When Madame President filed her COC to run for Congresswoman of Pampanga, the irony must have been lost on her. Just last week she honored Efren Penaflorida, a man whose modest outreach to uneducated and marginalized youth was recognized by the world over. Sure, the CNN Hero award is no Nobel Peace Prize. Sure, it was conferred by him through populist voting via the Internet.
But by conferring unto Efren the Order of Lakandula, Madame President has elevated Efren’s prize into something more. According to EO236 (The Honors Code of the Philippines) —
The Order of Lakandula is conferred upon a Filipino or foreign citizen:
a. who has demonstrated by his life and deeds a dedication to the welfare of society;
b. whose life is worthy of emulation by the Filipino people;
c. for deeds worthy of particular recognition, including suffering materially for the preservation and defense of the democratic way of life and of the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines, for devoting his life to the peaceful resolution of conflict, or for demonstrating an outstanding dedication to the fostering of mutual understanding, cultural exchange, justice and dignified relations among individuals; or
d. for acts that have been traditionally recognized by the institution of presidential awards, including meritorious political and civic service.
The Order of Lakandula elevates Efren’s prize from an example to a standard. That is the very essence of honoring distinguished achievement and patriotic service. These very acts, in the words of EO236, “enhance the prestige of a nation.”
The irony is that while Madame President claims to run for Congresswoman once again for the sake of public service — it runs in her DNA, she says — she should be the first to know that public service isn’t monopolized by public office.
I doubt anyone will rush to confer the Order of Lakandula on PGMA for pursuing another government post after a long, storied and troubled affair with the Presidency of the Philippines. It’s ignoble at the least.
She could go into something else if her heart was true. Start a foundation. A school. Go back to teaching economics. The least she could do is spare the country of the divisive and polarizing debates her candidacy has already brought.
The irony is that she has elevated Efren’s example into a standard she herself may never meet; some may say had already failed to meet. And there is a wide chasm between Efren’s fifteen minutes of fame and Madame President’s nine years in office — only one enhanced the prestige of the nation.