Looking through the Keyhole

There is nothing immoral or voyeuristic about the title so please keep your Victorian sensibilities at bay. I am merely using the title as an illustration of my point in this post. A person looking through a keyhole will only see a little bit of something on the other side of the door. He may or may not guess what that something is but, unless he has a key by which to unlock the door, he will only see a portion and not the whole.

I invite you to look at the keyhole and see if how much we can understand what lies beyond.

A year or two after Edsa Dos I got into a conversation with a cab driver while on my way from work. The first half of the ride had been pretty boring but things perked up a bit when the driver started talking about politics. Note: I normally do not initiate talks with cab drivers unless there is a very good reason to do so, such as having my life in imminent danger because of a very sleepy cabby. And I will certainly not choose politics as the topic. However I will not refuse a conversation if the cabby starts it.

So we talked about politics and why the Philippines was where it was socially, economically, and politically back then. We talked about Marcos and how he was as a dictator. We discussed his good and bad. We talked about Corazon Aquino and discussed her good and bad. (This was a very long ride.) We got to Ramos and also talked about his good and bad. We mentioned Estrada and that’s when the you-know-what hit the fan. The guy was obviously an Estrada fan, while I was far from even liking the guy. However, I pride myself in at least trying to be partial. And this is what I told the cab driver:

“One of the many problems with Filipinos, and particularly when it comes to Estrada, is that we have a very distorted sense of accomplishment. I did not vote for Estrada but I acknowledged him as president because that is how democracy works. Whether I like it or not, he is my president. He is our (the nation’s) president. I prayed for the guy. It was not like in other presidential races wherein the winner has a very narrow margin of victory. Estrada was backed by a very clear majority. (Incidentally, I prayed for the guy, not because I liked him, but because the Lord commands it.)

“He was found to be performing acts worthy of impeachment and was thus put on trial. The problem is that, in his case, we never finished the trial. We never had a proper closure. Instead of finishing the trial the way it should have been concluded–with a verdict of either guilty or not guilty–we let a few noisy people on the streets dictate the shift in power and allowed a very eager-beaver to become the commander-in-chief. (Look where that is leading by the way.)”

And there is the problem, folks. That is what we see through the keyhole. What happened to Estrada was merely a small sampling of the many things going wrong with this country. If I may list them down, in no particular order:

First, we never finish what we started and what is worse, we are already satisfied in that. It is almost like we are a culture who loves to be seen doing something but not accomplishing anything. Going back to the Estrada presidency: if were properly convicted back at his impeachment trial, chances are he wouldn’t be doing any jail time. We are a very softhearted people. But now we will never know, will we? There were good and justifiable reasons for the impeachment trial. His constant refrain that he was being exploited by his “friends” cannot hold water. The impeachment was good. The ending wasn’t. But concluding the impeachment properly would have brought closure to the whole issue. Ever wonder why the guy is still willing to (God forbid) run for office?

Second, we are never good at what we do anyway. Of course there are exceptions but really, what have we accomplished that has taken the world by storm? The EDSA Revolution is almost a joke. Proponents would say we gained freedom but the problem is we haven’t defined what it really was we were free from and what it is we are free to. (Apologies for the bad grammar.) Have we ever seen anyone really convicted? And suffering for what they did, post conviction?

Third, and this hurts the most, we never learn. If we want an explanation for this, please just look in the collective mirror.

We look through the keyhole and we see a small sampling of failure. Is it any wonder that there is a bigger sampling of failure on the other side of the door.

(By the way, the cab driver and I never even got to Gloria Arroyo.)

PS I am not in any way suggesting that there is nothing redeemable about the Philippines. When the horizon shows the possibility of another tainted presidency…It’s just that I don’t see it. Yet.

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