Let me pay tribute to my former professor, Alex Magno, and his column today, on Burma. I’ve often been critical of him, but this column was splendid.
Concerning Benjamin Abalos,Oragon! asks, why resign? Newsstand and Ricky Carandang boils down the whole thing to its essentials: Abalos knew he’d be impeached, and he decided to fall on his sword to spare his family dire political prospects and spare the Palace fallout. tonyo features a roundup of blogger reactions. And of course, smoke rocks (not that I always agree).
Personally, my view is simple. For those calling for his resignation for ages now, don’t hit a man when he’s down. He resigned to save his ass, but he still resigned. Give him credit for that. Now, on to the harder part, hauling him off to court. Credit is due for resigning but that’s as far as credit goes. In a country where too few resign despite the public clamor to do so, he did it; but he also did it, to avoid what could have been an historic impeachment. So a historic trial necessarily comes next.
A quick note, primarily addressed to faithful reader Bencard, who has gotten me thinking on my tendency to support leniency for former president Estrada. My general principle is imprisonment really does nothing, I think it only leads to hardened and tougher criminals. In fact, my inclination is to support imprisonment only for three kinds of criminals: murderers, rapists/molesters and big-time drug dealers. All other crimes should be handled with fines and some sort of community service truly beneficial to the public. Anyone who has ever visited a jail, talked to inmates, knows that those crammed into jails enter a nightmarish world in which crime rules every aspect of the inmates’ lives.
For political crimes including plunder, which is grand-scale theft, I really think that what that UP Professor pointed out is a good idea. He clarified that what he said was the Filipino concept of justice is restitution, not retribution, that for Estrada, what the public wanted wasn’t just for the money he stole or illegally acquired to be returned to the public, but that he should also then quit politics, having betrayed public trust.
So, I support Estrada’s being allowed to go home, but only on two conditions: that assets forfeited by the courts remain forfeited (Estrada claims, anyway, rightly or wrongly, those assets were never his) but also, a ban on political participation. He can go home, but shut up, and not even be allowed to vote. And that should be the rule for all public officials accused of illegally amassing fortunes: return the money, and quit politics. Without these two requirements, no pardon should be considered or offered, because as so many have reminded me, there is an important precedent that’s been set.
The ever-impressive Mon Casiple gives his analysis of the whole ZTE deal and its fallout:
Neri testified that the President told him not to accept the bribe. He thought that may be sufficient to end the matter, even if it puts Abalos in hot water. However, he refused to elaborate or to testify on other conversations with the President regarding the ZTE matter, citing “executive privilege.”
Of course, this puts the Neri testimony on a continuing downslide thereafter as senators expectedly try to elicit the information behind the “executive privilege.” Many do not believe he told the other half of the truth, may be not even the truth he told — primarily because of his own hypes before the Senate testimony. It is also a glaring inconsistency when he readily volunteered the fact of his talk with the President regarding the Abalos bribe, but not the other talks on the ZTE matter itself.
However, we can already glimpse something from the Neri testimony. One, there is definitely the BIG ONE in terms of information hiding behind the “executive privilege.” Two, there are possibly others–more powerful and far more vulnerable–deeply involved in the ZTE scandal. Three, the ZTE scandal has implications that go to the heart of the survival of the GMA administration and ruling coalition–possibly more than the Garci tapes scandal itself.
Secretary Neri is protecting not only the President but an entire arrangement regarding Chinese investments and loans in the Philippines. The arrangement, I think, stinks to high heavens. It is too early to say but there are certain implications already on Philippine national security, the government’s “special relations” with the United States, Philippine sovereignty and national patrimony, violations of the Constitution, and sectoral concerns.
Senator Miriam Santiago is partly correct when she raised the observation that it is all a “squabble over kickbacks.” After all, at the heart of it all is the purported availability of some $18 billion dollars for Chinese investments and loans for the Philippines–a sum approaching, if not surpassing, the money available during the Marcos one-man rule. Senator Mar Roxas himself said the ZTE deal seems to be a “supply-side” decision–meaning the availability of the Chinese money preceded the project. However, as the ZTE drama unfolds, it is slowly becoming clear that what is at stake is the survival of the GMA administration itself.
Given the situation that she failed to reconcile with the opposition after the 2007 elections, that she still does not have any agreement with any or all of the presidentiables, and that there is the inability (for the present) to force a martial rule, GMA is running a clear risk of going down even before the 2010 term ending. The clock is running out on her, with diminishing influence over events as perceptions increase over her lame-duck presidency. The ruling coalition does not have a viable presidentiable at this time, cannot absorb the pressures, and may disintegrate well before 2010.
The ZTE scandal may well be the Waterloo of the Arroyo presidency.
New Philippine Revolution asks, who’s next?
Quixotic Kibitzer asks tough questions concerning the telcos and wiretapping.In an earlier blog entry, Ricky Carandang points out the AFP now has ample justifications for disciplining some of its personnel.
Manila Bay Watch tackles questions of corruption.
stories from the middle earth press room on school rivalries.