Saturday, May 19, 2007

Observations on the Transition

The government of Her Excellency will have no choice but to read the writing on the wall. We are in a transition and our President PhD I think is smart enough to navigate what could be choppier waters for her. The 2007 Philippine midterm elections seems to show the failure of political machineries to deliver guaranteed winnings. The elections showed seems to have brought down the curtain on cinematocracy or celebritocracy, or what we can call government by illusion. Almost all of showbiz candidates lost. The most notable exception is Vilma Santos, who by the way had no longer been an actress but a politician. And as a pollie she has quite delivered to her constituents. Richard Gomez?.... He did fencing, rowing, taekwondo etc didn't win and the electorate saw through all of that.

An example that you cannot govern a constituency by the illusion you can knock out foes is the sad tale of Manny Pacquiao. His electorate had tried to warn him beforehand.

It does not surprise me why a Catholic cleric has won the governorship of Pampanga. The Good Reverend Father had played a strategic campaign. Also the sophistication and consistency of Catholic social teaching helped which translates what the Bible says to particular conditions . I am no witness to his campaign but I surmise that strategies that worked in Latin America were used.

The surprise is that when clerics have won or appointed as government ministers in other countries we only have now an elected cleric. Catholic clerics have been in the forefront of social activism in the Philippines but have not by large, entered the electoral battlefield. In contrast Protestant clerics have long entered electoral politics but few have won. The answer to why Catholic clerics only now have been elected is the traditional conservatism of the Catholic hierarchy. Now as majority of the bishops were ordained as priests post-Vatican II during the late 60s to the mid 80s, these bishops would not hesitate to prevent their priests from entering the electoral ring, aside from giving the usual canon law warnings. We have to consider the present Pope's attitude. Pope Benedict XVI seems to have followed the tack of avoiding John Paul II's confrontations for politics' sake. (Benedict isn't afraid of theological confrontation even if this has political consequences) When an Latin American bishop won an election, he did not strip the bishop of his episcopacy but just prevented him from exercising episcopal office. In the pontificate of his predecessor the Gigastar Pope , this wouldn't be tolerated at all. John Paul would have imposed the most severe canonical sanction available. The iconic photo of John Paul wagging his finger at Sandinista minister Father Ernesto Cardenal in his 1983 visit to Nicaragua comes into mind.

The election of the Reverend Father Ed Panlilio is something that Gloria Regina has to keep tab on. It is itself a transition and contrary to the Philippine Daily Inquirer headline of "miracle", it is hardly a miracle at all but a logical result of the strong engagement of the Church in society as decreed by Vatican II and executed by the post Vatican II priests who are now bishops.

In the Philippine Star, political science prof Alex Magno says that Panlilio's win is a product of "kampangpangan nationalism", could be, but that is trivializing it a bit. I agree that Kapampangans have a strong sense of cultural identity. But don't forget the arguments I have put forward earlier.

Magno writes

"A whole book could be written on this particular campaign effort. But the key question continues to nag: Is this a replicable experience?

Can it happen in another place without that unique Kapampangan sense of being a nation unto themselves, without the centripetal force generated by the sheer distastefulness of the mainstream options, without the moral credibility brought by the personality of a charismatic priest and without the unanimity of all the religious groups and business associations?

I do not think so."

I have to disagree with Alex Magno on this one. As a Political Science professor, he should be aware that revolutions can be exported quite easily.

There is no shortage of Reverend Father Panlilios in this country.

So thus our Sovereign Lady is in interesting times!

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