We must decide

On June 16 I wrote on where I stood, and what I felt the President must do. She has spoken.

In the light of my appeal on June 16 for consistency, I must examine what she said, in light of my expressed expectations. I said, the President must be forthright with her people and disabuse them of the notion that she betrayed them by cheating her way to victory. I said she had to prove that the tapes weren’t genuine, that she never engaged in improper conversations with Comelec officials, that she was not the commander-in-chief of an army of fraud. Furthermore, I said the President had to take an active role in determining the authenticity or falseness of any version of the tape. And that if she failed to do these things, she would lose her right to lead the country.

So what has the President done? She has tried to disabuse us – that is, we, the people- of the view that she cheated her way to victory. But she also admitted that she engaged in an improper conversation. She regrets getting people upset, in no large part because of the time it’s taken to respond to the public clamor for her to face the issue. She said her actions were an error in judgement, and that we should move on.

Her statement is in keeping with the example given the nation by her father. President Diosdado Macapagal televised an apology to the nation during his term. It was considered an act of personal nobility but of political irrelevance at the time. The present time called for a presidential statement demonstrating frankness and courage. The country got no such thing. Having been so carefully-worded upon the advice of her lawyers, the statement, in my opinion, was characterized by neither frankness nor courage. There was no nobility in this statement; there was craftiness, and cunning. This is not what the country deserved to see. The country moved on, after Diosdado Macapagal’s apology; it saddens me to say the country cannot move on, with the apology made by his daughter. I say this with great sadness as an admirer of both Macapagals.

The President did not tell us which specific conversations, with which specific people, she takes responsibility for. While her statement has settled the issue of whether or not the tapes reflect real events, she still leaves the country in the dark as to which version she considers definitive, and thus, which version she believes only reflects an error in judgement and nothing more serious. This is an important point, one I think will be validated in the coming days, when people will begin focusing on the tapes, in order to make up their minds as to whether the President’s apology should suffice.

We cannot judge whether or not the President’s assertion, that she merely committed an error of judgement, is valid, either in terms of common sense or the law, unless we all have a common frame of reference. The President has only said she spoke to someone, but not whom, though of course by implication she admitted the person she talked to was Commissioner Garcellano. Be that as it may, I submit that no one can make a proper determination for themselves until everyone can agree which recording to base a decision on. Therefore, either the President or her officials must tell the people which recording the President was referring to, in her statement. It was a sign of guile, to me, that she did not make this clarification. She failed to stand by anything specific.

So should we “put this behind us,” as the President asks us to? Not yet; not now; not until the President’s profession of sincerity has been validated in turn, by the actions of her allies in the legislature. This early on, the Secretary of Land Reform has intimated that now that the President has admitted she was one of the voices on a tape, then therefore, the tape is covered by the Anti-Wiretapping Law, and that it cannot be played in public in the House of Representatives. If the Anti-Wiretapping Law is invoked to prevent the airing of the tapes in the House, it is reasonable to assume a similar effort will take place to prevent their being aired on television and radio. The end result would be to deny the public the right -the duty, I’d say- to judge for themselves, whether the President was right. By denying the public that right, then what the public will have been disabused of, is that the President was sincere in wanting to set matters straight with her people.

If we assume, as I think many people are inclined to assume, that it was courageous for the President to speak to the nation and admit she did something wrong (but not criminal), then her example must be followed by those bound to her by ties of party affiliation. Let the nation know which tape the President stands by as genuine; let the people’s representatives play them to their heart’s content; let media follow suit; let the people listen, and let the President’s confidence that her people will be indulgent, be reflected by the behavior of her allies in Congress and the cabinet. I must confess the President’s statement was tepid, to me; but even if you disagree, surely a lukewarm reaction from her allies in Congress can only be disastrous to the President’s cause.

So, most of all, let there be consequences. At a minimum, there must be a swift move by Congress, to censure the President; the President admitted doing a wrong, she must accept a Joint Resolution of Congress censuring her for what she claims to be a lapse in judgement.

