by jun asuncion
Today’s condensed thoughts while reading the write-ups of Mr. Guim, Mr. Geronilla and Mayor Helen De Castro.
On Chess and Politics. Up to a certain point, chess and politics do fit together because they both are concerned with power and winning. Only that in chess, the players have more intelligent options to choose from, whereas in politics you hardly have options, let alone intelligent ones; in chess you can sacrifice a move for the good of all, in Philippine politics, things or even people are sacrificed for the good of a few only.
Desire into action? It’s important that good desires be translated into action while in office; but of course there are lots of actions occurring in Philippine politics but mostly they are translations of these permanent personal desires (interests).
Therefore, our people should empower themselves, should not wait to be empowered for the system does not allow it and- as the ruling class tend to see their power as God-given- it would never voluntarily pass it to other people. The first step to empowerment of the people is for the people to realize that the power that their leaders enjoy is not God-given but People-given, that sovereignty resides in them and that all government authority emanates from them.
Leadership as God-given? Mayor Helen de Castro’s New Year 2010 Message to the people of Bulan has an over-all quality of a humble reflection, But there was just this line in there that seem to reflect and reinforce the notion that our leaders still cling to the idea, albeit subconsciously, that leadership is God-given.
“Help us pray that we leaders must realize that we are nothing, and that from God emanates everything, especially this gift of leadership.”
Said privately this line is a prayer- and would not be open to interpretation or misinterpretation, done publicly and in a Church, it is, both ways. At the outset, I already saw that it collides with the Article II, Section 1 of the constitution which states that “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”
Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. We acknowledge that life emanates from God, but that by His act of grace, we humans have been given this ability and intelligence to organize ourselves, make rules and laws for ourselves (positive law) to provide for peace, security and protection for our rights and responsibilities so that a just society of humans be made possible.
We don’t take issue on the fact that our good human qualities- including the gift of leadership- have their origin from God, but we should formally separate leadership that’s emanating from God (God-given) from leadership that’s emanating or mandated by the people; separate Church and the State, religion and politics.
We know that political leadership is connected with power and authority, rights and privileges and that all of these- in a republic and democratic state- should rather be viewed as emanating from the people, thus making sure that our government does not slide to Absolutism or Theocracy by putting things in proper places.
Therefore, it’s a tightrope walk for a municipal executive belonging to a local political clan to combine words like “especially”, “gift”, ” leadership”, “God” , “emanation” and to choose a church as a venue to deliver such a speech. But verily I think that this is not done on purpose – at least this line in the speech- but only a heedless sentence construction.
I think that for an elected public leader, it is more safer to use such phrase like God- fearing or God-inspired leadership,
Or, if I may rewrite this line in the speech, it would be simply like this: ” God, from whom all good things flow, guide us leaders to humbly serve You as we lead and serve the people of Bulan.”
Popular sovereignty: A Filipino illusion? Popular sovereignty is defined in most dictionaries or in Wikipedia as the “belief that the legitimacy of the state is created by the will or consent of the people who are the source of every political power.” The Philippine Constitution clearly defines it as residing in the people and that all political authority emanates from them.
But where are the Filipino people and where is this popular sovereignty? The fact is that this sovereignty is not well-respected in the Philippines by our government officials. They make use of this sovereignty during the election and forget about it the next day once they got elected. Our presidents- with the exception perhaps of the late President Cory Aquino- were leading in this respect. The best proof of this is this culture of impunity and corruption. Only the chief executive can be held responsible for such a mess when corrupt or criminal people from politics, business and military go unpunished. Such a mess is an insult to people’s sovereignty, an abuse of the power entrusted to them.
Indeed, it is true that popular sovereignty is just a concept, it is not a full reality in our society, not yet; for now, it begins and ends with election. In some societies, this concept as defined by Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke and Franklin is a fully translated reality and the absence of culture of impunity, grand scale corruption and state treasury plunderers are proofs to this.
Hence, the key to our progress definitely lies in this concept of popular sovereignty. This constitutional “desire” could be translated into action in two ways: The government should respect and protect it, and the people should be aware of it and use it effectively. One concrete example: For 2010 candidates, don’t buy people’s votes, for the people, don’t sell your votes. This is a simple working definition of respected popular sovereignty.
Kairos: From Nothing to Everything. Back to chess and politics: When politicians humbly sacrifice anything, it is done to make something in their favor, like a chess player sacrificing the bishop to capture the queen. Hence, to show humility, make oneself small by acknowledging nothingness and asking for forgiveness before a crowd of constituents has actually the hidden effect of making oneself bigger and stronger in the minds and hearts of the people. Who would not forgive a kneeling and pleading Ina san bungto? But don’t fail to see that forgiving is accepting, and that acceptance by the people is precisely that what every politician highly desires. For this means secured votes in the coming election; hence, from nothing to everything.
Contrasting points or events in a speech, play or music are moments when magic things happen, from nothing to everything, when this Kairos happens, a Tyllichian-inspired word as employed in our mayor’s New Year’s speech, this part of which I now quote:
“Ini na presente na panahon nato niyan, nan an maabot na mga adlaw nan taon, kisyera maging sayo na Kairos, o panahon sin pambihira na engkuentro san Mahal na Dios nan Tawo. Let 2010 be a Kairos, a supreme moment of encounter between us and our God. Let it be a Kairos, o momento na kun haen an mga krises sa buhay ta maging panahon sin oportunidad. Let this year be a Kairos of Grace.”
Kairos means time for the ancient Greeks, the right time or supreme moment, hence, is qualitative in nature as opposed to chronos which is the ordinary sequential time, hence, quantitative in nature.
However, it is unknown to many of us that Kairos is a rhetorical technique employed by the ancient Greek Sophists.
Election is a Kairos in itself, a special moment for the country and for each candidate. But then again, it is also a rhetoric time, a time of promises, of verbal combats, of personal advertisement in every imaginable venue- even a Church.
This reminds me of those inuman sa kanto in Canipaan or elsewhere in Bulan where verbosity increases with the number of shots of gin. That’s also a moment of Kairos when the discussants reach the heights of their geniuses and agree without knowing, in loud, drunken voices that everything discussed shall be forgotten the next day.
We are not suggesting that Mayor De Castro’s prayer for a Kairos of Grace will lead to nothing the next day. For already at that very moment of delivering her New Year’s speech, a Kairos of Grace already occurred to her because the people who were in the church were also in search for a Kairos, for magic moments.