COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
The occasion of the first State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Benigno Aquino III might signal for a less militarized Philippine society to come. Not that the communist insurgency has been totally neutralized, or the Muslim movement subdued, but that those who have been newly installed into positions of power have showed less insecurity among the civilian populace.
Unlike in the Sonas of the previous administration where antiriot cops and protesters create a war zone in such big a government event, the first Sona of Mr. Aquino showed a more relaxed atmosphere where riot cops were at ease. Absent were the container vans and barbed wires that used to be permanent fixtures to ward off protesters. It was reported that the container vans as barricades were ordered by Mr. Aquino to be removed.
The militants themselves who staged their mass action also behaved less indignantly this time, and broke their ranks peacefully after the Sona.
There were the usual rally staples of songs, speeches, and effigies but they did not burn the President’s effigy for the first time in five years. The change of administration, indeed, has also given the protesters a little breathing space.
The image revealed on that July 26, 2010 when President Aquino delivered his first State of the Nation Address at the opening of the 15th Philippine Congress augurs for a workable atmosphere to come. The restrained confrontation between protesters and law enforcers signaled for an atmosphere of trust. For how can violence be avoided among state forces and armed combatants in the countryside when violence itself cannot be avoided in an event such as the Sona?
An atmosphere of trust can actually be achieved once our leaders actually lead the way. President Aquino, after receiving a strong mandate from the Filipino people through the national elections, has started to lead the way. Earlier in his inaugural address, he talked to the people in Filipino, in the language where he can be most understood by the masses declaring “kayo ang aking tunay na lakas” and “Kayo ang boss ko.”
Then trying to lead by example, President Aquino navigates through the city streets following traffic rules, avoiding the use of sirens even when he is entitled to being president of the republic. Having received the people’s trust, he behaves accordingly, feeling secure to be with his constituents and not looking down on them nor be afraid of them. His declarations indicating that we bear the same sufferings and that “We can dream again” creates an atmosphere of trust.
In the previous administration, we lived in a police state as evidenced by the prevalence of extra-judicial killings and high level of impunity.
There was an increased sense of insecurity in high and low places. Many public officials had to be surrounded with security personnel; owing probably to their arrogance and abuse of power, stealing of public funds, or plain corruption in governance. The masses, likewise, were not free from fear.
The former president herself was in a perpetual state of paranoia, crafting every possible means to hold on to power simply because she did not earn the people’s trust. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had to issue the Executive Order 464 and Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, and even declared Martial Law in Maguindanao after the Ampatuan massacre. She even got scared at Erap’s conviction that the security preparations made looked like a scene from war-torn Iraq.
To create an atmosphere of trust for a viable Philippine society, the leaders who were sworn into positions of power must lead the way. The state apparatus must not be used to protect them for their selfish ends and at the expense of the people’s lives and welfare. The rule of law must prevail and applied evenly to all concerned. And our policemen and soldiers, at last, must exercise good judgment, exhibit professionalism, and truly commit to serving the people above all else in the long run.
August 18, 2010