Mandela, PNoy, Noynoy and Cory

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SOUTH African hero and former president Nelson Mandela died last week. As expected, local netizens posted reports on Facebook of his death.

What amused me was the anti-Pnoys who, pretending to be knowledgeable of anything Mandela, lamented that had Mandela been the Philippine president in 2010, he would have been a better leader of the country than their pet peeve, President Noynoy Aquino.

Why? Because he would have sought reconciliation with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and not file cases against her or blame her for past misdeeds.

I was amused because there’s no way one can compare Mandela with PNoy, not because the latter can’t hold a candle to the former, which is true, but because the two of them became president under different set of circumstances.

The closest one can mention PNoy and Mandela in the same breath was when the former issued Executive Order No. 1, right after he assumed office in 2010. That order attempted to create the Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 tasked to investigate the anomalies allegedly committed under the Arroyo administration.

Incidentally, that commission would have been led by a Cebuano, our very own former Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr., father of the current Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III.

But the Supreme Court, under then chief justice and Arroyo appointee Renato Corona, who was later impeached, declared as unconstitutional the creation of the Truth Commission.

Aquino and his advisers apparently patterned the name “Truth Commission” with that of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission created by Mandela after he assumed office as South African president in 1994. The commission was tasked to investigate political crimes during the apartheid era, or when the minority white people ruled the country and discriminated against the majority black people.

But the link ends there.

Aquino and Mandela belong to different eras. The latter belong to a period after World War II when the new world order resulted in the creation of colonial, dictatorial or racist governments worldwide. The former assumed the presidency in the era of globalization and a changed, technologically driven world order.

Mandela, I would say, would have been better compared with PNoy’s father Benigno Aquino Jr. who was incarcerated, like the South African leader, by an oppressive and dictatorial government. But Ninoy did not live to become Philippine president. Instead his wife, PNoy’s mother Corazon Aquino, took the presidency in 1986, eight years before Mandela became head of South Africa.

In a way, both Cory and Mandela presided over their own country’s transition period, the former from dictatorship back to a bourgeois democratic rule and the latter from a regime implementing apartheid to multi-racial democracy. It should therefore be Cory’s rule that can be viewed in the prism of Mandela’s presidency.

Like Mandela, Cory chose the moderate path instead of the hard-line one in leading the transition towards a new political setup. Cory did not order the execution of those who committed abuses and plundered the country’s wealth but rather rebuilt the judicial processes and allowed the abusers to defend themselves in court.

Mandela and his Truth and Reconciliation Commission also followed the moderate path, with many South Africans angry that the perpetrators of human rights abuse under the country’s white minority government were granted amnesty after making full confession of their crimes.

Here’s another similarity: Cory turned over the reins of government to the next elected president (Fidel V. Ramos) in 1992 despite prodding for her to hold on to power. Mandela, in 1999, handed over the South African government to younger leaders.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 10, 2013.


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