* – Following “After the Glory,” by Patricia Evangelista
A year short of a decade, it can aptly be called the Arroyo Era: nine years of a political generation marked by the limbo of right and wrong. Her regime was where the politics of the necessary were validated, confirmed, affirmed, and practiced. Things like cheating, subverting the will of the people, abusing power, and curtailing essential freedoms – among other things like crime, treason, theft, and larceny – were taken as necessities in the affairs of government. It is the way things are: of “evidence” thrown out the window, a proper forum where justice is never realized, and no scandal can rock a government where all the failsafes were put in place to keep her there.
For the past nine years, Gloria Arroyo’s diminutive shadow loomed over the Philippines. In the next two weeks, where the power she hung on to is finally back in the hands of the people, a change of leadership promises light. What about her, though?
Throughout the campaign period, the guns were trained not on the outgoing President – congratulatory banners and valedictories were made in her behalf – but on the candidates. It seemed like cathartic amnesia for the people. There seemed to be the huffing puffs of resignation instead of indignation. It was fairly easy to forgive or perhaps forget Gloria because of Noynoy and Luisita, Manny and C5, Dick and his insatiable ego, Erap and his gall to play his swan song when he’s all but booed out of the stage he once starred in. About the only person who’s smarting from Gloria is Gibo, who himself is facing battles with decisions that have almost resulted in a disastrous campaign. It was, after all, nine years in the making, with the “perfect ending:” that Gloria did step down, and vindicated herself from the questionable mandate that hounded her.
It’s fairly easy to forgive Gloria because what’s done is done. It meant the Asian melodrama: letting go, starting over with a blank slate, and looking at Gloria’s legacy with nostalgia, mono no aware, and alaala. It’s actually the insult to history, forgetting everything before it’s all over with. Nine years of brazen power-tripping are all but forgotten: EO 464, the Ampatuan Massacre, extrajudicial killings, the BJE MOA-AD, NBN-ZTE, Hello Garci, and “tough decisions” that starved the poor even more because of the interests of the rich, and so on and so forth. The kind of garapalan that would even make a tyrant question his sense of shame. Where garapalan is perfectly acceptable, and if not, it’s better off overlooked. It’s okay. Let’s supplement our rice supply. Let’s fortify instant noodles. Let’s dismiss everything presented in the public forum as improper, as destabilization attempts. Who are you going to replace her with? Use the proper forum. Sue her. Impeach her. You can’t, so better luck next time. Deal with it.
I guess that’s the sweet revenge of Gloria Arroyo. For an entire generation that knew no other leader but her, every other leader will be measured not on the ideals or the ought-to-be, but what is. For a President, she set pretty low standards: in the sense that the things she’s remembered for the most are things she did for the sake of political survival, and not for things that could have made this country better. Everything wrong she did will probably be forgotten. Every other President, as long as we have a memory of her, will be measured with her as the benchmark. Including the evils of it all: that one of these five or six are even more evil than Gloria Arroyo. We’re willing to forget nine years of suffering to prove that sort of evil in 14 days, whether one of them is elected to office or not.
Greed is good, it’s okay to be garapal, that it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught, it’s okay to be corrupt as long as you satisfy your personal definition of “the common good,” and as long as it’s necessary, it’s all right. Right and wrong are only matters of subjective perspectives. You can only have principles you can afford. All this happens because we don’t appreciate Gloria’s efforts. It’s our fault, idiotized and desensitized by her: the sum total of a democratic experiment gone awry because at least here, it works.
Shame is in short supply. Rather than apologize or show remorse for her shortcomings, Gloria is receiving the congratulations of her loyalists and nostalgia way in advance. The spin-doctors, the publicists, the spokespersons are all doing their share to lionize and elevate Gloria to the status of a most beloved leader. We’re going to miss her, because after nine years of rule, our prayerful and hardworking President is leaving us on a road where we’re not so sure. After all, it took an ersatz Justice Secretary to absolve her of responsibility in a murder spree, the amnesia caused by media frenzies to forget a call to a Comelec commissioner some years back, deodorizing her administration of the smell of dirty money and pilfered fertilizer, and that conveniently, she’s no longer the flavor of the month. After all, she’s already running for Congress. She’s outta here: we’ve waited for 2010 and here we are. We have moved on, and here we are.
Now what? Could we treat the next President of the Philippines with the same huffing hushes of consent?
The 2010 elections represents an avenue for us to regain some measure of decency in our democracy, yet if the campaign shows anything, it never really will. It’s open season; after the shame, it’s just easy to forget. As candidates bicker and every color of propaganda paints rainbows on a gray sky morning, one thing is for certain:
She probably got away with it.
After the shame, probably another six years of it. Although it may just be getting old, so we’re better off forgetting about it. As her big, dark shadow fades away into a new dawn, her diminutive figure has sneaked off to the sunset, scot-free, with a new lease on life lived after the shame that perhaps, she’ll never pay for. A catalog of her certain errors is nothing compared to the potential catastrophes of the next President. One can only hope that history has yet to absolve her; if it ever will, we hope not to forget.
To look back and hope by the grace of whatever gods may be, that the next President doesn’t do the same thing.