The President has announced she will not attend the Philippine Military Academy homecoming this weekend (because of a startling coincidence involving assassinations plots) . She is in a mess of her own making, and which requires loyalty at a time when her officials have to wonder if it’s worth it to lose all, for her. Read Tony Abaya’s column to understand why Jun Lozada has engaged the sympathy of many people and why government’s resources have failed to impeach his credibility.
As Mon Casiple muses,
The instruction of the president for government to work with private business sector, academe and Church in the anti-corruption work and the sudden interest of the Ombudsman and DOJ in the ZTE-NBN case aim to seize initiative in the issue. The NBI raid on Lozada’s office, on the other hand, is more in the same league as the failed discrediting of Lozada for corruption.
Many top officials in the GMA administration have been put on the spot, had their reputation besmirched, or are in danger of prosecution themselves because of their actions in defense of the Arroyo family. They are under intense pressure from their own families, friends, and peers to stand for truth and decency on the issues confronting the First Family.
The signal role of the Lozada case is in bringing forth these pressures. In turn, the pressure on the president to resign will intensify. Ironically, the effective pressure may come from her own official family and camp rather than from the outside.
The Palace has also had to backtrack on its attempt to divert public attention by means of prematurely launching it’s amendments scheme. The Vice-President, for obvious reasons, has begun to grow a spine.
Yesterday, the Inquirer editorial pointed out that what is undeniable, is that the administration’s engaged in a Conspiracy. One that entailed a whole roster of officials collectively insulting the intelligence of the public, as Manuel Buencamino sardonically demonstrated in his column.
The group Action for Economic Reforms, in calling for the resignation of the President, puts it this way:
Criminal justice will come, but now is the time to take political action……
The first family is the capo di tutti capi, the boss of all bosses. The Macapagal-Arroyo family has turned the Philippine government into a mafia family, with Cabinet men, congressmen, and other functionaries as their mob lieutenants. We have state capture not by the elite but by a Filipino mafia headed by the first family.The Philippines is not lacking in laws and institutions against corruption and plunder…
Much effort has been undertaken to address chronic corruption…
Despite all this, what is missing is the simplest answer to the problem: Fighting corruption is a question of leadership.Since the leadership itself is brazenly engaged in plunder, corruption remains unabated. Under the leadership of a non-corrupt president, anti-corruption programs and institutions will be effective. Under a corrupt presidency, the same programs and institutions only become a protective veil for corruption itself…
With GMA’s repeated betrayal of the public trust, she has no right to sit as President a minute longer. All other officials involved in the ZTE-NBN deal, including Secretary Romy Neri, DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza, and members of the NEDA-ICC must step down from their government posts. The officials involved in the abduction of Jun Lozada and its cover-up in the media, such as PNP Chief Avelino Razon, Secretary Lito Atienza and DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno, must likewise step down.
We must expunge the Philippine Mafia.
And yet even as more and more people add their voices, from Harvey Keh to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (perhaps, taking its cue from the national lawyer’s association, and perhaps statements such as Jovito Salonga’s, the law school governments of the Ateneo, UP and other law schools are reportedly meeting and are expected to call on the President to resign) to the Makati Business Club (and if there were any divisions in its ranks, they’ve closed ranks over Secretary Favila’s threat to unleash the BIR on businessmen; as Boy Blue replied, “bring it on!”) except for that old Palace reliable, Vivianne Yuchengco, the debate goes on and on about the President. The debate is distilled to its essence by this quote from the play, A Man for All Seasons:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
Yet we know that in real life as in the play and film, More ended up imprisoned and put on trial, charged with treason: bearing the full brunt of “Man’s laws,” because the King wanted him forced to publicly recant his private opposition to the King’s divorce and remarriage, which More found contrary to God’s laws. The world remembers him as a man who submitted to the law, to prove his fidelity to a higher one. Recognition the laws of man can be flawed, and man’s justice profoundly unjust.
There is another gripping scene where More is undergoing trial (“betoken,” as used in the dialogue, means “be a sign of; indicate”) and his refusal to publicly take an oath as demanded by the king is taken as proof positive of treason:
Cromwell: Now, Sir Thomas, you stand on your silence.
Sir Thomas More: I do.
Cromwell: But, gentlemen of the jury, there are many kinds of silence. Consider first the silence of a man who is dead. Let us suppose we go into the room where he is laid out, and we listen: what do we hear? Silence. What does it betoken, this silence? Nothing; this is silence pure and simple. But let us take another case. Suppose I were to take a dagger from my sleeve and make to kill the prisoner with it; and my lordships there, instead of crying out for me to stop, maintained their silence. That would betoken! It would betoken a willingness that I should do it, and under the law, they will be guilty with me. So silence can, according to the circumstances, speak! Let us consider now the circumstances of the prisoner’s silence. The oath was put to loyal subjects up and down the country, and they all declared His Grace’s title to be just and good. But when it came to the prisoner, he refused! He calls this silence. Yet is there a man in this court – is there a man in this country! – who does not know Sir Thomas More’s opinion of this title?
Crowd in court gallery: No!
