Where I stand

When Privileged Communications Land You in Hot Soup: is my Arab News column for today.

Plebiscitary democracy: is my PDI column for today.

Let me use this forum to explain, clearly, where I stand concerning the issue of the controversial tape (and versions thereof). I am posting this here, in my blog, to make it clear this is my own personal view, and not one endorsed by any organization I’m affiliated with, or work with, either the Philippine Daily Inquirer, or Inq7.net which publishes Inquirer content online, or the Ayala Museum or the Arab News.

I worked for the President for a long time, first as a speechwriter, then as a technical assistant, and then as a presidential assistant. I am proud of my work with her, not least because, in doing that work, I had the privilege of working with people of whose patriotism and good intentions I have no doubt. In all the undertakings related to the President I engaged in before and after she became President, it was made clear to me that responsibility, hard work, and honesty were required. And yet in my writing I tried to temper my partisanship by trying to be impartial and have a mind of my own in writing about current events. Though I was at Edsa Dos, I wrote critically, before and after it, of some of the things I observed; though Edsa Tres was aimed against the President, I went there to talk to people and tried to point out it was legitimate people power until the point was reached when it turned violent, and its leaders melted away to abandon their followers to the truncheons and tear gas of the government. I opposed Mikey Arroyo’s running for office; I tried to point out where Fernando Poe Jr. appealed to the best of us, and where those around him reminded us of the worst of us. And I deplored the tricks used to call his citizenship into question.

So let me speak from the point of view of those who opposed Joseph Estrada and all his works, not least because he could have been a great president but squandered his chances. And for those who supported Gloria Macapagal Arroyo because, for all her defects, she had a golden opportunity to lead the country forward, if she did so without regard to the personal fortunes of her family, or to politics of the worst and most corrosive kind. I wanted her to succeed, because she could, if she set her mind to it.

I’ve written that Cory Aquino will go down favorably in our history because of all our presidents, only she showed what we so deeply desire to see in our leaders: a willingness to relinquish power. No other president has been able to serenely walk away from power. I recall that one of the most emotional moments during my service to the President was the day after she declared she would not run for a full term. There were many in the Palace choked with emotion -with pride. At that point I vowed to accomplish all I had set out to do with her guidance and approval, so that the Palace would be a place filled with history for her successor. When she declared that she had changed her mind, I’d finished most of what I’d set out to do, and knew the time had come to move on. Serendipitously, two offers came my way at about that time, from the Inquirer and the Ayala Museum, and so I could resign having done what I was brought in to do, and without fear of being unable to continue earning a living.

I voted for her in 2004, because of my observations about her opponents. I believed she won,but was disturbed by the conduct of her allies in Congress and the gloating that took place in the Visayas -both observations are documented in the columns I wrote at the time. Her victory was, at the very least, plausible. I have said this time and again. But it is precisely for that reason that I believe that it’s everyone’s duty to listen to the tapes, and, having listened to them, ask some tough questions both of the President, and of themselves. The issue of the tape requires consistency of those who take pride in Edsa I and Edsa II; and it demands that those who supported, or support her, make a deliberate effort not to blind themselves to reality.

That reality is that the tape is there, and that the government, instead of seeking out the truth, has tried to ignore it, and even suppress the efforts of those who want to inquire into the circumstances surrounding that tape. The reality is that, setting aside the ambitions of the political opposition and other groups trying to use the tape for partisan purposes, the behavior of the government at present constitutes a betrayal of the President’s supporters.

Unless you knew of a plan to cheat, and unless you believe cheating in elections is desirable, then you supported the President in 2004 because you believed she deserved the job, and would be a credit to your vote and the country. The opposition in its many factional forms, has never believed the President capable of good, and yet tens of thousands of Filipinos actively worked to prove she deserved the mandate of the people, and millions of Filipinos went to the polls in the honest belief that she did. If it is proven she deliberately set out to thwart the people’s will, then she first of all betrayed her own constituency, and is responsible for denying the nation its paramount right -to freely elect its leaders.

Consistency: if you objected to censorship during martial law, if you read Mr. & Ms. after the wake of Ninoy’s murder; if you watched illegal videotapes, and helped smuggle them around, so that the people would know what was really going on, then you have to listen to the tape -in all its versions.

