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Vox populi, vox Dei?

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Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

To Take A Stand

Vox populi, vox Dei?

Vox populi, vox Dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God, so let the people decide come election time, say personages of national stature.

Free and democratic elections were restored after the approval of the new Constitution in 1987. Since then the people have elected as president Joseph Estrada, a college dropout turned actor best known for his portrayal of the underworld character Asiong Salonga, and Gloria Arroyo, who was made to look like the singer/actress Nora Aunor during her candidacy for various national positions, from senator to vice-president to president. Actor Fernando Poe, Jr. claimed he won over Gloria Arroyo in the presidential election of 2004 but the Nora Aunor look-alike, who was the incumbent president then by virtue of the ouster Joseph Estrada, had the results of the election altered.

People have also elected to the Philippine Senate, where the voices of intellectual giants like Manuel L. Quezon, Manuel A. Roxas, Jose P. Laurel, Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo M. Tañada, and Jose W. Diokno once reverberated, celebrities from show business and the sports world. Elected to the Senate by virtue of their popularity as entertainers have been the aforementioned actor Joseph Estrada, Ramon Revilla, Sr., the actor who gained fame and fortune for portraying another gangland character, Nardong Putik, their actor sons Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, Tito Sotto, star of the TV noontime variety show, Eat Bulaga, the No. 1 medium of toilet humor, Lito Lapid, movie stuntman turned actor. Except for Sotto, the men do not have a college degree, some of them never had tertiary education.

There are others who rode to the Senate on the wings of their show business partners like Ralph Recto, husband of Box Office Queen Vilma Santos, and Francis Pangilinan, husband of Megastar Sharon Cuneta. It should be noted though that their academic attainments prepared them better for their role in the Senate. There is Grace Poe, daughter of Da King FPJ and movie queen Susan Roces. Then there are/were TV personalities, newscasters Noli de Castro and Loren Legarda.

Elected to the Senate by virtue of the fame gained in the sports arenas were former Olympic and professional basketball players Freddie Webb, who later went into show business as the star of the TV sitcom Chicks to Chicks, and Robert Jaworski, also a movie bit actor. And of course, Manny Pacquiao, 8-division world boxing champion.

In the senatorial race of 1992, crowded out of the winning circle by the show business people were President Cory Aquino’s Health Secretary Alran Bengzon, Trade and Industry Secretary Joe Concepcion, and Solicitor-General Francisco Chavez. In 1998 it was Yale Law master and Commission on Elections chair Haydee Yorac and University of Michigan master of Business Administration and President Fidel Ramos’ Secretary of Finance Roberto de Ocampo.




The people had spoken. They had elected Joseph Estrada president and subsequently Gloria Arroyo. They had elected Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Lito Lapid senators.

If the voice of the people is the voice of God, were Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo the choice of God? Gloria Arroyo herself has told the Associated Press that “Divine providence put me here. The Lord is a very good manager of my career.” On another occasion, she told Time magazine, “Where I am is where God wants me to be.”

Estrada had been convicted of plunder. Arroyo was also accused of plunder. She was acquitted though for “insufficiency of evidence” — not for lack of evidence. Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla have been accused of plunder and Lapid still has to explain the source of the huge amount of US dollars his wife tried to smuggle into the United States. They could not have been God’s choice.

According to Wikipedia, the Latin phrase was first used by Alcuin, an English clergyman, scholar, teacher and adviser of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled much of western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages. Alcuin wrote Charlemagne a letter advising him “not to listen to those who keep saying ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God.’ because the tumult of the crowd is always close to madness.”

“See, judge, and act,” a present-day apostle of Christ, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, exhorts the faithful. The exhortation is unnecessary for the faithful do see, judge and act. But the problem is the frame of reference for their judgment. I read in social media a young woman will vote for Bong Revilla because she finds him handsome.

Ronald de la Rosa has said voters come to campaign sorties not to listen to a discussion of national issues but for the entertainment. That is why he resorts to some comical antics to entertain the crowd. In fact, he was clowning all throughout his stint as chief of police. Public opinion surveys show him to be among the top 15 senatorial candidates.

The latest Pulse Asia election survey indicates that people will elect to the Senate Imee Marcos, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, and Bong Revilla. Ah, the voice of the people is indeed always close to madness, oftentimes it is madness.

 

Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan! a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.

oplagman@yahoo.com