The question of legitimacy has become a central issue in Philippine politics at this time.
It is, of course, a question linked with the legal bases of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presidency and her holding on to power.
While legitimacy assumes some form of a moral quality and character, it substantially plays upon public impressions and perceptions.
The key, however, to understanding what constitutes legitimacy is how we define the nature of the public and the consequent realities such as public impressions and/or public perceptions.
A good definition of what constitutes the “public” in the Philippines takes into account all the historical, cultural, and political variables. The public is not simply “they” who have lorded over our lives as a people— or “they” who are easily swayed by popular demands and sentiments.
With the former President Corazon Aquino taking center stage in what some analysts and blabbers call as “Gloria resign movement,” we need to critique the nature of the word public that oppositionists and the ruling regime are using to make us believe that what they say to us—the “public”—has the form of a covenant and a truth.
The deposed President Joseph Estrada has more imagination when he used the misery and metaphor of the mahirap to appeal to the deprived who need justice— not in its abstract form but in concrete terms.
There is a misuse in this reference to the public—even as Susan Roces, with her fire and brimstone rhetoric, has called on the taumbayan and/or the sambayanan or the masa to get awakened, rise up, and fight for their right to defend the votes of the supposed-to-be future-ex president Fernando Poe Jr.
Roces, of course, is as confused as Vice President Noli de Castro when the latter talks about the bayan with his tenor in a manner that is bombastic—one that is calculated to add flair and drama to delusional claims to greatness that tended to drown the already-muffled voices of the taumbayan.
We are not going to spare Arroyo from this misuse of the bayan-masa-taumbayan-sambayanan metaphor.
Aquino’s take has reference to the country and nation in an equally confusing sense as Aquino, Roces the actress who was silent during the oppressive regime of the Marcoses, Panfilo Lacson the oppositionist whose claim to political legitimacy is by way of the blessings of the Erap presidency, and other characters in search of scenes and settings.
Already, we do not know much what will come next and when will the best days come and offer us a respite from all these that hamper us from moving on and having the good life.
With Arroyo’s regime still getting the heat and the pressure, we can only blame the masses for not joining in the fray that has been asking her to step down and hand over the power to de Castro.
Well, the elites do not like de Castro. He is so masa. He is not one of them—even if he continues to confuse the masa themselves with his appeal to the poor and hopeless and the deprived and the underprivileged.
The problem with the Arroyo presidency is legitimacy—that quality that we assign to the power to govern and with the attendant power having the semblance of moral ascendancy and thus approval by the thinking masses.
There is a qualification here: the thinking masses, the masses that get their education from re-imagining the translation into concrete terms their fundamental human rights to live the good life.
From hereon, we need to be critical about the way the ruling elite and the oppositionists continue to use us—we the real public, we who think thoughts about our life as a people, we who take as sacred our commitment to love the deprived and the underprivileged among our ranks.