President writes to bishops

In a letter to the Catholic Bishop’s Conference president, the President of the Philippines let loose pious pleadings (and protestations of continued innocence) while finally saying she’s open to a fact-finding commission. The letter was read by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye live on state television.

Finally, a decision to undertake a fact-finding commission, although its composition and responsibilities have yet to be defined (or whether it will be by executive order or a law or resolution passed by Congress).

Just when the political situation seems to have calmed down, and be headed toward a familiar process, comes the the President’s proposal.

I think at present, this belated recognition, on the President’s part, of the fact-finding commission option, will lead to even more unflattering questions.

First, is the sudden announcement (without the usual trial balloons in media or calculated leaks to float the idea) a means to head off the impeachment process? Does the administration suddenly fear the avenue it proposed and even demanded? Does it suddenly think that it has neither the numbers to delay and debate articles of impeachment to death in the House, or prevent an unfavorable outcome in the senate?

Second, is the sudden announcement a way to suddenly pander to civil society and the Church, in order to delay the reckoning and throw efforts by the prosecution to build its case?

Third, is a fact-finding commission now, weeks after it was proposed, and after the President having vigorously rejected the idea, clever (opportunistic) timing, or a spectacularly bad political miscalculation?

I believe it will harden party lines that were already softening up to this point. There will be those antagonized by the proposal, seeing it as too little, too late. There will be others confused by it: why now, and why now, when impeachment was already expected to be the way to go? There will be others, still, who will puzzle over how to work with a possible two-track scenario in play. Atty. Katrina Legarda actually views a fact-finding commission as a necessary preliminary move to an impeachment; a thorough yet speedy fact-finding body could settle whether or not an iron-clad impeachment complaint could be filed, and speedily decided upon by a senate frightened of going against the findings of such a body. Will others, though, want to risk trying the fact-finding path, when people are already revved up for an impeachment?

This is, again, too little, too late; it makes the President’s need to show herself during the state of the nation address, as the person best qualified to lead the country out of the trouble it’s in, that much more difficult to achieve. I think this move might just antagonize even more people, although it might sow enough confusion to buy her some more time.

Update: more info at PCIJ, Jove, and I also responded to an entry by Sassy Lawyer (criticizing the opposition’s objections to such a commission) as follows:

Here’s what’s interesting. after originally refusing to consider a commission, the President proposed impeachment. people decided to support that path. It provides a predictable and understandable frame of reference for everyone.

Now, the bishops proposed a commission, but if you read their letter, its frame of reference varies from that proposed by the President; more so, it suddenly changes the flow of events (granted, it’s a smart move), from an impeachment effort, to integrating (or not integrating) commission with impeachment.

The President can create such a commission, its credibility depends on its composition and mandate. but what now, when it comes to its mandate, which might be radically different from what the bishops, and even the President’s supporters, desired?

Manuel L. Quezon III.

17 thoughts on “President writes to bishops

  1. That would buy her a lot of time. The quarrel would switch to whether it should go through a truth commission or not, later on to the composition of the commission which could be really contentious. All that time nobody could not say she’s blocking the truth.

  2. despite the alleged claims in having a much bigger (hakot) crowd attending last sat rally GMA and her advisers i believe are fully aware that they have no choice but to bow down to the demand in creating a “truth commission” the out come however would(if GMA SUCCEEDS) be a DECOMMISSIONED TRUTH, in desperation GMA is ordering the releases of funds to the mayors, governors, cong., some senators for their projects.NOW, ALL GMA NEEDS IS TIME, TIME to manipulate the media to present the truth according to her(GMA) perception and understanding of “truth”.

  3. This is not the truth commission as desired by the BCBP. The bishops wanted a commission to investigate the Garci tapes, not the poll fraud. If it is poll fraud they are going to investigate, the commission is going to reinvent the wheel and look at all the election returns as though a protest has been filed before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal and much worse. This truth commission is a chimera and I think we are being deceived.

