As all Palaweños should know by now, RA 11259 (An Act Dividing the Province of Palawan into Three Provinces) was roundly rejected in the plebiscite held last March 13. The better half of me (the beautiful, brilliant, and saintly Judge Rowie) jokes that I should never have described the proposition as “an idea whose time has come” (which I did in my last piece in this column). Indeed, my hunch turned out to be wrong; but then, to borrow a line from Pontius Pilate in the Johannine account of the Passion (Suffering) and Death of our Lord read on Good Friday, “What I have written, I have written”— Quod scripsi, scripsi (Jn 19:22).
Why did the Ayes lose?
Without any intention of reopening the debate on the merits vel non of RA 11259—but rather to venture an explanation and deepen my own understanding of the dynamics of the electoral exercise; and, naturally, for “closure”—I think (obviously, I could be wrong on this, too) what happened was the triumph of passion (feelings) over reason; and, in this, the principal feeling or emotion would have been Fear—fear of the unknown and uncertain consequences, of whatever suspected sinister plans and motivations of the proponents, of making power more easily accessible to the unworthy, etc. I suggest that the lesson for the student of politics is: if winning elections means “winning the hearts and minds” (WHAM) of the electorate, perhaps “hearts” should truly take precedence over “minds” in political strategy.
In her previous career as a political science professor (she is now doing graduate studies in Philosophy and Theology), our only daughter, Celine, wrote a paper on “framing” (see “Frame Alignments Between the Press and Political Actors: The Corona Impeachment Trial,” published in Philippine Political Science Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1), i.e., the manner of presenting reality in social discourse, that tends towards influencing public perception and judgment. To our daughter’s credit, the article has made me more sensitive to an idea which, even as a politician, I had hardly considered (and to the fact that “politician” is different from “political scientist”, but the two can complement each other). In this connection, right from the start, I think the very title of RA 11259 gave rise to a frame unfavorable to the proponents: perhaps, it should have been “An Act Creating Three Provinces Out of the Province of Palawan” instead of “Dividing the Province of Palawan into Three Provinces,” with all the negativity intuitively associated with “division”.
Lastly, there must be truth in the aphorism, vox populi, vox Dei. At least, in a democracy such as ours, the voice of the people is the voice or will of God. And thinking of divine intervention, one cannot help but note that even the weather helped: the heavy rains (unusual in the season of Lent) all over the province during the voting hours of March 13 literally dampened the ardor of the Ayes (most of whom, like me, probably thought that majority of the voters were in favor of RA 11259). Arguably, many who would have voted Yes may have decided not to leave their homes.
It must have been as much a matter of Providence as of practical considerations (on the part of COMELEC) that the plebiscite was set towards the end of the Lenten season: after the frenzy and furor of the electoral exercise, and the natural break of Holy Week, comes the fifty-day season of Easter which is the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, the confirmation of Jesus’ divinity. (Our Lord said, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” [Mt 12:38-40]). Parenthetically, the very difficulty of believing in the Resurrection argues in favor of Christianity: why base a “deception” on something so difficult to accept? Hopefully, this season of grace will also be a time for healing all wounds—including those caused by division over RA 11259 and, of course, those arising from the Covid-19 Pandemic and the contraction of the economy.
I end with a note on the Blessed Virgin Mary. The scripture accounts of the Resurrection would seem to indicate that our Lord was first seen by Mary Magdalene (Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:9-11; Lk 24:1-10; Jn 20:1-18). On the other hand: “It is an ancient tradition of the Church that Jesus appeared first of all to his Mother in solitude. It could not have been otherwise because she is the first and principal co-redeemer of the human race, in perfect union with her son. Alone she would have been, since this appearance would be for a reason very different from the reason for the other appearances to the women and the disciples. He had to reassure and comfort them, and win them to him definitively in the faith. The Blessed Virgin…did not at any time cease to be in perfect union with the Blessed Trinity. Every last vestige of hope in the Resurrection of Jesus that remained on earth had been gathered into her heart….It is said that each year on this holy day [Easter Sunday] St. Thomas Aquinas counselled his hearers not to fail to congratulate the Blessed virgin on the Resurrection of her Son. And this is exactly what we do…by reciting the Regina Coeli which will take the place of the Angelus during Eastertide” (Fr. Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, vol. 2, No. 47.3).
Blessed Easter season canendong tanan! (8.IV.2021)