Letter to the President

What follows is something I found in my e-mail.  It is supposedly an open letter from F. Sionil Jose to the new President.

You are now swamped with suggestions and advice, but just the same, I hope you’ll have time to read what this octogenarian has to say.

You were not my choice in the last election but since our people have spoken, we must now support you and pray that    you prevail. But first, I must remind you of the stern reality that your drumbeaters ignore: you have no noble legacy   from your forbears. It is now your arduous job to create one yourself in the six years that you will be the single  most powerful Filipino. Six years is too short a time – the experience in our part of the world is that it takes at least one generation – 25 years – for a sick nation to recover and prosper. But you can begin that happy process of  healing.

Bear in mind that the past weighs heavily on all of us because of the many contradictions in it that we have not  resolved, whose resolutions would strengthen us as a nation. This past is now your burden, too. Let us start with the fact that your grandfather collaborated with the Japanese. Your father was deeply aware of this, its stigma, its  possibilities. He did not leave any legacy because he did not become president. He was a brilliant and courageous politician. He was an enterprising journalist; he had friends in journalism who can attest to his effulgent vision,  who did not profit from his friendship, among them Nestor Mata, Gregorio Brillantes – you may consult them. I cannot  say I did not profit – he bought many books from my shop and when he was in Marcos’s prison, your mother brought  books from my shop to him.

Forgive me for giving you this unsolicited advice. First, beware of hubris; you are surrounded by panderers who will  tell you what is nice to hear. You need to be humble always and heed your conscience. When Caesar was paraded in ancient Rome before the cheering multitudes, there was always a man chanting behind him: “Remember, you are mortal.”I  say to you, remember, the poor – some of them in your own hacienda – will be your ultimate judge.

From your comfortable and privileged cocoon, you know so little of our country and people. Seek the help of the best and the best do not normally want to work in government and neither will they approach you. You have to seek them.

Be the revolutionary your father wanted to be and don’t be scared or wary of the word “revolution. ” It need not be always bloody. EDSA I was not. Your father wanted to destroy the most formidable obstacle to our progress – the Oligarchy to which you and your family belong. To succeed, you have to betray your class. If you cannot smash the oligarchy, at least strive to have their wealth develop this country, that they bring back the billions they stashed abroad. You cannot do this in six years, but you can begin.

Prosecute the crooks. It is difficult, thankless and even dangerous to do this. Your mother did not do it – she did  not jail Imelda who was the partner in that conjugal dictatorship that plundered this nation. Watch her children – they were much too young to have participated in that looting but they are heirs to the billions which their parents stashed abroad. Now the Marcoses are on the high road to power, gloating, snickering at our credulity and despicable amnesia.

You know the biggest crooks in and out of government, those powerful smugglers, thieves, tax cheats – all you really  need is guts to clobber them. Your father had lots of it – I hope he passed on to you most of it.

And most of all, now that you have the muscle to do it, go after your father’s killers. Blood and duty compel you to do so. Cory was only his wife – you are the anointed and only son. Your regime will be measured by how you resolve  this most blatant crime that robbed us of a true leader.

And, finally, your mother. We loved her – she united us in ousting an abominable dictator. But she, too, did not leave a shining legacy for her presidency was a disaster. She announced a revolutionary government but did nothing revolutionary. She promised land reform but did not do it. And most grievous of all – she transformed the EDSA I  revolution into a restoration of the oligarchy.

She became president only because her husband was murdered and you became president elect only because your mother died. Still, you are your father’s son and may you now – for the good of this country and people – scale the heights he and your mother never reached.

I am 85 and how I despair over how three generations of our leaders failed! Before I go, please let me see this unhappy country begin to be a much better place than the garbage dump our leaders and people have made it. You can be this long awaited messiah but only if you are brave enough and wise enough to redeem your father’s aborted promise.

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