Tomorrow being Rizal Day, we honor Dr. Jose P. Rizal by reading and pondering his writings. As he wrote prolifically, we choose today to contemplate on what he wrote for La Solidaridad, the newspaper published by Filipinos studying in various universities of Europe, from September 1889 to February 1890. In that series of articles Rizal envisioned what the Philippines would be 100 years from then.
Of those who governed the country, he wrote: “If those who guide the destiny of the Philippines should, instead of granting the reforms that are demanded, continue to erode the state of the country, exacerbate the hardships and repressions of the suffering and thinking classes, they will succeed in making them risk a troubled life, full of privations and bitterness, for the hope of obtaining something uncertain.
“What would they lose in the struggle? Almost nothing. The life of the large discontented class offers no great attraction that it should be preferred to a glorious death. Poverty inspires adventurous ideas, stimulates a desire to change things, and diminishes regard for life.”
It seems Rizal had visions of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship. Millions of discontented Filipinos, including those from the uppermost level of Philippine society, risk life, liberty, and fortune in February 1986 to put an end to the dictator’s rule in the hope of getting something though uncertain that something may be.
The consequence of Mr. Marcos’ suppression of the press seems to have also been predicted by Rizal. He wrote: “Is it preferable to govern in the dark or to govern with understanding? If the great Napoleon had not muzzled the press, perhaps it would have warned him of the danger into which he was falling and it might have made him understand that the people were tired and the land needed peace.” Mr. Marcos fell from power because he muzzled the press and thus failed to understand that the Filipino people were tired of a life of privation, submission, and oppression.
Rizal also foresaw the many coups d’etat staged against Marcos’ successor. Wrote he about insurrections: “All the minor insurrections that had broken out in the Philippines had been the work of a few fanatics and discontented military men who, in order to attain their ends, had to resort to deceit and trickery or take advantage of the loyalty of their subordinates. Thus, they all fell. None of the insurrections was popular in character nor based on the basic need of the people nor did it struggle for the laws of making of justice. Thus, the insurrection did not leave indelible memories in the people. On the contrary, the people realizing they had been deceived and their wounds healed, applauded the fall of those who disturbed their peace.”
He could have very well been describing the putsches led by then-Colonel and now Senator Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II, the last one disturbing intensely the merry observance of Christmas of 1989.
While they cried for reforms in the Armed Forces, the leaders of the coups did not offer any specific program. They appeared to the people as just out to grab power. Interestingly, two leaders of military adventures are now running for vice-president. Both are at the bottom in the rankings of the voters’ preference for vice-president, outranked by a widow with much less experience in government.
Rizal also wrote: “We said, and we repeat it once more, and will always repeat it, all reforms of a palliative nature are not only ineffective but are even harmful when the Government is beset with ills that need radical remedy.” President Joseph E. Estrada did not even offer palliatives. He offered only himself. The squealing masa, who voted him into office, were contented, nay ecstatic, in just having him as president.
When the Philippine Daily Inquirer exposed not only his utter lack of awareness of the function of the presidency but also his nocturnal bacchanalian activity, and subsequently his plunder of the country’s coffers, the upper crust of Philippine society decided a radical remedy was needed. President Estrada met the same fate President Marcos did.
Our judiciary as has been described as the best judiciary money can buy. Judges and prosecutors for sale abound in our justice system. President Estrada, of all people, called the members of the judiciary as hoodlums in robes.
The incoming administration should heed the words of Rizal on Justice before another prophecy of Rizal is fulfilled. He said “Justice is the foremost virtue of civilized society. It subdues the most barbarous nations. Injustice arouses the weakest.”
Rizal also wrote that the Islands will probably adopt a federal republic. There is much dissension and resentment in many parts of the land towards Imperial Manila. Manila, the official seat of government, has too much control of the governance of the entire nation. The dissension and resentment have sporadically flared into violent armed conflicts.
Peace might descend upon this troubled land if the different regions, distinguished by ethnic origin, language, religion, culture, and natural resources, were allowed to conduct their own affairs and determine their own destiny as Rizal envisioned.