This minimum expectation won’t be so easily achieved, and attempting it will demonstrate, I think, beyond a shadow of a doubt, just how believable the President’s apology was. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s far fetched to suspect that the President’s apology will be used as an excuse to stifle debate, instead of encouraging it. The law and procedures in the House, and perhaps also the Senate, will be invoked to prevent the necessary determination by as many people as possible, as to whether the President’s admission and contrition are enough.

Where I stand, at this point, is that the President’s decision to make a guarded, and legally nuanced, but politically over-prudent, apology, has resulted in not only the President, but the Congress, being placed before the bar of public opinion. What was a crisis of faith in the President must necessarily be a crisis of faith -and legitimacy- in our representative institutions. In truth, a Congressional censure would be easily achieved, with the overwhelming majority the administration enjoys, in both chambers. If the administration cannot even achieve that, what more impeachment proceedings, at least the kind that aren’t some sort of Marcosian farce.

For the risk of an impeachment isn’t remote, and it is one we should not set aside, until the public has a chance to reach a consensus. Achieving that consensus, however, seems remote in the short term. In other words, the President has not made it easy, at all, to put things behind us; this may be politically clever, but it isn’t good politics.

Where I stand, today, is: the President has apologized, but it is too little, too late. She can still retrieve the situation by demonstrating moral courage by saying which recording she should be held accountable for; and by instructing her followers not to impede the effort to achieve a national consensus. In being cautious and timid, she has ensured that by no stretch of the imagination should we consider her home free. I will add this: Commissioner Garcellano must face the people now, and stop hiding. Since the President’s said her conversations with him took place, then didn’t the other conversations take place? And even if her conversations with him weren’t criminal, his other conversations sounded patently criminal to me. I don’t see how anyone else can think otherwise. And if this is so, then regardless of the President culpability or lack thereof, Garcellano’s antics put the results of all the areas he handled in doubt; and to doubt those results is to bring us to the sobering question of the credibility of the results of the 2004 elections themselves.

We must decide, then: was the President’s apology enough? And as for what Garcellano, the President’s appointee, did, as shown by the tapes, can the President be blameless, too? The President asks our understanding, she was only anxious to protect her votes. But in relying on Garcellano, was she protecting her votes, or a party to their manufacture?

Manuel L. Quezon III.

27 thoughts on “We must decide

  1. A thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, as always. I’m no fan of the President, but I thought that, under the circumstances, her statement was quite good. I’m not sure that it would have been the right place for a detailed explanation of which conversations she was admitting to. Too much detail would have obscured her message and perhaps even made her sound shifty. A straightforward apology for a “lapse in judgement” was probably enough for many waverers (given the general lack of enthusiasm for extreme solutions at the moment). It won’t have been enough for many others of course, but she has at least hit the ball back into her opponents’ court. Since this is Wimbledon fortnight I’ll follow my hackneyed metaphor through and say — I think their response is probably headed for the net. But, hey, this is the Philippines — who knows what will happen!

  2. High praise indeed, coming from you. Thanks. Perhaps my emotions are getting the better (or worse) of me. But I know for a fact there are people from Civil Society, the core constituency her appeal was aimed at most of all, tonight, who aren’t happy, and that they’re making up their minds, as well. As one of them told me tonight, “this week will be crucial.” I told a colleague in the news media that one of the President’s gifts is recovering the initiative; so yes, the ball is in the other court, but was it a strong enough volley?

  3. The answer to you question of strong enough volley is NO.

    Okay, just kidding. I don’t know the answer either.

    but Bravo to your piece. I was genuinely moved.

  4. good piece but i could sense that the writer was trying hard to stifle his outrage at the whole situation, the country sinking fast and the people demoralized and another 5 years of GMA….

    say it mlq3. GMA resign.

