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Austere laurels


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CEBU CITY–Like many citizens, the wife and I pored through the inauguration program for this Republic’s 15th president There’s no shortage of “backgrounders”.

Inquirer ran a montage of quotes by presidents from “inaugurals past”, plus serial editorials on outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s “true legacy”. Emails on the transition have cascaded .

“Most of the time we fail our leaders,” wrote UP graduate Angioline Loredo, now a New York-based executive. “It is not enough to say: ‘Please, Noynoy, don’t let us down’ It is equally important to say:‘Noynoy, we will not let you down.’ That’s my two cents.”

Wednesday’s peaceful transfer of power radically differs from Proclamation 1081 that clamped on martial rule. Street brawls presaged ouster of the boozed Estrada regime. “By any standard, ( this ) is a momentous achievement in political stability,” UP professor Randy David notes.

Since People Power, the president-elect fetches the incumbent from Malacañang, Inauguration spokesman Manuel L. Quezon III points out. Both proceed to Quirino Grandstand, abroad Car No. 1

“This may turn out to be the longest ride in their lives”, Inquirer said Aquino has vowed to pin Arroyo for corruption. She will be “gracious …until the final moments of her administration,” Palace spokesmen insist.

She had “no choice but to make a virtue of necessity,” commented W. Scott Thompson of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Oliver Geronilla.. She “decamped” because all her efforts to retain power — from keelhauling the constitution to co-opting the military — floundered. “All doors were closed. Except the “Exit.”…

The stiff trip recalls the chilly January 20, 1953 drive from the White House to the U.S. Capitol by President Harry Truman and president-elect Dwight Eisenhower. A bitter campaign marred relations between them.

“Can I stand sitting next to that guy?”, Eisenhower wondered aloud When the Eisenhowers picked up the President at the White House, they refused to have coffee with the Trumans. Instead, they waited in the vehicle.

A seething Truman (gently prodded by his wife) came out.. “It was a shocking moment,.” CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid recalls. “The current and future Presidents’ journey to the Capitol was chilly..”

Even their memoirs differ. But there is unanimity on one point.. Who ordered my son John back from service in Korea?, Eisenhower asked. “I did,” Truman replied. , “The President thought it was right for your son to witness the swearing- in of his father to the Presidency.”

The Luneta program calls for the “graceful exit” at 10:55 a.m, of Arroyo after last military honors. She shakes hands with the President-elect, then drives away, in a private car. Arroyo drives to a ”quieter public role” as congresswoman for Pampanga.

Is that possible? Before leaving, she booby-trapped everything for her successor. She shoved midnight appointees into every post within reach: courts, government corporations to agencies, not sparing even the Red Cross She gutted the Ombudsman, civil service, etc. Will they serve as her praetorian guards to beat back likely plunder charges?.

On Wednesday, at least, there’ll be none of Oliver Cromwell’s brusque dismissal of the Rump Parliament: “You have stayed in this place too long And there is no health in you. In the name of God, go.”

At noon, Associate Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio- Morales,.administers the oath to Aquino,. the first woman magistrate to do so. This is just “a minute long” oath, a Court spokesman shrugged.

Excuse us. Behind the rites festers Arroyo’s drive to shred the constitutional ban on midnight appointments. She rammed through a Cinderella exemption for the chief justice. Down the road., this issue will mutate in unforeseen forms.

After Luneta, the mint-new President ascends the grand staircase leading to the Malacanang’s Ceremonial Hall. Juan Luna’s painting, the “Blood Compact adorns the top of the staircase. President Aquino enters his new office, swept clean of his predecessor’s belongings He inducts the new cabinet.– and confronts stark reality.

As his mother did before him, Aquino inherits “worsening poverty, pervasive corruption, decades long insurgency, empty state coffers, among other things”, UP School of Economics Raul Fabella said. “Hope has often been dashed in this past. There is no guarantee it will end differently this time.”

We agree. No such guarantee, in any case, is possible. Nor do ordinary Filipinos expect such warranty. But are there some hopeful differences now?.

Former senator Rene Saguisag articulated one Given the track record, Aquino won’t loot, as his predecessors did with abandon. If this comes to pass, that would be one up for the new administration, he wrote in his weekly column…

Second, more citizens realize that there are no “messiahs”. After People Power, we left Corazon Aquino to battle off the piranhas by herself. Citizen involvement is essential as a “new window of opportunity” opens for all. Leaders ”may not claim the ‘divinity that doth hedge a king’, the historian Horacio dela Costa cautioned at President Manuel Roxas’ funeral. “He is held accountable always for the authority he holds in trust. And when his mandate is revoked, he must be willing … to return, as a private citizen, to the ranks from which he came.

“Let him not expect any reward but the consciousness of having served his people and his God. For often, he will get no reward but this…. Austere are the laurels of the republic.”

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