Cromwell: Yet how can this be? Because this silence betokened, nay, this silence was, not silence at all, but most eloquent denial!
Sir Thomas More: Not so. Not so, Master Secretary. The maxim is “Qui tacet consentiret”: the maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent”. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.
Cromwell: Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?
Sir Thomas More: The world must construe according to its wits; this court must construe according to the law.
In More’s case he submitted, as a believing Christian, to the secular power precisely because he was obedient to a higher authority: one that compelled him to bow down before the laws of man because they are as nothing compared to the laws of God, which required fidelity to the death.
The law, he recognized, could serve as defense for certain things but there come points when the law compels obedience even when the law itself is unjust; yet compels that submission because the law’s limitations are clear, it cannot intrude into the distinctions a person’s conscience creates between what is legal and what is just.
A similar question was tackled by the scientist Stephen Jay Gould, when he discussed how the debate between those who believe in science and those who look to a supernatural authority are engaged in a futile debate. See his essay Nonoverlapping Magisteria:
I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria — the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectua] grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world’s empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions.
By all means the law is often our shield against injustice, but there are certain forms of injustice our laws are impotent to address.
What is at stake is the position held by the President of the Philippines. A position not hers by right, but by grace; a position only temporarily hers and not her inalienable possession like her life, for example. What she can claim a right to is a fixed term; but the term is hers by virtue of certain assumptions, among them her receiving a popular mandate that is genuine and not so marred by controversy as to make it suspect; or that she continues to enjoy the confidence of the people who consider her fit to continue in office.
The supreme law, the Constitution, gives her the opportunity to declare herself unfit to hold office at any time (resignation); it grants the power to declare her unfit for office not only to Congress, by means of a prosecution begun by the House and a political, not judicial, trial in the Senate; and even to her subordinates, the Cabinet, who can declare her unfit for office and who can even force a vote in Congress; and it grants the public at the very least the right to petition government for the redress of grievances and enshrines the citizenry as the ultimate arbiter of what is legal: for, if need be, the public can overturn the fundamental law of the land by means of revolution (if it succeeds).
Her critics do not call for the murder or assassination of the President, or that she should be denied the chance to adequately defend herself in court; but what they assert is that the President may continue to enjoy the presumption of innocence as far as the courts are concerned but no longer enjoys that assumption as far as the public is concerned; that in a sense, in the face of the President’s acts of commission and omission as well as those of her henchmen, a significant portion of the population has what lawyers call a moral certainty of her guilt; this moral certainty does not meet, as of yet, the requirements of the courts when it comes to depriving her of life, liberty, or property; but it is more than enough in the political sphere, to justify citizens calling her to relinquish her office.
Because, as Joker Arroyo in a previous incarnation declared, we cannot afford to have a country run by a thief. Whether it was run by thieves in the past or will be run by thieves in the future is absolutely irrelevant and immaterial, if your honors please. We are talking about the incumbent President and no one else. We can deprive only the incumbent President of office and no one else; the punishment is specific because it can only apply to one person at a time.
What is the law’s is the law’s; what is the people’s as a political entity is entirely something else.
The question is how the people, as a political entity, should dispense with political questions, such as the fitness of their head of state and government for office. Public opinion and the threat of impeachment drove Nixon from office; de Gaulle, facing student protests and a lost referendum vote, resigned. Politics recognizes force majeure when it comes to the terms of its highest officials: when a party loses the US House of Representatives, traditionally the Speaker from the party that lost Congress resigns his seat; it is not just in parliamentary systems that there can be votes of confidence -whether in elections or in mobilized public opinion.
Oliver Cromwell embarked on his dictatorship by dismissing the Long Parliament with these famous words on April 20, 1653:
It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, andenemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye haveno more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a denof thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone!So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!
And this is the warning that echoes down in history: in face of wrongdoing or plain incompetence, the longer people confuse procedures for actual government, the greater the temptation to banish those fussing over procedures to restore what’s right. But one needn’t embark on the path of dictatorship to realize that an essential attribute of the democratic system, is the opportunity it affords to discard a discredited leader, rather have the whole system go down in flames to preserve one person’s political life.
As the British parliament agonized over the question of whether to continue its fight against Hitler or surrender, one MP, Leo Amery, quoted Cromwell in urging Neville Chamberlain to resign:
Some 300 years ago, when this House found that its troops were being beaten again and again by the dash and daring of the Cavaliers, by Prince Rupert’s Cavalry, Oliver Cromwell spoke to John Hampden. In one of his speeches he recounted what he said. It was this:
‘I said to him, “Your troops are most of them old, decayed serving men and tapsters and such kind of fellows.” You must get men of a spirit that are likely to go as far as they will go, or you will be beaten still.’
It may not be easy to find these men. They can be found only by trial and by ruthlessly discarding all who fail and have their failings discovered. We are fighting today for our life, for our liberty, for our all; we cannot go on being led as we are.
