Saturday, March 10, 2007

The "open letter" phenomenon

A year ago, Bong Austero wrote the following "open letter" which somehow brought him inatant fame.

Open Letter To Our Leaders

Dear Tita Cory, Senators, Congressmen, Businessmen, Media people, Leftists, and all Bleeding Hearts Out There:

I am angry. And I know that there are many out there who are angrier than I am for the same reason. And that reason is simple. I am sick and tired of all you guys claiming to speak for me and many Filipinos. I feel like screaming every time you mouth words about fighting for my freedom and my rights, when you obviously are just thinking about yours. You tell me that the essence of democracy is providing every citizen the right to speak his or her mind and make his or her own informed judgments, but you yourselves do not respect my silence and the choices I and many others have made. In other words, your concept of democracy is limited to having your rights and your freedoms respected, at the expense of ours.

I am utterly flabbergasted that you still do not get it: we already responded to your calls, and our response has been very clear - we chose not to heed your calls to go to EDSA or to Fort Bonifacio not because we do not love our country or our freedoms or our rights, but precisely because we love our country even more. Because quite frankly, we are prepared to lose our freedoms and our rights just to move this country forward. You may think that is not correct, you can tell me all the dire warnings about the evils of authoritarian rule, but quite frankly all we see is your pathetic efforts to prop up your cause. You tell me that you are simply protecting my freedoms and my rights, but who told you to do that? I assure you that when I feel that my rights and my freedoms are at a peril, I will stand up and fight for them myself.

You tell us that GMA is not the right person to lead this country because she has done immoral acts. As someone who sees immorality being committed wantonly in many ways every day and by everyone (yes, including the ones you do), I may have become jaded. But you have not been able to offer me any viable alternative, while GMA has bent over backwards many times to accommodate you while continuing to work hard despite all the obstacles and the brickbats you have thrown her way. From where I sit, she is the one who has been working really hard to move this country forward while all of you have been so busy with one and only one thing: to make sure she does not succeed. So forgive me if I do not want to join you in your moral pissing contest. Forgive me if I have chosen to see things from another perspective. You say she is the problem. I say, we are the problem, more to the point, I think you are a bigger problem than she is. Taking her out may solve part of the problem, but that leaves us with a bigger problem: you. That is right, YOU!

While I felt outraged that she called a Comelec official during the elections and that she may have rigged the elections, I have since then taken the higher moral ground and forgiven her. Yes my dear bishops, I have done what you have told me to do since I was a child, which you say is the Christian and moral thing to do: forgive. Especially since she has asked for forgiveness and has tried to make amends for it. Erap certainly has not apologized and continues to be defiant, continuing to insult us everyday with his protestations. Cory has not apologized for her incompetence but we have forgiven her just the same because like GMA, she has worked hard after all.

I know you do not think that GMA's apology was not enough, or that she was insincere, or that that apology should not be the end of it, but please spare me the hypocrisy of telling me that you do so for the sake of protecting the moral fibre of society. The real reason is because you smell blood and wants to go for the kill.

Well, I have news for you. I do not like her too. I did not even vote for her. I voted for Raul Roco. But as much as I do not like her, I do not like you even more. I may not trust her, but guess what, I do not trust you even more.

You know why? Because all you do is whine and sabotage this country. You belittle every little progress we make, conveniently forgetting that it is not just GMA who has been working so hard to achieve them. Every single day, we keep the faith burning in our hearts that this country will finally pull itself out of the mess and we work so hard to do that. Every little progress is the result of our collective effort, we who toil hard everyday in our jobs. Yet, you persist in one and only thing: making GMA look bad in the eyes of the world and making sure that this country continues to suffer to prove your sorry point. In the process, you continue to destroy what we painstakinly try to built. So please do not be surprised that I do not share your cause. Do not be surprised that we have become contemptuous of your antics. You have moved heaven and earth to destroy her credibility, you have convened all kinds of fora and hearings and all you have done is test our patience to the core. For all your effort, you have only succeeded in dragging us further down. I say enough.

Don't get me wrong. I am not asking that we take immorality lying down, or that we let the President get away with anything illegal. But you have tried to prove your accusations all these time and you have not succeeded, so it is time to let things be. Besides, you are doing something immoral as well if not utterly unforgivable. The Magdalo soldiers are consorting with the communists - the same people who have been trying to kill democracy for years. Cory has been consorting with Erap and the Marcoses.

So please wake up and take a reality check. In the absence of true and genuine moral leadership, many of us have decided to cast our lot with the President, even if we do not like her. A flawed leader is better than scheming power hungry fools who can not even stand up for their convictions in the face of an impending arrest.

Your coup attempts and the denials that you have consequently made only underscore what we think is true: you are spineless and unreliable people whose only defense is to cry suppression when your ruse do not work. You are like bullies who taunt and provoke, but cry oppression when taken to task for your cruelty.

I would have respected you if you took the consequences of your actions like real heroes: calmly and responsibly instead of kicking and screaming and making lame excuses. You say you are willing to die for us, that you do all these things for the country and the Filipino, but you are not even willing to go to jail for us.

Come on, you really think we believe that you did not want to bring down the government when that is the one and only thing you have been trying to do in the last many months?

We love this country and we want peace and progress. Many among us do not give a f*&k who sits at Malacanang because we will work hard and do our share to make things work. If you only do your jobs, the ones that we elected you to do, things would be a lot simpler and easier for every one.

The events during the weekend only proved one thing. You are more dangerous and a serious threat to this country than GMA is. We have seen what you are capable of doing - you are ready to burn this country and reduce everything to ashes just to prove your point. If there is something that we need protection from, it is protection from you.


