Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Our Kapampangan President

by Robby Tantingco
SunStar Pampanga

When I watch on TV the thin crowds that gather for anti-GMA rallies, I can’t help feeling sad—not so much for the opposition as for the country as a whole. Rallies are the yardsticks for measuring not only the popularity or unpopularity of a President, but more importantly, the level of people’s interest in their country’s affairs.

When people stay away from rallies, it doesn’t mean they are pro-GMA; the surveys already tell us that she is a very unpopular president. The thin crowds in rallies simply mean people no longer care whether GMA stays or goes. And that’s bad.

Some call it people power fatigue, others think it is a sign that Filipinos have matured politically because they now rely more on the electoral process than on people power to change their leaders.

Well, I have a more cynical explanation.

The world today is so much more complex than the world that produced the People Power movements in the 1980s and the 1990s. Whereas before we only had five TV channels, now we have over 50. We also have cell phones and iPods and malls and DVDs and the Internet.

In other words, people today are so distracted by so many things happening at the same time that they can’t focus on any single thing. They tune in to the Senate hearing for a few minutes, then switch to American Idol and Desperate Housewives. They drop by the rally in Makati and after a few boring speeches under the sun, they rush to Greenbelt to cool their heels at Starbucks and later to Glorietta to catch the last full show. And how can corruption in government arouse anger in a teenager whose head is swimming with Justin Timberlake’s music from earphones plugged in all day?

Of course they read the papers and follow what’s happening in politics, and for a few moments they probably feel stirrings of patriotism and even send their politicized thoughts to their friends and co-workers through text messages, but to go beyond that—like march in the street and risk being hosed down by the PNP—that’s probably stretching it a bit.

It will probably take a tyrant like Marcos to reignite people power, and for all her repressive policies and dictatorial tendencies, GMA is no Marcos. I think it will take a series of earth-shaking events, instead of just one, to really create the critical mass that will erupt in a phenomenon called people power. In the 1980s, the assassination of Ninoy began the chain of events that led to the rigged Batasang Pambansa elections and the snap elections and the walkout of Comelec tabulators and the mutiny of Defense Minister Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Ramos. In the case of Erap, the nightly TV coverage of his trial that showed a steady procession of witnesses and damning revelations, with defections by friends like Chavit Singson and even Nora Aunor, sustained the people’s outrage long enough to finally push them to spill into the streets.

In the case of GMA, the scandals are as earth-shaking as the others, but they are spaced so few and far between that the people’s anger keeps rising and falling. The Hello Garci episode could have been it, except that the crowds didn’t show up. FPJ’s wake and funeral aroused people’s sentiments for about a week, then also fizzled out. Joey de Venecia’s expose came and went, too, and now, this Jun Lozada thing looks like a noisy circus that is also doomed to fade away, like all the others before it.

Well, I sincerely hope not.

This government has corrupted itself with such impunity that if the people would not bring it down, I am certain God would.

As a Kapampangan, I truly wish GMA well and I am grateful for all the preferential treatment she has given Pampanga. However, as a Filipino, I cannot be so selfish that I don’t care if she robs the rest of the nation blind as long as my province benefits from it. Our love for our province should stop where our love for our country begins.

Sometimes we should sacrifice provincial interests for the sake of the nation—I emphasize sometimes, because other times, we shouldn’t (like in the case of language). Whether we like it or not, all the regions and tribes in these 7,100 islands came together at one point in history and decided to be one nation, so even if our own Kapampangan Nation antedated the Philippine State by 400 years, this is where we find ourselves now, struggling to coalesce with other regions under one flag.

We cannot privilege our province at the expense of the nation. The attitude that we should stick to the President because she is a Kapampangan or because she has done so much for Pampanga—is selfish and unpatriotic.

As the political events unfold in the next few days, we Kapampangans should start thinking as Filipinos instead of just Kapampangans so that we can assess the situation more objectively. I support GMA for her wise decisions and enlightened policies, and I will abandon her if she is proven to be a crook. Our cabalen who will stand by her come what may, who will stick their neck for her and even take the bullet meant for her—that’s their choice.

But when you are loyal to one person, you can expect reward only from that person. Those who put the country’s welfare above all—they can expect the gratitude of an entire nation.

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