Pres­i­den­tial in­for­mal­i­ties and act­ing

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion - BY: RHODERICK JOHN ABELLANOSA rjohn­abel­[email protected]

Tatay Digong has once again spewed un­pres­i­den­tial re­marks when he called the Com­mis­sion on Au­dit a “son of a b***h” and then asked what if COA per­son­nel be kid­napped or have them tor­tured. This time how­ever, the peo­ple knew what Mala­canang’s in­fal­li­ble ex­pla­na­tion would be: it was just a joke.

The pres­i­dent’s dou­ble­s­peak is not new. Even be­fore day one of his pres­i­dency, Digong’s in­con­sis­tency has been as clear as the sum­mer sun. Thus it is high time to un­veil the truth that the pres­i­dent “does in­tend” to speak in con­fus­ing lan­guage. It’s not about his in­ca­pac­ity to think soundly or ar­tic­u­late ideas clearly. It is more of a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy to make peo­ple lost and di­vided.

Such a style is old: unite peo­ple in their hate but di­vide them in con­fu­sion and dis­agree­ment. Where things are not un­der­stand­able, peo­ple are lost. And when peo­ple are lost, noth­ing binds them as a com­mu­nity or as a na­tion. Truth to tell, Digong is the only win­ner when­ever peo­ple con­tinue to ar­gue with each other. Fo­cused and fix­ated on mat­ters that are ei­ther un­nec­es­sary or triv­ial the pub­lic is dis­tracted from fo­cus­ing on the es­sen­tials of pol­i­tics. Pub­lic opin­ion has not even scratched the sur­face of the more se­ri­ous ques­tions in the realm of for­eign pol­icy and the coun­try’s eco­nomic di­rec­tion.

But the es­sen­tial ques­tion how­ever is “why?” Why in the very first place is this kind of loose talk still ac­cept­able for many peo­ple to the point of jus­ti­fy­ing what is ob­vi­ously “in­for­mal?” The ques­tion in­deed does not have an an­swer up to now. Still it is a mys­tery. It is more mys­te­ri­ous than the Blessed Trin­ity, in fact, why loyal sup­port­ers and blind trolls are de­luded to just say “amen” to ev­ery­thing that their Tatay says.

It ap­pears to me that Digong knows very well the im­por­tance of speak­ing with­out for­mal­i­ties. And he knows for a fact who Filipinos are and what they lack. He is the quin­tes­sen­tial rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ev­ery­thing ab­hor­rent with Filipino cul­ture. On the one hand it is a cul­ture of hospi­tal­ity, re­spect, and re­li­gios­ity. Un­for­tu­nately it is also a cul­ture of con­tra­dic­tions, con­fu­sion, and lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion and to a cer­tain ex­tent re­spect for for­mal rules and le­gal mark­ers on the other.

Let’s ad­mit it, ours is a coun­try that has in­sti­tuted and es­tab­lished for­mal in­sti­tu­tions not by choice but by chance. Credit all the for­mal struc­tures to our erst­while colo­nial masters. This is not to say that pre-colo­nial cul­ture was not with­out sys­tem, but it was not the sys­tem of the “po­lis” as con­ceived in Western and more par­tic­u­larly modern terms. It was a sys­tem of the “oikos”, i.e. the house­hold. Rules

in the do­mes­tic sphere are not demo­cratic in na­ture, and are not de­signed in the spirit of lib­eral democ­racy.

The Visayan speak­ing re­gions have a term for this: “inato” (ours–ours), that is things are trans­acted on the ba­sis of per­sonal, friendly, and fa­mil­ial re­la­tions such that fa­mil­iar­ity and not for­mal­ity is the norm. This is even com­mon in work­places where poli­cies are dis­re­garded or set aside on the pre­text that they are cold and lack­ing in hu­man touch. For ex­am­ple, peo­ple would rather be told ver­bally rather than in writ­ing. Thus, when­ever their at­ten­tion would be called, they would wish or pre­fer that it be done not in tech­ni­cal and trans­ac­tional but rather friendly and per­sonal terms.

Tatay Digong presents him­self as the very mas­cot of “inato pol­i­tics”, that is a “hoy-hoy” or “tayo-tayo” ap­proach in every as­pect of so­cial trans­ac­tion. When he speaks he sets aside his script, pro­ject­ing that he is not just out­side but rather above for­mal­i­ties.

Sadly, a pres­i­dent who goes against for­mal­i­ties is one who goes against his very rea­son for be­ing. He be­trays his of­fice. For a good pres­i­dent ei­ther lives strictly within the con­fines of the for­mal­i­ties of pol­i­tics and plays its rules so well. Or he may live a life that tran­scends all rules to the point of rad­i­cal­iz­ing the pres­i­dency and thus re­deem pol­i­tics in the most ideal sense of the term.

Be­tween the re­al­ism of for­mal pol­i­tics and the ide­al­ism of a rad­i­cal­ized ser­vant-lead­er­ship is “act­ing” which I sus­pect is where Tatay Digong is lo­cated.

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