Perils of reconciliation
by Manuel L. Quezon III
A FEW weeks ago, on a radio show, I said that there cannot be any reconciliation without victory. President Roxas only put an end to the collaboration issue after winning election in 1946, and holding the collaborators at arm’s length during the campaign.
But the real question is what reconciliation is required -who is supposed to reconcile with whom? The Kit Tatads of this world maintain that the strength of the opposition lies in a widespread fury over the way Joseph Estrada lost his office; that what enraged the masses was the way the impeachment turned out, with the broader population angry at Loren Legarda for crying and I suppose, on their part filled with tears over the way Kit Tatad’s vote not to open the second envelope was not allowed to open up the way for throwing the impeachment out.
Riddle me this, then. If this is so, why then did Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta take the face-saving way out, deciding not to run for reelection supposedly to preserve harmony in the Aquino clan, when everyone knows she isn’t running because she can’t win (her survey rating was abysmal). The supposedly furious masses should be solidly behind her, of all people, because if it’s true they despise Loren Legarda for weeping on that fateful night, they should positively adore Oreta for her little dance of joy.
The thing is, the masses don’t apparently adore her, and their not doing so must make one question the self-serving certainties of Kit Tatad’s view of the political world. I am bold enough to say that the reason Tessie Aquino had to back down because she didn’t have a ghost of a chance of winning, is the same reason the masses let Estrada flee the Palace in the first place: the Filipino, regardless of class, hates to see people gloat, it detests those who are foolish with the gifts given them, it hates mean people and bullies.
Which brings us to what rescued Joseph Estrada from permanent disgrace and brought him back from the obscurity and shame to which he had sunk. The same basic sense of decency that was violated on one part by Oreta (and which I think demolished the instinctive respect the masses had for her as the sister of Ninoy) was then violated by Civil Society in baying for Estrada’s blood and demanding for his being hauled off to jail. The masses were probably left stupified by the way people erupted in disgust over the results of Kit Tatad and company’s votes, and scattered in confusion in the face of middle-class fury (where was the upper class during Edsa Dos? except for the politicians and some brave people like Raffy Alunan, I’ll tell you where they were: making a beeline for the NAIA to get on the first plane out of Manila to Hong Kong or San Francisco). But the same masses then erupted in digust when the down-and-out Estrada who’d cowardly fled the Palace was then dragged from his home and photographed like a hoodlum at Camp Crame. What brought Estrada down -the meanness shown by himself and his friends, particulartly the manner in which their kicking a crook who was down, Chavit Singson, betrayed how he and his friends didn’t even practice honor among thieves, one of the paramount Filipino cultural values- was what brought him up again. Estrada was finished after Edsa Dos; Estrada became a force to reckon with during Edsa Tres, which was as much a spontaneous outpouring of resentment as the previous Edsa was, all the efforts of various factions of the ruling class to hijack it to the contrary.
When Joseph Estrada was cowering in, and then fled, the Palace, the masses voted deafeningly to let him fall by default. The reason being was they they believed he’d brought it down on himself, in no small part due to the conceit of the Tatads, Enriles, and Oretas of the Senate. But what made him their darling once more was his being kicked when he was down and out. Estrada needed no help from Civil Society to fall from Power, though Civil Society certainly wasted no time, together with the military, in organizing a swift end to the power vacuum that could have lingered. But no one else but Civil Society was responsible for making Estrada the force to reckon with he is today.
Which brings us back to reconciliation. Only victory will make it possible, and yet, it will only be possible with the victory of an administration that has lost much of the Civil Society support that has put it in the handicapped position it is in today. The opposition cannot offer it, even if it wins, because to remain true to its nature, as Estrada and his people have so sharply reminded Fernando Poe, the opposition is anchored on getting even and not getting along. The only reconciliation the opposition can consider is reconciliation among its own factions; the administration, with everyone else, because if it wins, it will have closed the chapter on Edsa Dos and Edsa Tres with a mandate of its own. The lack of which has been the cause of all its failed attempts at cobbling together unity up to the present.