THE PEASANT-BORN Apolinario Mabini, whose 150th birth anniversary passed last Wednesday with few being even aware of it, was one of the two greatest intellectuals produced by the reform and revolutionary periods in Philippine history.
Mabini, who by dint of hard work became a lawyer by the time he was 30, has not received the recognition he deserves, although he belongs in the same company as Jose Rizal. True, those hideous clichés that describe him as “The Brains of the Revolution” and even worse, as “The Sublime Paralytic,” regularly fall from the lips of schoolboys and the clueless creatures who pass for government officials in the country of our despair, but the reality is that very few Filipinos are familiar with, much less appreciative of, the unique role he played in the making of the Filipino national community and in defining the philosophical and historical bases of the Philippine Revolution.
FORMER SENATOR Joker Arroyo, who was his mother’s executive secretary, called him an “evil genius” for his supposedly creative use of Article 39 of the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines to justify the Disbursement Allocation Program, in the process marking the first time that Benigno Aquino III has ever been so referred to by either epithet.
A genius, after all, Mr. Aquino is not, his record as both member of Congress and as President not being particularly bright, and DAP itself being the brainchild of his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. If comparisons must be made with the Presidents of his real boss, the USA, he’s no Abraham Lincoln, but more like a Ronald Reagan, who knew at least one thing: how to communicate, and how to make people think they’re getting roses while he was handing out thorns.
MALACANANG sources say the administration isn’t lobbying for the Nobel Peace Prize for Benigno Aquino III, and we should take them at their word. But if they are indeed lobbying for it, and today being Mendicancy—sorry, “Philippine-American Friendship”—Day, they should enlist US support for it, to at least test whether all that bowing and scraping before Washington has paid off.
The winner of the Prize is usually announced every October, and if the point is to have something spectacular by away of achievement that Mr. Aquino can claim during this year’s State of the Nation Address on July 27, his winning the Prize would be something he could crow about only by next year. In any case, it’s not really as far-fetched a possibility as it seems—although it’s not certain, even if the administration did lobby for it.
SOME FILIPINOS probably thought that the family members of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. were speaking metaphorically when they complained about the infestation of “rats and roaches” in Revilla’s detention cell in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center. But they were being literal, and were not referring to other politicians, Revilla being the first pol to be detained there.
They were also said to have complained about “the heat,” to which Joseph Estrada, who was himself convicted of plunder, but was pardoned by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and who’s now mayor of Manila, proposed the obvious solution: he’ll have his son Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s cell, and probably Revilla’s too, air-conditioned.
THE death of Mao Zedong in 1976 led to the dominance of Deng Xiaoping and his like-minded colleagues in the Chinese leadership. To Mao’s insistence that China should hew to the socialist path of development, Deng argued that “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black so long as it catches mice”–i.e., that capitalism could just as well, and even better drive, China’s development.
Thirty-eight years later it seems that Deng had a point. Although socialist in name, China is now a capitalist society. It has the world’s second largest economy, and its cities throb with all the appurtenances of progress and development. China has also reclaimed its place among the world’s powers. No issue of global significance, whether Iran or North Korea, can be addressed, resolved, or even discussed without China’s participation, concurrence, or at least its silence.