Thoughts of Santayana there as I behold Joseph Estrada lording it over the opinion polls of 2010 presidentiables.
How could have we forgotten so soon?
Erap’s fall, so was headlined the commentary I wrote in the April 27, 2001 issue of Sun Star Pampanga. It read:
POWER corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The immortality of Lord Acton’s lines has been proven true anew – and so succinctly – by Joseph Ejercito Estrada.
So much has been said about the rise and fall of Erap. I cannot add anything new or better. The best have been said by the likes of Amando Doronilla and the editorial writers of Today and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Anything I write will just pale in comparison.
However, one of my favorite philosophers, Santayana, beckons again. We have to learn the lessons from this our Erap experience in order not to be damned to repeat it.
Lessons like that embodied in the Filipino saying “Hindi lahat ng kumikinang ay ginto; may kislap ding taglay ang tanso (Not all that glitters is gold; brass has its own shine.)”
Clearly, the Filipino people were, in the language of the kanto (street), natanso (we’ve been had) with their choice of Erap for president.
Not only the bida (hero) but also the kampeon ng masa (champion of the masses), Erap turned out to be the very scourge of the people he was projected to champion, to protect, to serve. No, he was never a Robinhood as he robbed both rich and poor. He was more of the insatiable Pacman, gobbling everything in sight. No matter his pro-poor projections.
An eye opener: Bida sa pelikula, sa buhay nama’y kontrabida (Hero in the movies, anti-hero in real life). Let this be a guide then to our electorate vis-à-vis all the movie actors seeking elective posts. Sikat (popularity) is but an interchange of vowels away from sakit (misery). Elect the popular for a life that will surely be penitential.
Corollary to these lessons is Lincoln’s dictum: “You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all the time. But you can never fool all the people all the time.”
Yes, something’s got to give somewhere sometime. Even idiots have their lucid intervals.
From a heavy hallucination brought by heavy doses of cinema images, the people woke up to a sordid reality. And dumped Erap.
More than anything else though, what really did Erap in is that basic element in Greek drama – hubris, the arrogance of power. Power got into Erap’s head so much that he started believing he was invincible. That the people would always believe in him. No matter what. Thus his unbridled braggadocio: “Ano sila, sinusuwerte? Pupulutin sila sa kangkungan. (No English translation can capture the essence of the phrases. So we leave it at that.)
Believing in his own invincibility, he defied moral conventions, flaunting both mistresses and mansions, protecting mafiaesque minions.
That was hubris. That was Erap’s own undoing.
Sic transit gloria mundi. Thereby goes the glory of the world. Everything is transitory. Yesterday the Palace. Today the prison. This is the story of Erap. This is a lesson for us all. Let there be no more Eraps among our leaders. Be it in the whole nation, province, city, town, barangay.
A caveat then: Iboto ang sikat, iluklok ang panibagong Erap, nang tayo ay higit pang maghirap (Elect the popular, seat a new Erap, and make our life even more miserable).
We are truly a nation of self-flagellating masochists. Sic transit gloria mundi.
SIC TRANSIT indeed!
Unseated, convicted for plunder, imprisoned, but pardoned, Erap is again foisted on the nation as the most popular among the presidential pretenders for 2010.
Damned nation, we truly are.