Consistency: If you sang “Bayan Ko” and rallied in the streets to bring back democracy, that is, if you helped fight to make elections free, then you have to listen, read, and decide for yourself what it all may mean.

Consistency: If you believe “we cannot have a nation run by a thief,” and rallied to demand the resignation of a man who put the presidency in disrepute, then you recognize that a president who betrays public trust has no right to continue in office. This means, then, that should a betrayal of public trust occur in the case of his successors, they do not deserve to continue in office, either.

Consistency: If you opposed the muzzling of the press during martial law, if you denounced the attempts to cow it under Estrada, then you must denounce and resist similar efforts now, and they are clearly taking place. I am not a lawyer, but in bringing out the tapes in the first place, can the government claim any right to forbid us to listen to the tape, and make up our own mind?

Consistency: The overwhelming majority of our people, I believe, want the system to work, and are not rash to judge until the system has been given a chance to resolve things. Let the system be given a chance; but should it fail us, then we cannot deny ourselves the option of people power. I do believe this: the targets of people power in the past, cannot be the beneficiaries of people power in the future; and also that those who have participated in people power in the past, cannot claim that it should be denied anybody in the future. Most of all: people power is peaceful, it is disciplined, it is idealistic, it places the leaders and followers side by side and in the line of fire together.

Consistency: The question is a simple one, and nothing should distract us from this. It is a question of the President’s continued fitness for office. What will determine that fitness? Her being forthright with her people and disabusing them of the notion that she betrayed them by cheating her way to victory. The only way she can do this is to prove that the tapes are not genuine, that she never engaged in improper conversations with Comelec officials, that she was not the commander in chief of an army of fraud. Should she fail to do this -if she continues to hide behind a wall of silence, if she fails to take an active role in determining the authenticity or falseness of any version of the tape- then as of that moment she has lost her right to lead the country. I suggest those at the forefront of demanding clear, unequivocal executive action should be her supporters, because if she fails to prove her innocence she has betrayed those who supported her out of a genuine conviction most of all.

Consistency: To have faith in our country and its people. We have gone far since Edsa I, you only have to remember the fear that was felt during martial law. We have not had to live with such feelings of fear, except, perhaps, when military putschists periodically embark on their mischief. We cannot be ruled by fear, of the unknown, of the future, of those trying to capitalize on the situation. We must be ruled by an unshakeable faith in ourselves, that we would rather risk all, than live in a society that distrusts its people, and prefers a sham democracy to the real thing.

I have listened to the tapes. I am suspending full judgement until the tape -and the various versions of it floating around- have been studied by institutions such as the FBI. But one can only wait so long; the longer we wait, the stronger the doubt must grow. The editorial of the Inquirer yesterday put it best: this is more than politics. As the editorial ends, so does this manifesto of sorts, end: “The President must show leadership by example. She must be the first to live by the maxim that the truth shall set us free -even, as she has herself said, if this means the chips must fall where they may.”

Manuel L. Quezon III.

74 thoughts on “Where I stand

  1. (1) SWS is not always correct. the exit polls suggests that she won – does not mean she did won. (2) NAMFREL did a boo-boo last elections when it decided not to disclose where it was getting their data when making their bulletins. (3) I suggest you return to our country and see for yourself. Since you admitted you are a migrant Filipino, I guess you are insulated from what’s happening here. (4) The courst have erred too, specially the current Supreme Court (twice, to my conservative reckoning), and civics tells us that we somehow need to know outr laws, and that means, interpreting them.

    You wanted evidence. The opposition wanted to present the evidence that GMA cheated, but the Supreme Court shot it down by following the law to the letter.

    I don’t think we need economic reforms. What we need is to rethink our priorities.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have relatives who had migrated to the States, and they are not telling me anything. Because they are wise enough to think that since they are not at ground zero, they don’t have to comment. And besides – and this is my belief – once you migrated and got a new citizenship, you are no longer Filipino. That’s my belief.

    MLQ3, I like this piece. You are right.