A few weeks ago, Harvey Keh of Pathways Philippines wrote the following open letter which was passed around in the cyberworld and even picked up by the Inquirer and elicited commnent from Chavit Singson.


Dear Fellow Filipino,

Good day to all of you! Before I begin my letter... just a disclaimer, for people who know me they know that I love the Philippines very much and I am not really one who rants and complaints to high heavens about what is happening to our country and does nothing about it, in fact, I feel that at my relatively young age of 27, I have done much service to the Philippines by setting up Pathways to Higher Education which has sent more than 500 poor but deserving students to college and AHON Foundation which has already built two public elementary school libraries that have benefitted more than 3,500 students. Yet, after seeing how events in our nation have transpired the past few weeks and talking with some friends, I feel the urge to share with you my own thoughts and feelings.

Over the weekend, we saw the completion of two major political alliances for this coming Senate Elections that has just began here in the Philippines. Now we have two political forces with familiar faces nonetheless on opposite sides of the fences. On one end, you have Tito Sotto and Tessie Aquino-Oreta who were two major stalwarts of the opposition and the FPJ Campaign in 2004 hobnobbing with the woman (Pres. GMA) whom they claimed to have cheated FPJ in the last Presidential Elections.On the other side of the fence, you see Manny Villar, the former house speaker who was actually responsible for impeaching Erap now part of the United Opposition who is led by no less than... Erap himself. Now if you don't see anything wrong with this picture then you must be one of the many Filipinos who have accepted this very sad reality that there is indeed no permanent ideals that our government leaders stand up for but rather they just go where there self-interests can best be served. It is this kind of politics why I no longer wonder why good people like Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City or outstanding Bulacan Governor Josie Dela Cruz will find it hard or worse, never be elected to national positions.

1.) If former COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of Hello Garci fame wins in his bid to become Congressman of Bukidnon...seeking to replace a good man no less in incumbent Cong. Neric Acosta... We would really be the laughing stock of the whole world if we allow a man with the reputation of Garci to be one of our so called "Honorable Gentlemen".

2.) If Dancing Queen Tessie Aquino Oreta reclaims her seat at the Senate... I hope that all of us would still remember that dance that she did during the 2001 impeachment hearings after they voted to overrule the decision of then Chief Justice Davide... let us make sure that people like her never make it to the Senate again.

3.) If Richard Gomez becomes a senator... what does he know about making laws? We already have the likes of Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid in the Senate and their performance or lack of it would be reason enough not to elect another actor who has no prior experience in government to the distinguished halls of the Senate.

4.) If Gringo Honasan wins again.... have we not learned our lesson? I cannot believe that just because someone is charismatic then we will just elect him to become one of our senators despite the fact that he has time and again caused so much instability in our country... if we want a military junta similar to that of Thailand... then lets all vote for this guy....

5.) If Manny Pacquiao becomes Congressman of General Santos City... everybody loves Manny the Boxing Champ but Manny the Lawmaker? Lets be realistic here, Manny is our Hero alright but I think it takes more than just great boxing skills and a desire to serve to be able to make appropriate laws that would help uplift the lives of the many Filipinos who live in Poverty.

6.) If Lito Lapid wins for Mayor of Makati City... I don't like Jojo Binay as well but Lito Lapid as city mayor of the country's finance and business center?!?! And do you really think he is from Makati and has good plans for the city? The Arroyos asking someone like him to run just goes to show you how much love and concern this government has for our country.

7.) If Chavit Singson becomes a Senator, Illegal Gambling =Chavit... enough said.

Now if all of these 7 things happen during this coming elections then don't be surprised if I decide to leave this country that I love dearly. Like I said during the first part of my letter, I feel that I have done much for this country but I think its time that Filipinos become more vigilant and critical in selecting our leaders for the sake of our future and the generations that will go beyond us. So I appeal to every Filipino who asks what can I actually do for my country... Choose and vote for the right people this coming elections, huwag na tayong magpaloko sa mga kandidatong maganda lang ang jingle o gwapo lang sa mga poster. Let us choose leaders who have a good track record for service and who are genuinely committed towards serving our country.

Manindigan naman tayong lahat para sa ating Kinabukasan at para sa Kapakanan ng ating Bayan!

Thank you very much for your time in reading this letter.

Sincerely,

Harvey S. Keh



Bong Austero evenrtually became a Manila Standard columnist. Harvey Keh meanwhile is organizing the Bagong Pag Asa Movement. To some extent, the authors had their moment of instant fame. Nothing wrong with that. My issue is, why this phenomenon. Not just the letter writing itself but the deluge of responses such open letters get. My greater issue is the lost opportunity to build up on something.

Both letters are about frustrations in the state of our nation. The thousands of reactions, too, are expressions of frustrations. But once this frustration is released, things tend to calm down. The internal tension becomes less, therefore the state of things become less untolerable.

It won't be surprisng if months from now, another letter will be passed around and will bring some attention to the writer. The letter will again get tons of reactions, and the cycle goes on. At the end of the day, nothing really changed.

So who's next?

If us, the middle class, the thinking class, will continue to see things from our point of view, there isn't really much we can do about our national situation. We can always engage in endless debates, easily form groups, clubs, associations and movements, interact in cyberspace, hold medical/dental missions, collect books/toys/clothes for charity, write open letters and react to these letters, hold fund raising for calamity victims, etc. the tambays will continue to drink red horse on credit, play tong its, sell their votes for a few kilos of rice, vote for incompetent actors/actresses/athletes, etc. We, the middle class, need to make a connection otherwise things will just remain more of the same.

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