Now that a week’s worth of news cycles has passed, the matter of Mocha Uson’s federalism-inspired choreography can be discussed rationally. At least that is my hope, because that is what the subject begs—a rational discussion. Therein, however, lies the problem. Federalism, as a subject, flies over the head of most Filipinos. According to surveys, majority of Filipinos prefer to stick to the Constitution we already have and by extension, prefer the unitary system of government we have in place. Whether this preference translates to hostility to the notion of federalism is something I cannot ascertain, but I think resistance to the new and unfamiliar has a lot to do with the how the public feels.
Ignorance plays a supporting role, too. Intellectually, I do not think most Filipinos can process the idea of federalism. Whether this inability arises from a failed educational system is, again, something I cannot ascertain, but this much I can say: the level of discussion I have read and heard—from social media, from readers’ letters, from what-have-you—or overheard—from people standing in line at the check-out counter, from people inside the elevator, at the next table at the restaurant—the level of discussion is shallow at best and misinformed at worst. I cannot say definitively if Filipinos are capable of depth, but from what I have been hearing, the impression is not flattering.
Ignorance, some insist, can be remedied by education. I don’t know about that. Some of the stupidest people I know are educated, they went to college, some even pursued post-graduate studies, but, oh boy…. Education, I believe, should do something more than just fill up an empty mind with names, dates, place names and assorted factoids learned by rote. It should inculcate certain habits of mind, among them a life-long love of learning, a bottomless curiosity, a willingness to find out the truth for themselves rather than relying merely on what’s fed them. I mostly see none of that when I listen to my peer group, as though their brains have atrophied from being out of school for so long. As for the younger generation, well, the Internet has made it easier for them to cut-and-paste ideas, a proclivity that encourages indolence of mind and lack of original thought.
Federalism, the Duterte administration believes, will gain traction once the public is educated about it. It plans a massive information campaign that, I predict, will saturate the mass media, social media and tabula rasa with propaganda touting the benefits of federalism. The aim is to “educate” the people about the deficiencies of a unitary form of government and how it has failed the great majority of the population. It aims to “educate” the people about a much better alternative that will solve all the country’s problems—all it would take is a new and improved Constitution.
Enter Mocha Uson. And friend. Actually, Mocha has been unfairly derided for the dance that was actually performed by her friend, someone named Drew Olivar who, I could tell, had no formal training in dance. The video furnishes the best evidence of his performance which senators, Mocha’s own bosses at the Presidential Communications Operations Office and private citizens have scorned as vulgar and unbecoming of a public official, an assistant secretary no less. Mocha’s and Drew’s reactions to their critics have been no less aggressive; instead of being contrite, they basically disavow any responsibility for their dance moves and insist that they meant no disrespect to federalism.
Let’s set aside the adjectives for now and re-assess what Mocha Uson managed to do. While a lot of people would disagree with her methods, she focused the conversation to federalism, which is THE hot-button topic. Her rhetoric was shallow, yes, and wrong, but if you have 50 percent of the people saying good things about federalism and the other 50 percent saying bad things about federalism, then you have 100 percent of the people saying something about federalism. That’s raising awareness about the subject.
Another thing: the administration had better re-think its strategy of indoctrinating Filipinos about federalism. I, for one, predict a massive fail if President Duterte, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Pimentel pere et fils get on a bus and stump around the countryside, in the company of scholars and pundits, to sell federalism to the masses. A sober, scholarly, pedantic discussion is the last thing the issue needs. Quite the opposite. It needs sex, lots and lots of sex, the sweaty, heavy-breathing kind, the kind with the three x’s. Right now, the government is taking the people gently by the hand to lead it to the Promised Federation when it should be yanking them about by the short and curlies.
Mocha Uson had the right idea; it was just the execution that was wrong. If you watch the video again, you’ll see that it isn’t so much a dance as it is a cheer. If you tweak it a little, I bet it can be as catchy as, say, “Mambo Magsaysay.” As for the dance, with some work, it could become a national—no, a federal—craze.
Blogger, sexpert, public official, choreographer—is there anything Mocha Uson cannot do? G