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Country, self and everything in between

The film “Heneral Luna” poses the question: Which should we place above all, the interest of our country, or our own?  These words were uttered in the context of the 1898 war, when the country’s leaders were torn between fighting the Americans and working with them to preserve business interests.

Those events took place more than a century ago, but the question remains relevant. The disparate interests of country and self have been invoked much too often, sometimes legitimately, and sometimes not.

Soldiers and policemen who risk their lives every day in the course of their job clearly choose the interests of the country. Why put yourself out there, vulnerable to attacks on every front,  and away from your family and the comforts of home, if you did not genuinely believe that the Philippines is worth fighting, and dying, for?

On the contrary, the “bayan-o-sarili” dilemma has also been exploited by those who wish to project themselves as messiahs of some sort. President Aquino, for instance, has said on numerous occasions that the presidency had been imposed on him, that he was living his quiet, predictable life as a rather unremarkable lawmaker when he had to respond to the clamor for him to run as president upon the death of his mother.

Now he laments his hair is falling and he has less time for his personal life—the woes of choosing country over self.

This week, another member of the Liberal Party seems to have done just that, and we have yet to see whether her claims would hold water. Camarines Sur Rep. Leonor Gerona Robredo, the widow of former Naga City mayor and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo on Monday declared she would be seeking the vice presidency as the running mate of her husband’s successor at the DILG, Manuel Roxas II.

Robredo knows she is not first choice. The Liberal Party stalwarts first publicly wooed Senator Grace Poe, who turned them down several times before announcing she wants to run for President. Even then, Robredo still took her time, saying at first that she was not prepared for the job and that her children were vehemently against the idea of her running for the second-highest post of the land. She said she might consider re-election at the lower House or at most seek a Senate seat.

And now this.

Robredo’s eventual acceptance of the Liberal Party’s offer also comes at a time when the organization is under fire for inviting a dance group during a member’s birthday party last week. The Playgirls, clad in skimpy outfit, performed a sexually suggestive number with (eager) participation of a yellow-clad man.  They were said to have been a gift of Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino to Rep. Benjamin Agarao. The party leadership’s response to the scandal has been infuriating at worst and lame at best.

The women’s group Gabriela has told Robredo that her decision to run under the Liberal banner would be a form of suicide on her part. But all that is academic, and it’s Roxas-Robredo for 2016 for the party.

We can only speculate on Robredo’s decision-making process on this one. She did acknowledge her lack of experience for such an important post. What could have changed her mind? Did somebody tell her to abandon her personal misgivings and think, instead, of the good of the country?

But is not unpreparedness itself a form of disservice to the country, and running unprepared only a means to self-aggrandizement?

We are convinced Robredo has the sincerity to serve. Her record as a people’s lawyer speaks for itself, and her low-key personality shows she is not one to claim credit not due her. But that is Robredo today—who knows how her association with “seasoned” politicians would affect her in the long run?

Robredo should be reminded her primary appeal to the Liberals is her potential to  shore up the popularity of Roxas. But a victory for Roxas does not necessarily translate to public good. It’s not in the interest of the country, either. Just his, and the party-loving party’s.

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