Friday, April 20, 2007

Lenten acts

FEW can equal the Philippine theater of the absurd.

In Sun.Star Cebu’s page 1 story yesterday, Oscar C. Pineda and Isolde D. Amante reported the contrasting styles of two mayors reacting to their suspension over the Asean Summit street lamp purchases.

While Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Arturo Radaza quietly surrendered his seat after kissing goodbye his vice-mayor and political rival, Mandaue City Mayor Thadeo Ouano sought a temporary restraining order, and set up a blockade of supporters and heavy equipment at City Hall.

The spectacle alone in Mandaue should merit another mention in wikipedia, google and other sites on the Internet.

Under the entry on “ochlocracy,” the Edsa Revolution is already cited as a historical example of the use of a mass of people to “intimidate constitutional authorities.”

Mob rule or “government by mob” challenges the rule of law. The Mar. 31 Sun.Star report described the “irate crowd” in Mandaue as protesting “the ‘vigilante justice’ dispensed by the anti-graft office.”

Many in the crowd “stayed up late the previous night for a vigil.” Yellow armbands were spotted. The supporters also stayed “under large white tents marked with their mayor’s name.”

In contrast, Radaza’s supporters wore red armbands. They were assembled in the lobby but “stood quietly… while the suspension order was served.”

While Teddy’s politician-son and Teddy’s politician-father came out later to thank their supporters, Radaza went around shaking hands with co-employees and constituents before doing the same with his vice-mayor and her running mate. The crowd cheered when he “suddenly” kissed his rival on the cheek.

Two mayors, two contrasting styles, the same lack of shame.

If it was melodrama for Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu had comedy as the main act.

True statesmen would have spared Cebuanos the orchestrated absurdity.

Living in this country for 41 years has a way of lowering expectations. To stay sane and not break out into epileptic fits of desiring greener foreign shores, I’ve taught myself to expect nothing of politicians.

But the P150-million deal on the overpriced summit lampposts is not exactly nothing.

Driving twice a day, six days a week, past the Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Cebu lampposts, it strikes me as surreal that: a) the government was charged P224,000 for each lamppost while a similar one installed in Naga within the same period cost only P16,000; b) the involved officials have not taken a leave of office so as not to prejudice or obstruct the investigation; and c) Cebuanos like me can drive past the lampposts daily as we don’t find a) and b) absurd at all.

Until last Friday’s tribute to Laurel and Hardy, the comic and tragic duo of silent films.

According to wikipedia, Polybius in his Histories wrote that okhlokratia demonstrates how the kratos (rule, power, strength) of okhlos (mob) can turn pathological (mob rule) and be subverted from the good (democracy).

Polybius should have met the local Laurel and Hardy. In the Philippines, it’s not the mob but its handler that matters.

The synchronized colors of the supporters’ shirts, armbands and tents, as well as their collective reactions (“irate” in Mandaue, “quiet” in Lapu-Lapu) told a story that veered from the official performances.

All that was missing perhaps was the discarded remnants of packed lunches.

I hand it though to Radaza, master at mime, for deciding, right after he relinquished responsibility to his rival, that he might as well start campaigning.

Encore for political penitence. 0917-3226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Apr. 1, 2007 issue

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