Re­ver­sals of for­tune

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - ERNESTO P. MACEDA, Jr.

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.

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