POSTSCRIPT / June 14, 2001 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why parade mediocrity? This is 2001, not 1898!

THE traditional Independence Day parade at the Luneta last Tuesday was supposed to give us an inspiring insight of what we were, what we are and what we will (or want to) be in our lifetime.

We were supposed to put on our best attire, step off with a festive mood, hold our heads high, and serve notice to the world that we’re still very much in the race. It is a day for talking of past and future glory, for exuding greatness.

The promise of greatness, or the glory of things to come, is in order. After all, we are celebrating the 103rd year of our independence. We’re in the year 2001, raring to take off with the rest of the civilized world in the second millennium.

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BUT what did we witness in that parade? Before we looked away and wept, we saw tricycles, jeepneys, crude floats carrying an elusive message, and massed marchers who could not even walk in step to give a semblance of order, discipline and unity.

In fairness to the organizers, we did not see all of what they had to offer. But to us, it was enough to have our holiday spoiled being treated to a parade of things that spoke not of greatness but of mediocrity.

Some writers and artists have romanticized the jeepney as a folk icon so symbolic of the Filipino. I don’t know about that, because I would rather be identified with something safer and more efficient, something that is driven around with more care and courtesy.

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AT the risk of being stoned by the jeepney crowd, I dare say that whatever progress we achieve, whatever heights we scale, as long as jeepneys continue to clutter the streets of the nation’s capital, the world will never take us seriously.

Not content with the jeepney throwing us some three decades behind the times, we have taken another giant step backward by inflicting on our commuters something worse, the tricycle.

In fact, many commuters are regressing from four to three and now to just two wheels. A growing number of people speed around on motorcycles, scooters and bicycles, and they are not exactly the turbaned “five-six” Shylocks on collection rounds.

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WHILE we’re sort of returning to our transport roots, why don’t we fall further back and revive the horse-drawn calesa, the carretela and the calisin?

We could at least find use for aging or injured racehorses and resuscitate the grass and molasses business while moving passengers who are not in such great hurry. And we save on gas.

Sorry if I digressed into this, but as we gaped in disbelief at the tricycles and jeepneys parading before a proud officialdom led by the President of the Land, it seemed to us that the parade epitomized what Filipinos are fated to be under the current dispensation.

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WE don’t know what is being discussed at her level, but if a suggestion reaches President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to allow special US forces to help in the rescue of the hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf, we urge her to approve it right away.

If the United States government wants to help not only in rescuing the hostages but also in tracking down and annihilating the terrorists, we say go ahead and sock it to them!

If the Americans who are brought in are uniformed forces, never mind. They can wear anything they want and carry any weapon of their choice so long as they help us wipe out the Abu Sayyaf.

The Constitution says something about banning foreign troops, et etcera? Never mind, as long as these foreign troops help us wipe out the terrorists — and leave afterwards.

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LET’S face it. The Abu Sayyaf is running circles around our severely handicapped military and the world’s impression of us is not at all flattering.

The earlier we got out of this predicament, even with the overt assistance of foreign forces, the better for us.

Terrorism does not respect any geographical boundary nor does it respect nationality, as evidenced by the series of depredations of the Abu Sayyaf.

If they move in such transnational fashion, why should we be finicky about asking our foreign allies to help crush the common enemy?

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AMERICAN involvement in the liquidation of the Abu Sayyaf problem would shut out the alternative participation of Libya, its mortal enemy, which has sent feelers about its possibly helping out.

Libya presumes to offer its good offices because it knows the parties involved, having had a hand in the training and funding of some of the Moro fighters.

In addition, it has the record of having helped negotiate the ransoming of the foreign hostages in the Sipadan kidnapping of last year.

For it to again play a key role in resolving the latest Abu Sayyaf kidnapping would boost its stock among the Muslim minority in the South, including the terrorist Abu Sayyaf.

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NOTE how highly the terrorists and their foreign hostages snatched from Sipadan regarded Libya. Upon their release, the victims flew straight to Tripoli to thank Moammar Ghadaffi without at least a nod of acknowledgement for then President Erap Estrada.

But if at this desperate point Libya is the only card left for the Philippine government, Manila might be forced to play it, albeit reluctantly.

There is also the Malaysian card, with the Abu Sayyaf itself demanding that some Malaysians of their choice be brought into the negotiations. But we understand that Kuala Lumpur is suspected as in cahoots with the rebels and terrorists in the South.

With that, we think Manila must seriously consider enlarging the area of involvement of the Americans, and for the Americans to take the opportunity to help a friend in need.

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OUTGOING Speaker Sonny Belmonte (also incoming mayor of Quezon City) is suggesting that this might be the right time to amend the hurriedly written 1987 Constitution. He stressed the urgency of charter amendments.

Belmonte hit the nail right on the head as far as timing is concerned. While there is universal agreement that the charter can stand rewriting, or even a total revamp, the timing has always been a touchy issue.

We often imagine ulterior motives when politicians propose amending the Constitution. They are suspected of wanting to insert provisions favorable to them or their clients and remove sections that work against their interests.

But with President Arroyo just serving the unexpired term of resigned President Estrada, charter changes could be considered during the off season especially if the provisions on the terms of officials are not touched.

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BELMONTE said that what this nation needs is a “surgical operation.” “We must regain the moral high ground,” he said, “We must reinvent the Filipino nation.”

We agree. This ailing nation needs shock treatment. We need to jolt our people back to their senses.

In fact, we often catch ourselves saying that what we need is another dictator, a benign dictator we add, who will grab this country by the neck and lead it out of the gathering darkness.

Maybe “dictator” is the wrong term. What we actually mean is a strong leader.

Despite his political evolution, partly under western tutelage, the Filipino generally has not shaken off his tribal mold. Our racial memory harks back to strong chieftains whose word was absolute law but who looked benignly after each and every member of the tribe.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 14, 2001)

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