A statesman she’s never been. And statesmanlike she wasn’t during her ninth, and hopefully last, State of the Nation Address. As many expected she was her usual self: petulant, combative, self-righteous, arrogant.
This year’s SONA would have been another ho-hum event were it not for the context in which it was being delivered.
Instead of rising above the gutter politics she swears she’s immune to but is actually the master of, she reached another low by using what was supposed to be a report to the nation to attack her critics, justify her actions or lack of them (she didn’t declare martial law), and to praise herself (for not declaring martial law, among other reasons).
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is finally getting what she’s been hankering for since January this year — a meeting with US President Barack Obama, an event preceded by, among others, visits by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta.
The CIA’s Panetta thought it funny that some Filipinos should think that he was visiting the Philippines last week to influence next year’s elections — or that he was at least making sure there will be one.
Was that a US president speaking? The removal from office of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on June 28 was “illegal,” said US President Barack Obama, “He was democratically elected,” he said in a television interview, “and is the legitimate president of Honduras.”
Obama alluded to the danger of Latin America’s returning to its “dark past” of right-wing military coups and dictatorships. But he didn’t call the removal of Zelaya a coup d’etat, which it was. Neither did he mention that Latin America’s “dark past” was largely the US’ doing, when it fomented, encouraged, and/or funded coups against any Latin American government that it thought threatened the interests of its multinationals, of which the most outstanding were American Telephone and Telegraph and United Fruit.
It’s called wishful thinking: interpreting events according to how one wants things to turn out, imagining the imminent realization of one’s hopes in the statements of the presumably knowledgeable as well as those with the power to make things happen.
It’s the recourse of the desperate. And these are desperate times indeed, reminiscent of the prelude to the Marcos declaration of martial law in 1972. As the bombings in Mindanao continue — and as the fear- peddlers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police make sure that Filipinos get their message of dread by warning them that the bombings could “spill over” into Manila — more and more Filipinos are being convinced that a declaration of either a state of emergency or martial law is only a matter of time. It’s been in the Arroyo regime list of options to keep itself in power, only the most naïve believing that she and hers will meekly step down in 2010.
The shortness of their memories is not the worst attribute of Filipinos; it is the absence of knowledge. There’s much they can’t remember because, thanks to an educational and media system that has been steadily failing them, they never even knew it.
Ironic that it’s never been more evident than in the present, so-called age of information, when the Internet is supposed to be the instrument of empowerment through knowledge. The ignorance is starkly evident in most of the Philippine-based blogs that pretend to be about politics or anything else relevant to life in these isles of confusion (in contrast to those blogs by juveniles who assume that what they had for lunch yesterday, and their pedestrian thoughts on the latest Transformer movie, is of interest to the universe). Access to a computer and the Internet has enabled an entire class of Epsilon semi-morons to throw at the world at large anything that comes into their so-called minds — bad grammar, worse logic, total ignorance and all.