  5. Only caught tail-end of interview on

    but did Golez just call for GMA to resign.

    shocker! not just bloc-mate but a party-mate at that.

  6. she did apologize, but what did she really apologize for, nothing definite or specific anyway.

    but what is most IMPORTANT, is that there was NO SIGN OF REMORSE,

    instead you get the feeling that she has put one over you again,

    like a chess game where a seemingly inconsequential move has been made in the middle game,

    only later to realize that you have been had,

    tell me, why is the secretary of environment and natural resources all over all the networks talking of topics which are not in his purview.

  7. DOING A CLINTON isn’t enough;
    The gravity of her offense is beginning to unfold as days go on….
    Putting a sober face and sounding contrite will no longer click with the people.
    CREDIBILITY IS LOST, why continue?

  8. The situation is akin to infidelity in the marital department. Darling, I admit it and I’m sorry. Let’s kiss and make up and go on with our married life. Trust, as the cliche would put it, is broken. Mighty Bond can put it back together, but the cracks are still there, reminding us that once there was a time when somebody took advantage of our right to decide, of all places, when democracy was supposed to be restored since 1986.

    I can’t say it like you do. But everything can be summed up in two words: Sorry lang?

  9. It was indeed a different Gloria last nyt mumbling her “Mea Culpa”. But I am looking for that sincerity. What I saw was a scripted facade – the dolorous eyes made even heavier by that dark tint (or make-up, whatever), the sonorous voice. Tsk tsk.
    But to me, its all that – scripted. Next time, let us vote for a President who is steadfast in his moral convictions, somebody who cannot be swayed by “lapses in judgement”.

    (By the way sir, may I ask permission to link you site, please? )

  10. Watching the address, I couldn’t help but think that she was trying to do something akin to what Bill Clinton did during the Lewinsky scandal, and as such she tried to convey to the public that she was sincere in her apology. It’s right to say that content wise, the speech was constructed in such a way that you touched all bases, but didn’t admit any specific details. I always knew that the President’s mea culpa would only be acceptable to her constituents if she showed that in her delivery, she seemed sincere. I personally think she was sincere, but it seemed vague and left some questions unanswered. Regardless of what her minions say, this isn’t the end of the story… yet.

  11. I didnt watch gloria’s apology last night but i heard from somebody that she’s going to apologize and muddle the tapes even more. Yes we’ve been had. Her father lost his second term to a marcos (because this macapagal screwed something up) like father like daughter. if werent for these macapagals maybe we could have had a country we can be proud of.

    Really? Golez said GLORIA RESIGN? hah! the siko boy is at it again. here are some of the list of people who will go to jail if gloria resigned or impeached or forced out of the office:
    Roilo Golez – for being National Security Adviser
    Mike Defensor – For something madrigal only knew
    Bunye – for being the president’s mouthpiece
    Ermita – for being the secretary of that motherfukcer.
    Jose Pidal – the two brothers will share a cell with their son and nephew.
    Angelo Reyes – for treason
    Hilario Davide – he lost his marbles and been accused of graft and corruption before
    Gen. Abu – (his coronels will turn on him )
    Gen Lumibao – for being sipsip
    Wycoco – for being another super sipsip
    Gonzales – for being stupid and super duper sip sip.
    All the majority congressman – the people will decide what will be their punishment.

    all those people have to something to lose thats why they cling on power. Gloria clearly lost her mandate, even her avid supporter ( the guy who owns this blog) lost that loving feeling about mdame presidente. boss manolo if the shit hit the fan will you stand with the people getting smoke bombed and being peppered with bullets in EDSA? or stay at home shouting GLORIA RESIGN!?

    one of my worthless post 🙁
    another thing kept on creeping up in my mind is the word KARMA

  12. oh yeah I remember somebody said that the late Cardinal Sin was waiting for the authenticity of the supposed to be conversation of gloria and garci. then he will act up to it. Now the man is dead and gloria is free to tell everybody that she have the people’s balls in her hand. what a lost

  13. karma, indeed, ed. coming from someone who posed herself as the complete opposite of her scoundrel predecessor, turned out to be even worse. even more machinating. a sheep in wolve’s clothing.

