By Dinky Juliano-Soliman
Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the USA…it signaled hope and change in America…..January 20, 2001 Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was sworn in as President of the Philippines riding the on the hopes of a people for a leadership that would practice good governance.
Today, January 20, 2009, Filipinos are searching for an Obama of the Philippines. We are sick and tired of the corruption that confronts us every day, and the cover-ups that this administration pulls off. We complain about the abuse of power that GMA and her cohorts exercise as they slowly slaughter the institutions of democracy in the country. We are frustrated with the opposition because most of them have not demonstrated that they are different from the current administration in their practice of politics.
We are looking for an Obama, a person who will be nothing like the current leadership in Malacanang. We are searching for someone who stands for truth, does not buckle to bribery to become a candidate for the highest authority of the land. We are yearning for a leader who will perform well in his or her mandated function and conduct himself or herself with integrity. There were even suggestions that a certain sports champion can be a legislator or a local chief executive because he unites the country every time he wins.
In our desperation, we are missing the essence of the message of Obama.
It is not one leader; as Obama says ” it is not about me, it is about us”. My interpretation of his message is that we should wring out from the depths of our collective consciousness values that have withstood the test of time – the ability to respond to crisis with calm and the capacity for celebration. In his inaugural speech he called for the return of ” hope and virtue”, these which their founding father, George Washington, called on all citizens to hold on to in order to move forward during a desperate time.
Obama is mindful of the American people’s wishes and aspirations. He acted on the willingness and desire of the people to effect change; he touched on that social energy and the people responded, got involved and made the change. Thus, the repeated message of Obama is - the people made the change and they will remake America.
Therefore, in our case, the people of the Philippines have to demonstrate that we are ready and willing to make change happen; that we know what is right and wrong; we know truth from lies and that we want the return of freedom and democracy. We have to tell each other, show each other, that we are willing to invest to make the change; take risks to correct wrongs and stand up against corrupt politicians. We have to take back politics from the hands of people who betray the public trust and make politics respectable again- a sacred covenant between leaders and constituencies. We the people, cede part of our power to people we elect. Thus, if they do not act on our behalf, we should take back the power we entrusted to them.
When we act in great numbers and insist on truth and justice, transparent and honest governance at the local and national level from those we elect, the Obamas of the Philippines will emerge. There will be leaders who will demonstrate servant leadership; there will be leaders who will facilitate processes that will forge unity; there will be leaders who will be bold and daring to innovate with the people in creating solutions to systemic problems; there will be leaders who will account to the people their governance practice.
This is what Obama was referring to as “the promise of citizenship…” We, the people, must have a frank talk with each other to collectively act and organize a force that will transform our politics and set our democracy right again.