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Our leaders, our grief


Back in day before the longest lockdown, a veteran Kapampangan journalist once bemoaned the quality of our national and local leaders in the regular Friday forum in Clark.

His patriotic plaint was nuanced.

Rizal and Bonifaco, he said,  died in vain.

Both his age and his craft gave him  the benefit of making an objective  view on public leadership in this country. He also came from a town which had produced two Philippine presidents and  a slew of prominent political figures. That no doubt enriched his idea of a what a true leader in the heroic sense meant.

What’s wrong with our current leaders?

He didn’t go into specifics but his medium of driving home his message — our heroes–  said it all. No one is living up to their standard– the ultimate litmus test of any leader worth his salt. Or worse.

Let’s  take the nearest and latest example of anti-heroism.

Apropos, a definition of an anti-hero is necessary first before we go into Exhibit A.   An anti-hero is defined as a character in a story who lacks the conventional attributes  and qualities such as idealism, courage and morality.

In their book ,The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein which captured the period leading to the resignation of former U.S. President Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal,  the following quotes are instructive or illuminating:

1)  One of Nixon’s speechwriters never deluded himself about Nixon’s darker instincts, his paranoia, his capacity for hatred, the need for revenge, the will to crush anyone he perceived as an enemy.

2) With the release of the transcripts (of the Watergate tapes), Nixon had allowed America into the ugliness of his mind.

Are these descriptions one-size-fits-all definition of  all anti-hero  leaders whereever they are?

In the ongoing dispute over the recent U.S. presidential election, history appears to be repeating itself without any redemptive sign on the horizon as outvoted President Donald Trump continues to deny the outcome of losing the presidency.

There’s a general sense that Trump’s unpresidential behavior is bringing U.S. democracy closer  to the brink.

Back home, the quotes from the book are compelling as they are disheartening and worrisome.

In recent days, President Duterte unleashed a terrible derogation and contempt of  Vice President Leni Robredo that  can only describe him in the same, exact way Nixon was supposedly viewed by a former speechwriters.

We are fortunate that we need no transcript to a window through which we  are allowed to look into the quality of the President’s mind. His late-night shows are revealing or unraveling.  At the end of the day, we can’t say we were never amply  warned one way or the other.

And here we are being told by the presidential spokesman that the President must have a reason for acting the way he did.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Presidential Legal Adver Salvador Panelo have offered mea culpas for the misinformation that had found its way into Duterte’s mind, whatever its color. That’s what fall guys are for.

And no apology from Malacanang is forthcoming. Certainly not from Roque, who has been advised by Sen. Richard Gordon to stop fuelling the fire. In other words, shut the  f__ck out.        

Obviously, a plausible reason is already being offered by the Palace, at the expense of two Cabinet members,  in lieu of an apology.

Not a good tact, if one goes back to  Benjamin Franklin in this wise. Any excuse, he said, ruins an apology.

More the point. Roque and company misses the whole point.

Writer and theologian G.K. Chesteron  once said that a stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.    

Well, VP Leni may not have an illusion and  can just smile away  Duterte’s unfortunate  attack on her reputation and persona, whatever they call it. One thing is inevitable: as sure as  the sun sets in the west , there will be a day of reckoning. And that’s not too far off.


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