  4. It looks like she is using this to buy time. While the fact-finding commission is doing their job, she may try to woo the “swing” congressmen to go to her side so that the impeachment doesn’t go on, knowing that whatever the findings the commission may have, it will be useless if the impeachment will not push through because of the sheer number of congressmen voting “no”.

    Whatever happens next largely depends on the commission findings. If the findings say the conversation was an attempt to manipulate votes, we may see the “envelope scenario” all over again. If not, life moves on for the middle class, at the very least.

  5. The results of the truth commission will be a no-brainer. They will conclude that fraud had occurred in the last election but it was not sufficient to change the outcome of the election. It will run along the same line of argument that Sec. Mike Defensor has been espousing all along and I think he will be proven right. This truth commission is a waste of taxpayer’s money

  6. demote the bishops and make them Pawns…..they are asking for the impossible from a dishonest president gloria arroyo(member of macabebe scouts hehehehe)traitor to the filipino people…

  7. MANOLO,

    “…The President can create such a commission, its credibility depends on its composition and mandate. but what now, when it comes to its mandate, which might be radically different from what the bishops, and even the President’s supporters, desired?…”

    having read the letter many times and hearing it replayed during news vtr editing repeatedly… i think the MANDATE’S PATH you are “afraid” of ay addressed in this part of the president’s letter:

    “…while accepting the principle of accountability, it may be noted that such issues were raised at a time and in a manner that seems to give credence to the observation that various groups may be manipulating situations for their own agenda, perhaps with the aim of grabbing power. I am hopeful that the process of searching for the truth will shed light on these disturbing matters as well…”

    who again is going to be investigated? hehehe.

    well, the palace peeps can always say, “suggestion lang naman”.

    we wait…

  8. The truth.

    You can’t handle the truth!

    But seriously, the truth is all over already.
    in the papers and in the blogs.


    It really all started one night, when two drinking buddies were sharing their tales of woe. ‘Pare, sakit ulo maraming asawa’, said one………….

  9. When the head of a state finds it necessary to pander and answer to the
    Roman Catholic Church to survive her leadership and when the government was
    nearly toppled had priests not been held back from joining the mobs in the
    streets, then I wonder what kind of democratic government the Philippines
    really has. And should Arroyo survives would she now be obligated somehow to the
    papal nuncio and the Vatican? If nothing else, this political crisis shows
    that there are many problems with the nation¹s democratic institutions,
    chief of which are the electoral system and separation of church and state.

  10. James,
    What’s the truth? Why do we presume to know the truth based on the papers and blogs?

    I will always doubt the papers because of one incident where a female colleague (who had 2 elementary-age daughters in a convent school) was being “linked” to another colleague…I was working closely with both of them and can truly say there was nothing going on. It’s so easy to come to conclusions and assumptions based on nothing factual and tout it as the truth. For me, perception is NOT reality. I need hard evidence…

  11. Sabi ni Gil Grissom sa CSI…

    “A single piece of hard evidence is better than ten eyewitnesses…”

  12. Tapos meron din teenager noon na inarresto ng FBI for “attempted assasination” kasi laman ng e-mail niya sa friend niya, “I will shoot Bill Clinton”

  13. Adding to my earlier comments about the excessive and uncurbed role of the Catholic Church in our government, Walden Bellow’s commentary today in the Philippine Daily Inquirer brings home the point more pointedly:

    “The question is not whether or not the bishops are entitled to a political opinion. What is problematic is the expectation is that they should play a central role in political decision-making in what is a secular political system, one that prides itself on the separation of Church and State, a principle that has been one of the hard-won gains in the historical evolution of modern secular democracy.

    Our political system has many problems, but one of the most serious has been the accumulation of political power by the Catholic Church and other religious entities over the last few years — a process that has crossed the boundary between legitimate religious advocacy and unwarranted political activity.”

  14. crisanto
    we should listen to our bishop not to create funny things on them remember that they are our spiritual leader. i dont think that what they are asking is impossible they are just only exercising their prudence in the said issue.

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