Reversals of fortune
Watching idols crash from their lofty pedestals has become a guilty pleasure of late. Whether deserved or not, these tragedies – with their menus of failed expectations, hidden daggers, frontal attacks and even the progressive release of lurid details – make for powerful viewing. We do not refer to the latest bombshell of yet another Hollywood mogul falling from grace. Closer to home, who needs serialized soap operas when Philippine politics is just as escapist, cheesy, immersive and instructive?
Sic transit gloria mundi should be the voice in the heads of those entrusted with power. Glory is fleeting. It is a clarion call to recognize the great responsibility to others that comes with that power – before that chance fades. Unfortunately, some see instead the call for responsibility to themselves before others.
The herd of powerful men gets culled periodically. Death comes literally or politically. In the end, power is the true king amid the impermanence of its holders. Shelley’s words are illuminating: “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare. The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
My name is Ozymandias. Contenders for the season’s Ozymandias awards are Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial after her rejection by the Commission on Appointments; Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, impeached by the House and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with his astonishing 18% drop in approval rating. Whatever they did or failed to do to warrant this fate, their stories should serve as caveats and wake up calls to do the most and do your best while you can.
Equally compelling is the narrative of redemption - everyone loves a good comeback story. Such was the arc that my father’s political career followed. His contemporary and best man, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had even more dramatic highs and lows in his political life. Of course, President Gloria M. Arroyo has migrated from detention to the august halls of Congress. And, for sheer absolute absolution, nobody tops President Joseph E. Estrada: ex-Mayor, ex-Senator, ex-Vice President, ex-President. Also ex-convict. After narrowly losing to President Benigno Aquino III in 2010, here he is on his second term at the helm of the nation’s capital, restoring Manila to its former glory.
As for the President, some indulge in daydreams of a free fall in his ratings. If he should assess his performance to emerge a better leader, there is no reason why he can’t rally. One secret to not falling from high perches is to keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Congressional fecundity. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has been going on a road show trumpeting the accomplishment report of his House. Its actually quite an inspiring read: National Budget; extending passport life to 10 years, driver’s license effectivity to five years; free college education; outlawing hospital deposits; postponement of barangay elections. These are all Republic Acts! Congratulations Representatives of the People.
Congressional carnage. Legislative industriousness has not been limited to its pen. Equally busy was the hammer. In this month alone, they managed to reject a Health Secretary, impeach a Chairman of a Constitutional Commission, require a lifestyle check of a President’s son. In committee, they found sufficiency in substance in the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice. Then there were the extra legislative statements against the Ombudsman. And the dare to the Chief Justice to resign to save herself (more like resigning to save Congress from itself).
That’s quite a body count. Clearly, they’ve been busy also in this beast mode. We just gently remind them that they, too, are future contenders for the Ozymandias award.
Resignation redux. In tendering his resignation to President Duterte, Chairman Andy Bautista must have followed the general rule. You tender to the appointing power. Basis? Because the President has authority to appoint a successor and, in general, the President exercises the power to remove.
Before a resignation is accepted, the official still retains his position. In the case of Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista, until the acceptance of his resignation, whether the same be immediate, irrevocable or conditional, he is still the Comelec Chair. Any appointment of a successor may be questionable.
For independent constitutional offices, once appointed, the Constitution turns over the power to remove them from the President to Congress, by impeachment. The last Comelec Chair to resign was Benjamin Abalos and he tendered his to the Comelec en banc. Who does Chairman Bautista resign to and who should accept? A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Churchill was referring to the great Bear, Russia but he might as well have been referencing the Bear of depression, anxiety and the basket of conditions under the rubric of mental health.
For the longest time, our brothers and sisters suffered their mental health trials in the dark. For many, the only relief was the deep end. But great strides have been taken to lift the shroud of ignorance and encourage a wider awareness across the board.
Mental health act. Our Senate and House are doing the right thing in crafting landmark legislation to continue the drive to take this delicate matter that affects millions of Filipinos out of the closet. Their mental health bills recognize the right of every person to quality and holistic mental health care and thoughtfully outline the duties of government and mental health providers.
The bottom line is we can do better. And to do so, the first step is to understand as we let them know that they are not alone. There should be no stigma that attaches to sufferers of mental health disorders. The shame should be on us who fail to appreciate what they go through.
Passages. My first encounter with Washington Sycip was a few years back, at an event of the Columbia Association of the Philippines. There he was, totem of accomplishment, hunched over in his seat in the center of the room. Outbound freshmen and alumni alike listened transfixed as he generously imparted nuggets of wisdom. This was no ordinary man. In his extraordinary life, he never passed up the chance to share his material and intellectual wealth. Sympathies to his family and to a nation that bears his loss.