  2. i’ve been gone for only a few months so don’t tell me about what’s happening on the ground. I even voted in the last elections and I know what happened to that contest thank you very much. if people like you cannot put trust in their courts, the poll organizations, the civic groups then our country is really in trouble. I think you have made up your mind that someone else won, but you need to have proof and you need to present in the proper forum.

    people ought to be suspending their judgement at this point. Rather, put pressure on the proper agencies to investigate instead of getting a statement from arroyo. once you got your numbers right and it proves that arroyo lost, then talk again!

  3. mr quezon,

    short of a confirmation of culpability from a judicial or impeachment court, her closest supporter, OF ALL PEOPLE, have a RESPONSIBILITY to keep the faith instead of RUSHING TO FEEL BETRAYED after hearing these tapes that are not even proven to be authentic or untampered, let alone that it might be illegally obtained. You have been able to observe this president up close (as you have said). You’re one of the few lucky ones who can readily reconcile your perception of her character against what these charges suggest. is it out of character for her to cheat?! if you think it’s hard to believe that she would cheat, and there are enough indications that she won, then you ought to at least give her the benefit of the doubt, even if she says nothing at all about this issue.

    This issue should not be resolved by statements in the media. This should be fought in our courts, however weak they are. That’s the only way to strengthen our democratic systems. why even the salongas and dioknos of this world chose to fight their battles in court–at a more darker and sinister time, when it was seen as ridiculous to to wage such a battle! To the media, start putting more substance in the headlines that you force down people’s throat! Tama na’ng puro telenovela!

  4. richard: you’re welcome to read throughout my blog and my columns for what i perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of the president. many who know her are disturbed at the present time precisely because of what we perceive to be her strengths and weaknesses -perceptions that come from what we observe, both up close and from afar. incidentally, in online forums, using capital letters is impolite, it’s equivalent to shouting. as for the salongas, et. al, for every case and petition they filed in court, they accompanied it with discussions in public, including manifestos, letters, etc. that is why salonga, for example, publishes kilosbayan. courts are human institutions, too, and it is public interest and demands for accountability that keeps them honest.

  5. Bert: The Spam Karma is essential at this point, some stupid sites keep trying to spam comment me, it’s the only system that kinda, sorta, works.

  6. mr quezon,

    no disrespect intended there. it’s just that you cannot underscore or italize anything here and capitalizing the words seems to be the only option to emphasize certain points…i’d be shouting if all the texts were capitalized.

    sure, i agree that courts need to feel public pressure…so let’s bring this issue to the courts and find out the truth within the justice system. while we’re at it, let’s put pressure on the opposition to act more responsibly and stop their endless schemes to put themselves in power.

  7. Battle it out in a court? YOU MUST BE JOKING! our supreme court
    erred when they declared gloria’s assumption in power is legal. they erred when they got fraports project
    null and void, they erred about lots of things since davide became the chief of justice. much more
    will happen if gloria versus The people of republic of the philippines fight it out in a court.
    Pity some still believe in our judicial system where you can bribe the police investigator to the fiscal to the judge to the justice for a price.

    richard have you heard the tape? the 3 hours long tape? some people i know who supported gloria all the way were bothered when they heard the tape. Mind you 2 of them worked directly under gloria when she was a vice president then moved to another field. Believe me these people are gloria fanatics but still they were bothered. a lot of people are bothered.

    the last thing I need to hear is some “migrant” filipino telling us what to do for they abandoned their country and chose a greener pasture elsewhere. and when they get there they feel patriotic and kept
    giving unsolicited advices about the affairs of a country they left.

    • the courts don’t necessarily err because they happen to issue decisions that you don’t like..
    • yes, i’ve heard the tapes and if you could have two versions of the same conversation with gloria talking to two sets of individuals, don’t you think it just might be possible that these tapes are tampered?
    • these tapes are brought out by the opposition, which is the noblest source of credible information tthat one can rely on!
    • stop digging at my migrant status. i’m still a filipino citizen and my entire family is still there so i have every right to speak up against how this issue is being abused to put our country off-track; btw, the dollars that people like me bring back to our country surely give me some right to participate! my savings are in the philippines, and that gives me a stake in our country’s future.
  8. richard: you could try asterisks to *underscore* your points? it might work. my personal view is that the first thing that should be done is fnd out *which* of the tapes, if any, are genuine. then, obtain from the courts a ruling (which actually, the doj or solgen should have done, but the behavior of the secretary of justice has antagonized people) on what should be done.

    also, let me state that whether an ofw or a filipino resident abroad, all filipinos have the right to be heard, speak up, and if they want (unless theyve changed citizenship) vote.

