POSTSCRIPT / August 3, 2014 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Instead of a coup, try commitment

COUP TALK: Erik, our resident intelligence officer at the Tuesday Club at EDSA Shang, had been whispering to us that the coup talk rustling through the grapevine is likely to erupt into live fire in late August!

Sorry, I forgot to ask which August – this year, or next year? – but I guess he meant this month.

My immediate half-serious question to him was “Kanino tayo?” (On whose side are we?), since it is usually better to be on the winning side. He just laughed.

My follow-up question, more serious this time, was “OK na ba ito sa embassy?” (Does this coup have the blessings of the US embassy?). All I got was a wink.

(But yesterday, Erik hastened to say that the coup preparation had been upset by the premature disclosure by a senator seeking the limelight. So, he added, the planners are considering another mass-action mode.)

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U.S. NOD NEEDED?: It is widely assumed in Manila that any unscheduled change of government in this former American colony, such as via a coup d’etat or a snap election, can happen only if Uncle Sam prescribes or allows it.

Talk of interesting times ahead had spread like the aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the conspiracy-minded kaffeeklatsches when senior US diplomat Philip S. Goldberg arrived in 2013 as ambassador.

His assignment to Manila raked up reports of his having been kicked out in 2008 as US ambassador to Bolivia after its leaders accused him, unfairly it seems, of meeting and funding opposition figures demanding democracy and autonomy for Bolivia’s regions.

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UPHEAVALS DISRUPTIVE: Of course I do not believe these rumors of an impending coup this August or anytime soon.

Maybe I should reword that: I do not favor any move at this point to impeach, remove, oust or replace President Noynoy Aquino before his term ends in June 2016, which is just two years from now.

Any unscheduled regime change, such as by a coup or such means employing force, is disruptive, destructive and counter-productive. Let us just wait for the upcoming regular election.

A People Power-type of rebellion with shadowy leaders can set back the economy and everything else at least a dozen years. As the change will be made outside the Constitution, it means tearing up the basic charter and writing a new one, as we did in 1987.

Destroying a nation is easy, but rebuilding it according to a well-thought-out plan is an arduous task.

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BY THE RULES: In my view, whatever we think of President Aquino and his administration, let us keep him in Malacañang until the 2016 end of his constitutionally ordained term.

We have survived four years under him, what is another two years of coasting along? I would rather hold on to the status quo until 2016 than blow up the whole thing without being sure of what awaits us when the dust settles.

I do not really mean “coasting along” as I put it in the previous paragraph, but more of “moving on” while trying to do better — by the book.

Let us go by the rules, the law, the Constitution.

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RECOMMITMENT: But this one chance at peaceful continuity and recovery will require a renewed commitment by all shareholders to the social contract binding them, to the “covenant” if we want to give a solemn biblical ring to it.

The President will have to go back to the solemn oath he took before God and the nation upon his assumption of office in 2010.

This oath, which encapsulates his contract, is clear and simple: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines, preserve and defend the Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. So help me God.”

Mr. President, let us just go back to that Oath, and everything will be all right as far as governance and fidelity are concerned. LET. US. GO. BACK. TO. THE. OATH.

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FAIRNESS: While catching the crooks, especially the big-time thieves, is at the core of the President’s anti-corruption program, he should not be partisan or selective in doing it. He should set his mind to being objective and not listen to advice to the contrary.

Mr. Aquino is the father of the entire Nation, not just the titular head of the Liberal party. He should cleanse his heart of vestiges of vindictiveness, be fair and even-handed.

Immediately, he should lasso a sampling of crooks from administration ranks and throw the book at them. He should be as resolute in jailing allies as in detaining political foes.

As the other side of the coin, we the citizens also have to renew our commitment to our respective duties and responsibilities under the social contract.

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SONA TEARS: Here is a footnote to the President’s holding back tears at some emotional point in his State of the Nation Address last Monday.

That episode recalled the stern admonition not to cry in public that his mother Cory gave when the grieving family flew back from their US exile after the murder of paterfamilias Ninoy Aquino on Aug. 21, 1983.

Before the family members faced the waiting public, Cory told them not to give the dictator Marcos and his horde the satisfaction of seeing them subjugated and reduced to tears.

That rule Noynoy and his sisters Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris followed. They bore the painful burden stoically. Only in the privacy of their family rooms did they let the tears flow.

At the SONA last Monday, however, was another time and context. After all, real men also cry.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 3, 2014)

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