  14. As always, very well said, Manolo. In the book Power:The 48 Laws, Law 4 is Always Say Less Than Necessary.
    “Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original (in this case, sincere), if you make it vague, open-ended and sphinxlike.
    When you carefully control what you reveal, they cannot pierce your intentions or your meaning.”

    There were only 3 things revealed last night she admitted to “lapses in judgment,” she was sorry and she will stay in Malacañang. (“That is why I want to close this chapter and move on with the business of governing.”)

    I don’t know how could we ever close that chapter and move on. There is so much mistrust already. This is not just one household she betrayed. It is the entire nation.

  15. Manuel, I was just wondering if anyone noticed that GMA tried to cover up the existence of the tapes by producing tapes with edgar “gary” ruado’s voice? Shouldn’t GMA also take responsibility for that? Instead of being forthright from the very beginning, her response was to lie and lie some more. It is disappointing to see her being influenced by so many advisors. Wasn’t she voted in because she was a “thinking president”?

  16. I wish to say something really scathing but it looks like every ground has been covered already. Now I feel pity instead. I guess we all get our beating sometime because that is the only way we come to pay attention to our errors and sins. Politics really has a way of perverting our values.

  17. Hear hear from the holyfathe “say it mlq3. GMA resign.”

    Really, Manolo what is holding you back? Let it rip. Now is the time to take a stand. Now is the time to show what a Quezon is made out of. Forget your personal feelings about her, it’s time to stand up for what’s right.

  18. I commend GMA for having the balls to apologize in front of national T.V. But I am not sure what she is apologizing for.For talking with Gracillano? For cheating ? If I catch one of my students cheating in one of my exams and he ask for forgiveness then I will forgive him but he has to face the consequences of his action.GMA must face the consequences of her actions. She cannot say I’m sorry then say let’s forget about it and move on. Yes mlq3 say the inevitable –
    R E S I G N !
    It is the only honorable thing to save the name and honor of a Macapagal or face denouement of epic proportions.

  19. her mea culpa just left more questions than answers. she did not categorically deny having rigged the election. her admission merely reinforced my suspicion that she indeed cheated. the tapes implied more than mere “concern” for her votes.

  20. Assuming just for the sake of argument that
    for the sake of the country, it is best
    GMA finish the term:

    Some things she can do to get a fresh start
    and have a glimmer of hope of surviving

    – banish 3 amigos said to be in the works
    – replace Bunye, his stunt on the CD’s
    annoyed many people, he can be the fall
    guy for Gary Ruado fiasco.
    he should resign to have more family
    time, the standard excuse
    – get Wycoco out or at least away from TV
    – jail Chavit or again keep him away from TV
    – fire Lomibao and anybody mentioned
    or heavily implicated in the tape
    – fire Gonzales or again keep him away from TV
    – clean up Comelec, replace Abalos, she can
    use the automated machine fiasco as ostensible
    reason to save Abalos face at least.
    Abalos was in the tape and has to take
    responsibility for Garcillano fiasco. It
    happened on his watch.
    – she can’t surrender Garcillano, he is
    too toxic. no change here, make him

    but it is still hard to imagine pgma wiggling
    her way out of Gloriagate anyway.

  21. To all those commenting, esp. those wanting me to state I want her to resign, I’m waiting to see the outcome of several things:

    1. Whether the President will identify which tape she stands by;
    2. Whether she will actually exile Iggy, Mike and Mikey;
    3. Whether her people will try to railroad an end to the hearings on the tape.


    If all three are answered in the nagative -if she continues to confuse things, if she doesn;t do anything about her family, if her allies try to derail the playing of the tapes- it becomes an issue larger than her. Meaning: Randy David would be absolutely correct that we just don’t have a crisis of legitimacy for the president, we have a crisis of legitimacy for all our institutions.

