lila shahani’s open letter to FVR
this was posted on a Facebook page with the hope that we may “all find the courage to be just as honest at the next family barbecue!” (haha, indeed! thanks, patty ;)
14 October 2009
I was very relieved to hear that you were all safe and sound in the wake of Ondoy and Pepeng. But how devastating that our people had to go through two such onslaughts (particularly in Pangasinan, Ilocos and Manila — all of which remain very close to our hearts) one after the other! I hope and pray that the flooding eventually subsides and people are rehabilitated safely. And if Napocor and the San Roque people are in fact partially responsible for the terrible flooding in Pangasinan, I sincerely hope that they are made to face their day in court.
I thought I would write you because I’m concerned about some things that have been happening at home. I am not sure who you will endorse for president but I know that it will most likely tip the balance again, much in the way that your endorsements have done in the past. I have never felt the need to write you before, although I have always carefully observed your decisions through the years.
And I certainly had questions — questions about human rights during the martial law years, military logging under the Marcos administration, the signing of IPP contracts after the power crisis (and the high cost of electricity for consumers), the San Roque dam, PEA/Amari, the Fort Bonifacio conversion/privatization program, the VFA, the Centennial celebration, the endorsement of Joe de V and the continued support of GMA until the bitter end. I was relieved to learn that you had been cleared of any wrongdoing in the PEA/Amari case, but always wondered whether your decision to endorse Joe de V (which was after all a party decision as well) was inextricably linked to it.
Why am I bringing all this up now? Only to say that, as your niece, I have had many questions about your decisions through the years, but none that ever made me feel the need to engage with you at length. To begin with, ours was not a particularly discursive relationship. More importantly, I always felt the need to give you the benefit of the doubt, and trusted that you had the best interests of the Filipino people at heart.
And there was certainly ample evidence that you had done tremendous things in your lifetime. Not only were you a hero of EDSA 1: you had had a brilliant military career and were arguably one of the best presidents the country has ever had. Winning by only a small margin, you turned what might have been a costly liability into the success of pluralism. With liberalization and deregulation during your term, FDI increased and the economy as a whole remained strong, even throughout the Asian financial crisis. In fact, privatization, revenue generation through a VAT on luxury goods and services, working with the communist and Muslim insurgency, and focusing on OFW rights (particularly in the case of Flor Contemplacion) — were all hallmarks of your administration, and certainly the kind of decisions my Fletcher professors would have applauded. Indeed, the suggestions of corruption were minimal, seen in the context of all your positive contributions and in comparison with preceding and succeeding presidents. Without a doubt.
But I finally had to break my silence after having watched the Ondoy aftermath with horror, realizing that our government was as much to blame for the colossal loss of life and habitation in the country as was climate change. As an engineer, you know that the flooding was also due to poor civil engineering, urban planning and zoning; lack of waste management; lack of education and corruption.
The thought of your supporting Gibo (or even a Villar/Escudero tandem, for that matter, in the event that Gibo has become too unpopular since Ondoy) was finally enough to make me put pen to paper. Without a doubt, Gibo is “incomparably competent,” but then so were Joe de V and GMA, Uncle Ed — and look what happened. I understand that you supported GMA because you wanted macroeconomic stability in the country above all, particularly in the apparent absence of any viable alternatives.
But I think the sweep of history speaks for itself: competent candidates with strong party affiliations are not necessarily going to be good leaders, nor will they necessarily be what the people want. Because they lack a certain basic honesty, and I suspect the people sense that. If Gibo were sincere, why would he stay with Lakas-CMD, particularly now that the merger with Kampi has been honored by the Supreme Court? Surely the ruling party has been discredited at this point, in view of everything GMA has done? There really is no need to enumerate anymore: I think, by now, we’re all pretty familiar with what those things are.
Even Obama was reluctant to have an audience with her, and overseas Filipinos continue to refuse to send money to the Ondoy victims through their embassies and consulates, so deep indeed is their distrust of the government! Moreover, his performance in the post-Ondoy relief effort has hardly been stellar, as you must have already noted. Gibo is also undoubtedly backed by Danding (despite the alleged rift), which suggests that the two things that very much impede progress in our country — monopolies and oligarchy itself — will ultimately remain unchanged. This is ostensibly the reason why many young people remain wary of Chiz/Loren or Villar/Escudero. As for Manny V, his meteoric rise to power is nothing short of impressive, to be sure, but his proclivity for engaging in back-room deals has certainly not gone unnoticed. In short, what we see in these candidates appears to be more of the same — a position, I might add, we can no longer afford, and certainly not at this critical moment in our nation’s history.
Of course Erap’s decision to run will split up the opposition even further, which certainly strengthens the ruling party’s hand. But perhaps my biggest fear about Gibo (apart from the very real possibility that, in subtle ways, the ruling party might cheat) has to do with the fact that charter change appears to be imminent, in which case, if GMA runs for Congress in the meantime, it is not entirely inconceivable that she could become our next Prime Minister. To be sure, you would be granted the same type of soft power you’ve been granted during GMA’s administration, but is it really worth it in the end, Uncle Ed? Do you really want to go down in history as the guy who saved GMA after “Hello, Garci” and who continued to hand the country down to its unscrupulous elite from one administration to another? Isn’t the respect of the young — and of history itself — the most important thing, at the end of the day? In my humble opinion, the best way to refurbish the fading Eddie brand now is to do the right thing and heed the will of the people.
Noynoy, of course, is less than perfect: we all know that. His record is remarkable only in its lack of remarkable achievements, and he certainly isn’t a particularly brilliant thinker or charismatic speaker. But he has never been tainted by any suggestions of corruption and does not appear to have the propensity to throw his weight around. He is apparently thoughtful, respectful and humble, and we can only hope that his lineage will encourage him to sacrifice for the country the way his extraordinary parents did. Because of this inimitable heritage, he is now the one candidate with the potential to unite the opposition against the ruling party. For his part, Mar is no slouch, moreover, and the Liberal Party appears to have some progressive elements.
The point is: the people are clearly tired, not just of the “bickering,” as you say, but of the trapos themselves, and are willing to bet on someone who falls very far outside the standard mold (Noynoy is, if you will, a reluctant Cojuangco, something many respect and appreciate). At any rate, I sincerely hope you will consider my thoughts — the thoughts of a young Filipina who loves her country immeasurably — when you make your decision.
But none of this changes my love and respect for you, Uncle Ed. I’m just sorely disappointed and hope that, for once in my life, you might actually recognize that I’m old enough to make my own assessments. Nor does this mean that I’m not a “team player.” Because my definition of teamwork is not that you command the team and everyone is thereby obligated to obey you. Instead, team members should be able to have different view points, while still working together for the greater good of the collective whole. In fact, democratic exchange within the team can often enhance the quality of its collective decisions on the whole.
I sincerely hope that you place the country over any other considerations and choose the candidate who is really best for the country, and not in terms of who might further consolidate the tremendous power you already wield.
I hope you won’t be offended by what I have written (and hope you understand if I decide to include some of these ideas in my new blog) but, at 42, I think I’m finally entitled to my own opinion, Uncle Ed. You are after all the only father figure I have ever had (although you may not know it) and I’m writing you the way I would have written my own father, had I just been given a chance.
Please take care of yourself.