When you bring up rhetoric like “popularity does not equal performance,” as Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante says, it just goes to show that you’re very aware of the numbers. Yet like every sour-graping loser in a reality show, you’ll make up excuses about losing. Or, as the Japanese singer Hideaki Tokunaga puts it, the saigo no iiwake: the last excuse, after some excuses. In other words, the penultimate excuse.
I take it that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her staunchest allies and supporters hate surveys. They’re not ignoring the President’s very low popularity ratings: I think they just hate them. After all, Rep. Abante did paraphrase Fidel Castro’s infamous quote by saying, “History will be kinder to PGMA and one day she’ll be appreciated.”
If the Administration criticizes those who oppose them for their choice of criticisms, I question its choice of defenders. Every State of the Nation Address during the GMA’s regime-masquerading-as-a-Presidential-term came in the form of statistics: PowerPoint slides that detail her achievements and paths to progress by the numbers. The numbers that they prepare themselves come the SONA are the numbers they are prepared to accept. These are numbers that warrant the applause of Representatives, Senators, allies and supporters who are also as thrilled by the number of applause-breaks their President gets during her speech.
Yet when faced with an alarmingly low -31-point net satisfaction rating from surveys, they choose to shrug it off as “not always accurately reflective.” For an Administration whose best presentations of achievements and progress have always been presented through numbers and statistics, statements like that simply do not compute.
A twisted sense of history comes with a Presidency that does not commit itself with the problems of the here-and-now, but is glossing and obsessing itself with legacies in textbooks. If history textbooks are to prove anything, history is far more cruel to leaders past. You have leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, and Ceaucescu who have never been forgiven by textbook authors, and even greats like Alexander, Caesar, and Suharto have been damned in more ways than one by historians. History is much kinder to the leaders who address the problems of the present, aided with great understanding and foresight to the future, like Lincoln, de Gaulle, and Churchill.
If the “legacy SONA” 10 days from now is a clear indication of anything, it’s not that “popularity does not equal performance,” but that the lead-up to it is a desperate bid by GMA and her cohorts to become popular. Nowhere in the history of Presidents past have we seen such an image-driven campaign of a President to lick the wounds of low popularity ratings by showing off her scabs. Her portrait is on every Government project, and almost every Government agency has attempted to create those “GMA” acronyms to show their loyalty – or subjugation – to the President. It’s a kind of obsessive logic that while popularity does not equal performance, your own performance seeks itself to be popular. In the face of your own people disliking you, you shove yourself deeper into their throats. You burn into their eyes, reach their minds, and make sure you do not forget Gloria.
If there’s any one group of people who have shown themselves to be the most avid fans of surveys and ratings numbers, it’s GMA and her cohorts.
The saigo no iiwake of GMA is not the assertion of the errors of statistical method: they know all too well, based on their own experiences, that statistics prove very little. The last excuse, after some excuses thrown over close to eight years of incompetent rule, is the kindness of history. The last excuse is to play the clairvoyant soothsayer, and cross one’s fingers that they would not pay their dues – as Dante put it – in the fourth pit of Hell.