The country is greater than its presidents

Posted by watchmen
June 13, 2018
Posted in OPINION

Did we ever have a president who upheld the good of the country rather than their own? Look back onto our array of past presidents. What was their caliber? What sacrifices had they undergone for the general welfare? Was it “I, myself first” over and above the common good? Over all other consideration?

Many young voters are not bothered by the above questions. Maybe some millennials scrutinize issues involving the general welfare aside from their own private interests, especially those with political aspirations or are taking up political science as a required subject. I recall, earlier in college, we were so proud and hopeful in wearing the pin “Magsaysay is my guy,” but the promise of a new era in Philippine politics was cut short when we lost Ramon Magsaysay in a flight gone awry.

Nowadays, despite young people in the thick of digital preoccupation, young feminists take pride that the Philippines has had two female presidents: Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The former was known for blending in with the curtains and coming up with a hot cup of coffee for her husband Ninoy, whose death on the airport tarmac ushered in the historic EDSA People Power Revolution. After the tumultuous Marcos years, Cory Aquino went about her presidency in quiet, humble dedication. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, meanwhile, had a doctorate in economics, which proved to be of no avail in bringing about economic stability to the country.

Throwing back to the US of A, Hillary Clinton should have been the country’s first female president after garnering more than a million votes over Donald Trump; as they say, the Donald must thank the antiquated electoral college for his presidency.

I may be far from the madding crowd (read novelist Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd”) being with my daughter’s family in the United States, but I’m not at all estranged from the goings-on in bayan ko, thanks to the internet.

Speculations are rife that President Rodrigo Duterte, or Digong, as he is popularly called, has the makings of a dictator. Right now, I’m leafing through the September 26, 2016 issue of Time magazine, which my daughter bought after being attracted by the big headline on the cover: Night Falls On the Philippines, subtitled: The tragic cost of President Duterte’s war on drugs, written by Rishi Iyengar. The pitch-dark cover carried a corpse, supposedly of “an alleged drug dealer.”

The internet also depicts the victims of Duterte’s war on drugs. One that sticks in my mind is of a mother holding her slain son in her arms, recalling the Mater Dolorosa in Rome’s St. Peter’s Church: Mary with the lifeless Jesus on her arms. The same lifelike bronze replica is installed in the cathedral in Oakland, California.

Be it in photos or statues, the faint of heart have to hold back the tears after feeling a mother’s unfathomable grief.

What more can I say? The country has survived the evil dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, nothing can be worse than that. The Duterte presidency should not deviate into the dark era of the Marcos years. We live in a civilized society and extrajudicial killings have no place in it. Everyone deserves a day in court, as my husband Rudy, a human rights lawyer, strongly and bravely advocated in his lifetime.

To all officials of the country, from president to the smallest barangay official, ponder on this quote from iconic journalist Dan Rather:

“We are a nation of laws and not of kings. Our stated creed is that we are equal before the law, all of us. Of course we fall far short of that ideal in many ways. It’s usually the poor, the marginalized, and dispossessed who suffer the greatest injustices. But even the most cynical of plutocrats in our nation’s history have at least largely paid lip service to this idea.”

More than lip service, as succinctly pledged in the Oath of Allegiance during flag ceremonies, let the law be followed “in thought, in word, and in deed.”



Julia Carreon-Lagoc was a Panay News columnist for two decades. She pops up with Accents now and then. (

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