Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Voice of the Philippine Conscience

Even if I normally get irritated just from looking at Kris Aquino on TV, for once, she had me glued onto the screen and I was taking in all she had to say. In between spurts of sobs that she was obviously trying to control, Kris announced to the Filipino nation that her mother, former president Corazon Aquino, has colon cancer.

I guess the only good side to this is that at least, she’s in good company. My favorite Roman Catholic icon, Pope John Paul II, also suffered from colon cancer before he moved on.

I read in one medical online journal that if diagnosed early, there’s a ninety percent chance that one can survive colon cancer – that is, if diagnosed early. Now this is the issue: Cory told her children not to divulge to media the stage of her cancer. Methinks that if she’s not willing to tell the people how far her cancer has progressed, then it must already be at its latter (and deadlier) stages already.

I’m still crossing my fingers that this isn’t so. Cory is among the last of a dying breed of Filipino statesmen. Another member of this elite circle is the honorable (in every sense of the word) Jovito Salonga. Alas, but this man is deaf and very old already, even if his mind is still sharp. Thus, the burden of becoming the vessel of morality in the dirty world of Philippine politics falls on Cory’s shoulders. If she moves on (God forbid), then what will we be left with?


I was in high school when Cory’s husband, former Senator Ninoy Aquino was killed by still-unidentified men on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport in 1983. With the original hope of the Filipino nation dead, our countrymen decided to turn to Ninoy’s widow for deliverance from the clutches of the Marcos dictatorship. Cory was not a political figure – she was schooled in Economics. Nevertheless, she eventually emerged from grieving widow to political flagship of the Opposition.

It was in 1987 when all political skirmishes in the Philippines finally came to a head with the first and the most monumental People Power Revolution. It was at this time when the former president Ferdinand Marcos was finally ousted, and an era spanning more than a decade of atrocities, excesses, and corruption under his dictatorship finally came to an end.

Of course, leading the triumphant Filipinos toward victory was Cory Aquino: the first woman president of the Philippines.


As a president, Cory Aquino was not one to use an iron hand – and this was probably so because she didn’t need to, except for those times when she was bombarded by coup attempts. Thank God she had then-Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos to quell these military adventurists.

Cory ruled in a transitional government, so at that time the main thrust of her administration was to reach out and tell the world that the Philippines is finally free and open to investments. She travelled to different countries where she was welcomed with open arms by her foreign counterparts. Her speech before the US Congress was even much-applauded. Economics and foreign relations seemed to be at the top of her to-do list, and she implemented these with fervor.

Unfortunately, Cory’s foreign relations policies, especially with the United States, created some strain between her and her former supporters. Much of the hullabaloo dealt with the existence of US bases in Clark and Subic in Pampanga. Some people believed that the existence of these bases only showed the United States’ vice-like grip on the neck of the Philippines. Their presence was somehow proof of an “I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine” understanding between the US and the Philippine government, thereby reinforcing the idea that the Philippines was still over-dependent on the US not only for products and services but also for recognition in the global community. This did not stand well among Filipinos who wanted true freedom without any strings attached – especially from America the Beautiful.

What began as a very triumphant installation to the highest seat in the land ended with nary a peep, as Cory Aquino quietly but gracefully concluded her leadership with an election for the next president. Despite her stand to let the US bases extend their already-extended stay in Philippine shores, she simply had to give in to the clamor by the Senate and in the streets to take the bases out.

Nevertheless, the positive long-term effects of Cory’s deeds in her term manifested themselves by the time Pres. Fidel Ramos took over after her. The Philippine economy soared to all-time highs, and we were highly respected in the global community. The Philippines was even considered as the “Sleeping Tiger of Asia.”

Alas, all of these are now just part of Philippine history…


Next to the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, Cory Aquino became the conscience of freedom- and truth-loving Filipinos. I have yet to name another individual who can step in her shoes. And no, it’s definitely not Kris Aquino. I’ll change citizenship the moment she tries to do a Cory.

We still need someone – a voice of conscience – like Cory Aquino, especially in these times when corruption in government is rearing its ugly head again.

Thus, I urge everyone who manages to read this blog entry to please pray that Cory gets through this new and more formidable challenge. No people power rallies can topple this one – not even a new coup attempt.

At this point, prayers for Cory’s recovery from her colon cancer are all we can do – not just for her but also for the Philippines.

Lord knows the Philippines is in dire need of a conscience right now.

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