Dios was similarly discredited by the Noynoy Aquino’s inner circle as a disgruntled former ally of then President Arroyo and was one of the recipients in the Pajero scandal where church officials were alleged to have received vehicles from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for their own personal use.

It appears that the present dispensation under Noynoy Aquino has found the magical formula to stem criticism of the government and efforts by disgruntled members of the military to launch a counterproductive coup. Simply put the blame on the previous administration for its own shortcomings and failures. After all, it is the past government that is on trial for massive graft and corruption. By exposing critics or would-be putsch conspirators as being tainted and drenched in the past government’s scandalous record of graft and corruption, Aquino and his allies are now able to quickly dispatch any criticism of government as being motivated by an axe to grind or merely sour grapes.

This cavalier attitude of the government could have serious consequences. Criticisms from now on would just be ignored. What if there was a strain of truth in this jeremiad against the government? This is sounding more and more like a government that is incapable of making mistakes, or a government that does not want to be criticized. When a government starts to think this way, its pushes itself toward the dangerous precipice of complacency—then totalitarianism becomes a temptation, when everything seems perfect for a leader to rule by decree and iron hand.

Just listen or read between the lines these moral exhortations from the august lips of President Aquino in his state of the nation address.

“And to those who may resist the change we are trying to bring about, this I say to you: I know what I must do, and my personal interests are nothing when compared to the interests of the nation. There are many of us who want what is right for this country; and there are more of us than you. To those of you who would turn back the tide of reform: you will not succeed.”

Words from someone imbued with a messianic complex. Clearly a man set out on a mission to manipulate the public’s passion to gain allegiance and stay in power.

Let it be told: Self-righteous sermons that stir popular passions and prejudices are not a miracle drug that can transform society and deliver our people from the pangs of poverty and injustice. Only a demagogic leader believes this is possible.

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