Brave women are changing the conversation. They are confronting the dumbing down of politics here and abroad, pushing back against the naysayers, and proving that there is no substitute to speaking truth to power by combining courage with conviction.
Fiona Hill, the coal miner’s daughter from northeast England turned Harvard-trained Russia expert, testified in the public hearings on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump, and denounced the “fictional narrative” being peddled by Republican leaders. Following Trump’s lead, GOP members of the House of Representatives had claimed it was Ukraine rather than Russia that had interfered in the 2016 presidential election, contrary to the consensus of their own country’s intelligence community. But based on the solid research she had done through the years, Hill confronted the legislators who refused to face facts, and dismissed the “fake conspiracy theories” bandied about by the populist president’s unthinking allies.
Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, who was deposed and attacked by Trump, likewise pushed back against the vindictive politics and the smear campaign orchestrated by Trump’s inner circle. She spoke her truth and fought back against the dumbing down of politics.
Here at home, we saw Vice President Leni Robredo, during her brief tenure as cochair of the administration’s antidrugs coordinating body, consulting organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes. Robredo was trying to establish baseline data and metrics that would help the country understand the nature of the drug problem, as well as the measure of the progress being made, in tackling the problem. At the same time, her studied approach had tried to focus on steps undertaken by local governments in concert with national agencies, to create the required synergy needed to deal with the menace in the most effective manner possible.
Meanwhile, all the President’s men were doubling down on setting up all kinds of hurdles to her work, expressed in a torrent of critical views hurled at Robredo even as she had barely begun the initial phase of her work. Such is the dumbing down of politics in our midst that the President’s lieutenants were falling all over themselves to rage incoherently at Robredo, from Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano suggesting that the Vice President had started on the “wrong mouth” by transforming “Operasyon Tokhang” into “Operasyon All-Talk,” to senator-cum-aide Bong Go challenging Robredo thus: “If you can kill the drug lords, kill them. If you can’t, tell us.”
Former top cop and now senator Bato dela Rosa demeaned her efforts with sexist language, while acting Police Chief Lt. Gen Archie Gamboa warned the VP to leave law-enforcement matters on the drug war to the PNP and PDEA. Icad cochair Aaron Aquino, for his part, withheld the list of “high value drug targets” Robredo had requested, while presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo brushed all the bullying aside by saying, “If she can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, then leave her post quietly.”
In the end, the President had to fire Robredo — a brave woman who gave no indication that she would bow down to the browbeating and insults, and hence had to be removed swiftly lest she do more damage to an outmaneuvered administration. This is a woman who thrives in the heat of battle. It was she who framed her acceptance of the task entrusted to her by announcing that she was ready to buckle down to work, while knowing full well the limitations that would accompany the job at hand. “The question is: Are you ready for me?” she asked the Duterte administration.
The President and his men weren’t. Somebody eventually turned tail, and it wasn’t Robredo. Like her, as we deal with the dumbing down of politics, citizens must learn to confront and push back, to restore some sense and sanity to the way we do politics. Courage!
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Ed Garcia is one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.
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