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Thus, our Cory

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“CORY AQUINO may be popular, she is popular. Why? For losing the husband in the hands of Mr. Marcos.”

So, President Duterte disparaged the legacy of whom Time hailed the “saint of democracy” on the very day right after the 10thanniversary of her death.

No, I won’t go the way of the netizens that blasted the web with their own deprecation of Mr. Duterte. I’d rather reprint my take on Mrs. Aquino, published here Aug. 7, 2009, two days after her funeral.

LEADERSHIP – the word as well as its application – has been so much abused and misused that we now have a warped sense of it. So shallow is our notion of leadership that we automatically affix “leader” to any elected official, to presidents and chairs of just about any organization with at least two members.

So long as there is one to command and another to follow, there exists leadership. There too bogs down our concept of the word. For leaders and followers do not make the whole dynamics of leadership. There is the third element of goal.

From the book Certain Trumpets, the thesis on the nature of leadership by Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills, I quote: “The goal is not something added to leader and followers. The goal is the reason for the other two’s existence. It is the equalizer between leader and followers. The followers do not submit to the person of the leader. They join him in the pursuit of the goal.”

Wills further expounds “…the leader is one who mobilizes others toward a goal shared by leader and followers…all three elements (leader, followers and goal) are indispensable.”

Critical indeed is the requisite of a goal shared by both the leader and the followers in the holistic perspective, in the true nature of leadership.

Sadly, it is there – in the element of goal – that political leadership in the Philippine context is much, much wanting and thereby we the people almost always suffer.

More often than not, in fact as a matter of practice, the goal – as translated to interests – of the leader does not match, if not altogether contradicts, the goal or the interest of the followers.

No self-respecting presumptuous leader would ever accede to that. Thus, we all hear our so-called political leaders on the campaign trail vow their very “sacred honor” to the interests of the people. See those screaming streamers posted around: Bayan ang Bida, Serbisyong Tapat, Serbisyong Totoo, Serbisyong Todo-todo, Paglingkuran ang Bayan, ad nauseam.

Behold what political leaders do after getting elected! Conveniently forgetting their campaign promises, dishonoring their very vows to work for the interests of their constituency.

While honor may still obtain among thieves, it is a rarity among Philippine politicians.

So how and why do they get away with it? I mean thieves getting positions of leadership and robbing us, the followers, blind.

It is in the manner we choose our leaders. As a rule, Filipinos vote with their emotions, rarely with their intellect. Comes here the magic word charisma.

We are mesmerized by anyone with a flashy lifestyle: movie stars, entertainers, athletes, the pa-sosyal crowd, the perfumed set. Instantaneously, we stamp the word charisma on celebrity.

From the essential “divine grace,” the meaning of charisma has been so twisted that it is now a synonym to just about anything that is “attention-compelling,” even to its essential antonym of “infamy”. Yeah, the infamous we now call charismatic.

And so, we appended charisma on Joseph Estrada. To invest “divine grace” in one who makes the grandest mockery of the Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Commandments of God is the most detestable sacrilege, the most damnable blasphemy. But did we know any better?

Star-struck, blinded by the flash of celebrity, bewitched by their larger-than-life personae, we readily elect fame over capability, choose passion over vision, favor make-believe over hard reality.

Erap has been deposed, tried, imprisoned, convicted and pardoned. Erap is again a front-runner in the 2010 presidential race.

Again, Santayana’s damnation is upon us: We are a nation that cannot, that refuses to remember the past. We are a nation damned.

In the 1970s, a great political mind distilled the nature of Philippine politics thus: “Personalist, populist, individualist.” Then he went on to arrogate unto himself all the powers that can be had, and more – elevating himself to the pantheon of the gods, assuming the mythic Malakas of Philippine folklore with, naturally, the beautiful Imeldific, as his Maganda.

A keen student of history, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos took unto his public persona semblances of the charismatic leaders of the past: his World War II exploits – later proven false – invoked Napoleon, if not Caesar; his political philosophies gave him an aura of the Borgia and Medici clients of Machiavelli; his vision of a New Society paralleled Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal; his patronage of the arts that of Frederick the Great of Prussia.

Marcos even exceeded himself in self-cultivating an image of being his country’s hero-in-history in the moulds of Napoleon of France, Bolivar of Latin America, Lincoln of the USA, Garibaldi of Italy, Lenin of the Soviet Union, Ataturk of Turkey and Mao of China.

A wee short of divine rights, Marcos took upon himself a Messianic and Mosaic mission for the Philippines: Save the country and its democratic institutions from anarchy, lead the people to prosperity.

Indeed, what other Philippine leader did possess “charisma” greater than Marcos?

EDSA 1, the Cory Magic swept the land.

Ridiculed as “walang alam” (know nothing), plain housewife Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino brought down the towering intellectual, the almighty Marcos in one bloodless revolution – a contradiction in terms there, invoking what could only be some divine guidance.

There was charisma, in its purest essence. There was our Cory.

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