Thursday, September 10, 2009

Conrado De Quiros on Noynoy's Presidential Bid

Posted by Kero at Thursday, September 10, 2009

There's the Rub

Yes He Can

by Conrado De Quiros, Philippine Daily Inquirer

The thought, or challenge, persists: Can Noynoy do it? Or variations thereof: Is he qualified to become president? Is he prepared to become president? Does he have what it takes to be president?

The question doesn’t just come from Arroyo’s people, who ask it with dutiful sneers. The question comes from readers who ask it with dutiful concern. One e-mail I got put it this way: If you’re applying to become CEO of a company, you have to submit a résumé. What commends Noynoy to become CEO of this country?

I’ve written about this in past columns, but a couple more things need pointing out.

First off, the question, “Will Noynoy be a good CEO?” is a wrong one. The job at hand is not CEO of a company, it is janitor of a building. What this country needs today is not someone to manage things, it is someone to clean up things. What we need today is not someone to make a business flourish, it is someone to make a dwelling place habitable, one whose previous tenant left it in a condition only cockroaches, rats, and real-estate speculators, in ascending order of predation, can appreciate. Who better to do this than Noynoy?

Or if you persist in using the CEO image, the job at hand is CEO, but only of a company that has been bankrupted by a bunch of crooks. Whom would you hire to revive it? An efficiency freak with a long résumé but who has business interests that compete with the company, who is a known tirador or beholden to people who are, and who therefore can only be trusted to efficiently pillage some more? Or someone you can trust?

Again, a no-brainer.

The applying-for-CEO idea presumes these elections are normal elections, or a peaceful transition, or a routine transfer of power like 1992 and 1998. They are not. These are extraordinary elections, a fitful transition, a still uncertain transfer of power. We need in the first place to make the transfer happen—like 1986. The pissing contest of submitting résumés presumes moreover that the contest is just elections. It is not, or it has gone beyond elections. The elections are just a battle, they are not the war. The war is not between candidates offering relative merits (or demerits), the war is between Good and Evil, between yoke and freedom, between oppression and liberation. As with 1986 and last year’s US elections, the cry is the epic “We shall overcome,” not the miserable “We shall underwhelm.”

Noynoy represents the first, the rest of the field the second.

Second off, the question “Can Noynoy do it?” is a wrong one. The real question is, “Can we do it?” To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, what we need today is to ask not what the president can do for us but what we can do for the president.

That’s what makes trustworthiness the most decisive qualification of all. If the president is just an InGlorious Basterd, why on earth would you want to ask yourself what you can do for your president? You would want to ask yourself only what you can do to her, particularly if she refuses to go.

Indeed, that’s what shows the folly, or danger, of the CEO template. A CEO is accountable only to the stockholders, not to the hundreds of men and women employed by the company. The hundreds of men and women he can order around and fire as he pleases. Its political equivalent is that the president is accountable only to the taipans and coniotics who spent for his campaign, not to the citizens of the country. The citizens he can bully around and screw as he pleases.

That may be so for a dictatorship but not so for a democracy.

The power of a democracy does not lie in a strong leader—or heaven forbid, strong republic—it lies in a strong people. The power of a democracy does not lie in excluding the people, it lies in including the people. The folly of our elections is that it is premised precisely on excluding the people, in looking for “presidentiables” who can fill the role of Savior or Padron, who can save us from ourselves, who can spare us the need to apply ourselves to improving ourselves.

Which in any case is a monumental exercise in self-delusion. Or self-flagellation. We demand heaven but expect only hell. We ask of candidates the virtues of a messiah, but expect from the winner only the conduct of a cur or asal aso, as we say. Who seriously believes the candidates with the résumés will deliver on their promises? We get a moderate (the greed) crook, we’re happy; we get an immoderate one, we say, “What else is new?”

We want to change the equation, we change ourselves. We change the way we are governed by including ourselves in our governance. Which is what a democracy is. Look at all the successful democracies and see if they are not premised on an active people, a vocal people, a people demanding to have a say in how they are governed.

I’m perfectly serious in pushing “Noypi,” both in the sense of “Noypi” as “Noynoy for President Initiative” and as “Noynoy’s People’s Initiative.” (I am aghast that another group is using that very name to promote their own political agenda!) We need to unleash the power of the people in everyday life, not just during elections, not just when things have gotten so bad we need to act to save ourselves. We need to unlock the key that makes People’s Initiative—the young and feeling-young Noypi—a force in everyday life.

All this is premised on a president we can trust. All this is premised on a president who does not crave power so badly she or he won’t part with it at all costs, least of all to the governed. All this is premised on a president who is as much willing to believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God as the voice of God is the voice of the people. All this is premised on a president who is one damn good person.

Can Noynoy do it? Believe it:

Yes, he can.

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