  22. Ed, tanga ka ba to say that all that we are now can only be blamed to macapagal? to quote you “Her father lost his second term to a marcos (because this macapagal screwed something up) like father like daughter. if werent for these macapagals maybe we could have had a country we can be proud of.”

    Dont forget every portion of our history… dont forget that Estrade has taken so much in a very short time… he’s got the most from the nations coffers, dont forget that. gma could have made that act, but be fair though.

  23. Darius,

    Medyo confused ka ata. Si ERAP JUETENG MONEY LANG at yung sinasabi ni Chavit na tobacco excise tax ( para pumasok ang plunder case dahil kung yung jueteng money lang yung nde papasok dun sa plunder ang bagsak lang ay bribery at corruption) ang macapagal? Nangurakot sa kaban ng bayan kaya medyo mag isip ka muna ng mabuti bago ka magsabi ng tanga dahil ikaw ang nagmumukhang tanga.

    Tama si ed. bakit hindi nanalo ng second term ang tatay ni gloria? dahil me nagawa syang mali. Kaya bago ka bumitiw ng salitang tanga mag isip ka muna. magbasa ka muna tungkol sa history ng mga macapagal bago ka mag comment.

  24. maybe ill just kidnap my neighbors wife, screw her without consent and if caught, ah ill just say “Im sorry, lapse of judgement”. yeah good idea. No wonder why. And live happily ever after. Only in the Philippines.

  25. Para doon sa mga nagbigay ng comment:

    Gusto ko magbitiw na si PGMA pero sa isang kundisyon.
    Na kayo ang papalit sa kanya. Titingnan natin kung mapapaganda ninyo ang pamamalakad sa gobyerno. Bibigyan
    kayo ng tig-iisang taon para mapapaganda ang buhay ng mga Pilipino. Alam kong kaya ninyo yan dahil unang-una maga-
    galing kayong magsalita ng english. Pangalawa,malinis kayo at walang bahid dungis dahil makikita naman sa inyong mga pananalita na ni hindi kayo marunong magsinungaling.Nababanaag ko ang kalinisan ng inyong mga
    kaluluwa. Ang talino ninyo ang kailangan natin sa mga panahon ngayon lalo na ngayon na medyo gumaganda na ang kalakalan sa bansa. Nasa P53.00 na ang isang dolyar.
    Tiyak kong wala nang mag-rally sa ating mga kalsada dahil alam kong kayo rin naman ang mga iyon dahil kayo ay nasa Malakanyang na. At nakinikinita ko na na mababawasan na at luluwag ang trapik sa mga kalunsuran lalo na dito sa Metro Mla.
    Wala nang mag-wiretap sa inyo dahil mga kapanalig rin naman ninyo ang mga iyon. Kaya smooth na ang takbo ng pamamalakad ninyo kaya tiyak tuloy-tuloy na ang pag-unlad ng ating bayan. Kasi ang malaking bahagi(percent)sa hindi pag-sulong ng pamahalaan ay ang mga nabanggit na mga balakid o hadlang.

    Hindi na mag-aaway ang mga pulitiko dahil alam kong kapanalig naman ninyo ang nang-aaway diyan sa Senado at Kongreso.
    Sayo Felix, huwag kanang mangidnap ng neighbor’s wife mo. Manligaw ka na lang. Mabuti pa.

  26. Si eres cualquier cosa como mí, odias el pensamiento del gasto cuarenta horas a la semana en un trabajo del punto muerto. Las luces fluorescentes de zumbido, la gerencia idiota, el hecho de que necesitas despertar doloroso temprano – el único alto punto son que viene viernes cada semana. Dije tan a me, allí me consigo ser una manera mejor. ¡Una cierta manera de hacer el dinero que me deja fijar mis propias horas y hacer una cantidad cómoda del dinero!

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