By Jose Ma. Montelibano
There are two star performers for 2012. They are President Benigno Aquino III and the Filipino as a people. The combination or relationship of the two carried over a momentum that began in 2011 when the government blocked the attempted, post-haste exit of former Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. By coincidence or synchronicity, a major shift began with that process. It was a rite of passage for both P-Noy and justice. Political will stood up, head over shoulders, and put to rest forever, except in the eyes of the totally blinded by hate. prejudice or commercial politics, the doubt whether P-Noy recognizes his legacy, his destiny, and has the strength of character to match these.
Clearing the way for the exit of Gloria was then Chief Justice Rene Corona and the power he wielded in the Supreme Court. But a President, supported bravely by his Justice Secretary, prevented an airport departure that the Supreme Court had tried to facilitate. Instead of wilting before a seeming legal orchestration that involved the highest Tribunal of the land, P-Noy stood his ground and kept Gloria Arroyo from leaving. Taking off from the determined posture of the President, the leadership of Congress boldly initiated the impeachment of Chief Justice Rene Corona.
From the onset of that political drama, with Gloria prevented from leaving and then being detained on charges of election fraud and plunder, with the impeachment by Congress of CJ Rene Corona, the Filipino people overwhelmingly supported the moves of the Aquino administration. From the first survey onwards, from 2011 to the final impeachment by the Senate of CJ Rene Corona, the Filipino people kept giving their stamp of approval to the government – consistently at positive 70 – 80% level.
Almost lost in the dynamics of a political and legal controversy was an optimism that was born, a hopeful perspective that reform was not only being attempted but could actually succeed. It seemed driven by a fatalistic stubbornness of a President who gambled his political capital in a move that was his own, a decision to push for the removal by impeachment of a Chief Justice that his official family was quietly not in favor of. One decision was all it took for the economic prospects of the country to suddenly find favor from the global financial community. By the 3rd quarter of 2011, the ratings of the Philippines, actual and prospective, took a sudden and strong turn for the better.
2011 ended with Gloria Arroyo in detention, CJ Rene Corona impeached by Congress but defiant and sure of being cleared by the Senate, and the deadly Typhoon Sendong dropping tons of rain in Mindanao that cause horrible landslides and floods. It would seem on the surface that the Aquino administration was in crisis, that the Filipino people were in crisis. What was not as obvious was that the tide had turned, that the President, the government and the people were not going into crisis but out of it. Yes, the destruction caused by Sendong was massive, the response of government was massive, too, More than that, the response of the Filipino people, locally and abroad, was inspiring in generosity and moral support to the desperation of the typhoon victims.
2012 moved in so quickly, so intensely, because of Sendong and the impeachment trial of CJ Rene Corona. Government tried its best to contain the sense of helplessness and hopelessness of the typhoon-hit areas, mainly Iligan City and Cagayan De Oro. Donations poured in and volunteers brought not just relief goods but a sense of solidarity. In the calamity, Filipinos again banded together in spirit and work. And private companies like San Miguel Corporation, SM, BDO, Shell and Berjaya delivered instant promises like government to break the atmosphere of despair. By most accounts, these companies delivered their promises even where some government agencies and LGUs may not have delivered as well.
Rene Corona did not get away with it, not with his unexplained wealth, not with his favoring the president who gave him his midnight appointment. The Senate affirmed his impeachment and removed him from office.
Gloria Arroyo did not get away with it. She is still unable to leave the country and in detention.
The positive financial ratings and economic prospects did, indeed, come true and continue their momentum, driving the economy of the Philippines to perform outstandingly, the only country in the world that not only hit its target but surpassed it. A Filipino reached sainthood in Pedro Calungsod, and another Filipino bishop, Luis Antonio Tagle, was consecrated a Cardinal by the Pope. The controversial RH Bill was passed. The Sin Tax was signed into law.
Against all the achievements, though, another and a more destructive typhoon, Pablo, struck several provinces in Mindanao, the most unlikely and the never-hit-by-typhoon areas like Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. It was Sendong all over again in terms of destruction, and will cause more deaths once the hundreds still missing will be declared dead. But, as a year ago, the outpouring of sympathy and support has been inspiring. Even as I write this, volunteers continue their relief work.
Then, we have China and the Scarborough Shoal issue. It is a delicate one, one where too many personalities and commentaries have only worsened the situation. I would not like to speculate at this time where this is going except to say solidarity among Filipinos can show China that diplomacy is a better option than bullying.
2013 is just around a very short corner. It is riding on the achievements and challenges of 2012 and will prove to be more than interesting, especially with elections this coming May. There is that powerful momentum that reform has generated; we should not lose it. There, too, is a pattern of death and destruction in natural calamities; we should break it.
Never in our remembered history have we gone so close to achieving a societal renewal as today. We are a free people, but heavily constrained by a historical poverty and a level of hunger that we have not given much collective caring and effort to dismantle.
Tomorrow is ours to make or break.
Happy New Year!