  9. Ever since i first read your column in inquirer, i have become a “follower” of yours. you seem to know and believe in what you’re saying. they say that the press are paid now, i don’t think you’re one of them.

    more power. continue cause that’s where you’re most effective and powerful.

  10. “the courts don’t necessarily err because they happen to issue decisions that you don’t like..”

    Yeah and it also ruined lots of investors confidence. It also ruined my investor’s plan to engage on giving out wireless internet access to rural schools. Oh well thats why I whine to much online.

    “yes, i’ve heard the tapes and if you could have two versions of the same conversation with gloria talking to two sets of individuals, don’t you think it just might be possible that these tapes are tampered?”

    “these tapes are brought out by the opposition, which is the noblest source of credible information tthat one can rely on!”

    The Palace is the first one who claimed and release a cd alledging a wiretapping incident involving the president. Some consultants who verified the cd’s claimed that the so called “palace copy” was doctored and the so called “pirated cd” is the original.

    “stop digging at my migrant status. i’m still a filipino citizen and my entire family is still there so i have every right to speak up against how this issue is being abused to put our country off-track; btw, the dollars that people like me bring back to our country surely give me some right to participate! my savings are in the philippines, and that gives me a stake in our country’s future.”

    My apology but as you can see I got sick and tired of former filipinos or even some migrant filipinos who kept on talking crap about how much they could had done in the philippines and telling their relatives WALANG GANYAN SA STATES. but they don’t do anything else, partying like mad, telling people how miserable they are and how “good” their life abroad and leave while spitting the very essence about what we are as a filipino. Mind you I dont envy them because there are lots of opportunity here if you just have the patience and the knowledge to do it.

  11. mlq3,
    i just would like to commend you on a very insightful observation of things. I look forward to reading more of your insights

  12. I can still remember the days prior to, during and after the infamous Marcos martial law era. It was one of the darkest period of Philippine history. I hope the Filipinos including the leaders have learned something from the past.They should try to preserve the PEACE, the freedom….the DEMOCRACY which many have fought and died for. However, I think Filipinos should do everything, at whatever cost to get to the bottom of this so called “Gloriagate”.The integrity of election is one of the most important component of democracy. No one is above the law. We should know the truth and justice should pravail.

    Congratulations. You have written an excellent manifesto.

  13. May we post your entire manifesto in BB? I am sure Kidlat will be excited to post it there if we have your permission.

  14. When I was very young, I know of a young person also who was often so noisy in class and in campus.Talks a lot but sometimes he talked with sense. He dislike people who are dishonest and people who are like gestapo.I learned the word gestapo from that thin guy with glasses.We went to the same school in Mandaluyong. He is the same child that I once knew,only he is a man now.With this I think you are really a good guy now.This is a powerful piece.I believe logic and sincerity dictates that loyalty should be extended not to personality but to the institution it represents.The presidency is an instution not only of power but also of integrity.A noble office representing Filipinos.So,loyalty should be to the Filipinos not to a personality..like GMA.

    With this piece, you truly deserve to be called a true filipino.For a while there,I thought you will be taking the side of GMA.For a long time you were with her.Again, this piece will prove you are on the side of truth.

    Good for you..MANUEL!!!

  15. Nookie, aba, talk about a blast from the past. Such a pleasant surprise!!!!! I remember our days hanging around so well, you also taught me a few useful words. I added your blog to my links!!

  16. may i just say that our country is still very much immature in temrs in politics that they immediately agree with leftist militants that any militarist or dictatorial regime will undoubtedly be fascist. first and foremost, fascism is an idealistic philosophy that embraces class collaboration rather than class struggle. i’m not saying i’m a fascist but we should know more about political movements beside the worn-out socialist and neo-conservative rubbish being force fed to us by worn-out political activists.the left has failed to achieve its goals (sometimes even betrayed it). it is already time for more contemporary ideaologies that can answer our problems. we can’t simply rely on outdated communism, liberalism, or even christian democracy.if it should be time for a militant and grass roots form of fascism in this country, then so be it.

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