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Remembrance of things past

IN A perfect society, everyone reads history books. Everyone listens to stories told by their elders – stories of dank jail cells, of waiting for loved ones who would never come home, of paying the price for speaking one’s mind, the stuff of Orwellian nightmares. Everyone sees the mistakes of the past for what they are: lessons learned the hard way, the consequences of a prosperity that benefited a few but still remains illusory to many. Everyone takes stock of everything done, understands the value in giving credit where credit is due while still demanding accountability.

The uproar caused by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s announcement of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. as her running-mate in the upcoming elections was expected – the justification of such a choice by ordinary citizens, unfortunately, was to be expected just as well in these times of historical revisionism. In an opinion piece published in Rappler.com, a young university professor discussed Senator Marcos’ various achievements, from his authorship of bills for the protection of children in conflict areas, to his role in crafting an alternative to the Bangsamoro Basic Law. He ends his article accusing Marcos’ critics of using ad hominem arguments, saying that those who are vehemently against the senator because of his last name are no longer assessing him based on his qualifications.

The problem with this is the premise of placing Marcos’ achievements in a vacuum, thus deliberately taking him out of the context of his family’s background. To some degree, it makes sense to focus on an individual’s merits instead of his personal circumstances. However, turning a blind eye to that same individual’s complicity in the atrocities committed during his father’s regime, in addition to using appeals to hypocrisy to justify the same, are just as reprehensible as choosing a leader based solely on his name. Ignoring his refusal to acknowledge his family’s wrongdoings is a flat-out disservice to the thousands of victims of human rights violations committed during Martial Law –  and no, the outrage over these and the outrage over other instances of abuse and maltreatment committed during other regimes are not mutually exclusive.

What people seem to forget is that character is a huge factor in determining the measure of a man, especially a man who aspires to lead an entire country. Recognition of values such as an individual’s integrity, honesty, and humility play an important role in the selection of a leader, as it should be. Intelligence alone does not make a good leader, let alone a great one. Nor does a curriculum vitae of accomplishments and credentials necessarily indicate the kind of person one is. In selecting leaders, the whole package should be considered. After all, the people we elect are a reflection of the kind of society we have, and the kind of society we aspire to be. What hope do we have, when we choose leaders who neither have the capacity for introspection, nor the willingness to learn from the lessons of history? P

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