It’s ironic to think that the person we are trying to get rid of is probably the most qualified leader we have had in 20 years. This is what I heard from my boss earlier today, as he proceded to enumerate the occupations of our presidents from Marcos (a soldier and an orator), Cory (we wanted her husband, but he was dead), Ramos (another soldier, who served under Marcos), Estrada (an actor and city mayor). On the other hand, GMA is a trained economist, and perhaps it is this training which allowed her to pull the wool over the people’s eyes just before Christmas—allowing price rollbacks along with the influx of dollars from Christmas-vacationing balikbayans—effectively giving the public the impression that VAT (like vitamins) is good for you.
One banker even tried to explain to me that eVAT is the best thing to ever happen to this country, as it is the quickest way to economic recovery. On paper, perhaps. In a utopian world, maybe. But not in the Philippines, not in this metro Manila, not while we have corrupt officials left and right, and to top that all off, a president who has admitted to cheating and sincerely believes an “I’m sorry” is enough to take care of that (snicker snicker) minor blunder.
This same president has now ordered the arrests of some of the advocates for her resignation, an action which reminds me—and pardon the comparison—of typical Manila gang rivalry. Let me elaborate: two years ago we lived in an area sandwiched between two rival area gangs, the “taga-prefab” (meaning those who live in the pre-fabricated housing units that were offered to now former squatters) and the left-overs who were, well, squatters. Our apartment was right smack in the middle of their turf war zone, and at least once a week, rocks would be thrown, several loud voices would be heard challenging each other, small groups running this way and that way, which would cease when a police siren would herald the arrival of some minor authority.
And that was that, no actual confrontations, no actual punches thrown, no heads busted, just a lot of shouting and threatening which we eventually started to treat as a minor nuisance.
And that is how I see the posturings of the government and the so-called opposition now. The government, paranoid as it should be after all the undeniable gaffes, evidence of corruption and just downright mismanagement, shows itself flexing its muscles, arresting retired military men and old politicians and even plain drivers. And so, in an inevitable effort at self preservation, the active opposition withdraws. He who postures and runs away lives to posture another day. The government seeks out the straw men and runs them down, while leaving alone the more worthy opponents. Dare they arrest two (maybe even three) former presidents who are now so vocal in their calls for the supreme sacrifice of resignation?
Of course not. Because that might be the last straw, perhaps, for the man on the street, whose primary concern even till now is how to make up for today’s lost income (Saturday, holiday, no work no pay). No, the government wouldn’t want this man to lead a hungry mob to ransack a mall (but are perfectly willing to let him sleep for days in the street while waiting to gain entrance to a t.v. game show). What would it take for the man on the street to say enough!? It took him 20 years to say enough to Marcos. GMA’s been seated for only five. Estrada lasted three years, but then that was not the masa who wanted him out, but the elite, the educated, the moneyed.
This man on the street, the masa that the progressives refer to who must one day rise to claim his rightful place in the governance and economy of his own country, right now this same man would settle for anyone who can provide him with the means with which to sustain his family. And that person doesn’t have to be the president either. The man on the street may even be of the school of thought that maintain that the more we change presidents, the more things stay the same.