I have quoted certain words of Oliver Cromwell. I will quote certain other words. I do it with great reluctance, because I am speaking of those who are old friends and associates of mine, but they are words which, I think, are applicable to the present situation. This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation:
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go”
Chamberlain resigned; Churchill became Prime Minister, despite the great misgivings, even obvious mistrust, of his peers. When Chamberlain died, Churchill, in turn, paid tribute to his predecessor:
It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.
At stake, let me repeat, is the President’s political life; as to the sum total of her life we can’t pass judgment, yet, though it is, of course, possible that in retrospect, when that time comes, she may come off better than she seems, today; or worse. But it is not too soon, to pass judgment on her fitness for office. This is a judgment call in which the law is only relevant in terms of our layman’s appreciation of what it’s spirit ought to be, and whether under her leadership, the government has proven itself faithless to that spirit.
The question however, settled in many minds, remains unsettled in the minds of others; it hinges, in those minds, on whether the dangers of an aroused public are so grave, as to justify denying the public their sovereignty; it is a question involving fears as old as Edmund Burke’s condemnation of the French Revolution:
Were all those dreadful things necessary? Were they the inevitable results of the desperate struggle of determined patriots, compelled to wade through blood and tumult, to the quiet shore of a tranquil and prosperous liberty? No! nothing like it. The fresh ruins of France, which shock our feelings wherever we can turn our eyes, are not the devastation of civil war; they are the sad but instructive monuments of rash and ignorant counsel in time of profound peace. They are the display of inconsiderate and presumptuous, because unresisted and irresistible, authority. The persons who have thus squandered away the precious treasure of their crimes, the persons who have made this prodigal and wild waste of public evils, (the last stage reserved for the ultimate ransom of the state), have met in their progress with little, or rather with no opposition at all. Their whole march was more like a triumphal procession, than the progress of a war. Their pioneers have gone before them, and demolished and laid everything level at their feet. Not one drop of their blood have they shed in the cause of the country they have ruined. They have made no sacrifices to their projects of greater consequence than their shoe buckles, whilst they were imprisoning their king, murdering their fellow citizens, and bathing in tears, and plunging in poverty and distress, thousands of worthy men and worthy families. Their cruelty has not even been the base result of fear. It has been the effect of their sense of perfect safety, in authorizing treasons, robberies, rapes, assassinations, slaughters, and burnings, throughout their harassed land. But the cause of all was plain from the beginning.
But we are heirs, not to Burke, but to the Frenchmen he condemned; even Rizal was convinced, if not of the desirability, then at least of the inevitability, of revolution; else our national narrative would still be that of a province of Spain or State of the Union. We can detect at least a familiarity with his arguments, by way of Rizal: who ultimate advice was, you cannot force events, they will unfold in their own good time (see my disquisition on Rizal’s Pilosopiya ng Pagtitiis).
Well, things are unfolding, but it would be wrong to assert they will unfold in a precise, pre-determined manner. But they are unfolding in a manner that is demolishing the arguments used, so far, by those who wanted to keep rationalizing their implied or overt support for the administration.
This is just political noise? The increasing decibels of public protest are preferable to the silence of the tomb or the cold vaults where even colder cash is piling up for the President’s favored few.
They are all the same? Perhaps when they could moderate their greed; but the greed is unmoderated, it is accelerating, and along with the avarice is an out-of-control contempt for every Filipino, rich or poor, educated or not, urbanite or rural dweller, who dares defy the administration.
What will it achieve? An end to the insanity, closing a chapter to the hubris, restoring the enfeebled democratic muscles of the electorate, reviving the dulled sense of right and wrong of a public.
What about the economy? For those who believe in trickle-down, removing the dam that has held captive the people’s money; for those who wanted prudence and professionalism in the management of our natural and financial resources, the chance this will finally happen and not be feigned.
It boils down to the administration’s scale of greed at the very least matching, if not exceeding, that of the government that preceded it. And a public realizing that it must stand up to it, end it, punish it, for now it sees its your style, or lack of it, but your performance while in office, that must be the sole, standard, measure of a leader’s fitness for office. The mafiosi in slippers and the mafiosi in an expensive suit are both plain thugs.
The President overturned her policy of preferring BOT deals, to add to the debts of the country, to obtain foreign funding for a project whose cost was bloated by the demands of her family and allies. To consummate this deal, she left the bedside of her potentially dying husband to please her allies. She would have pursued it, if the public hadn’t opposed it. Yet she has kept trying to find more and similar deals. This is just part of the pattern, one that consists of her recklessly spending government finances, then figuring out a way to blunt the effects of her spending, only to find new ways to spend that involve accumulating unnecessary and indefensible obligations.
Minguita Padilla asserts that the inflated commission demanded by Abalos equals the annual budget of the Philippine General Hospital: multiplied five times. I’ve heard another assertion that the amount equals the annual budget of the Department of Agriculture.
A few weeks back, a dispirited critic of the President asked another critic (an agnostic if not an atheist), “Do you think God put her here to teach us something?” And the agnostic/atheist critic instantly replied, “Yes, to teach us freedom isn’t gained so easily.”
The long road began, for some, in 2001, for others, in 2004, for others, in 2006 and so on. They have come together, taken time to understand each other, hammered out consensus, taken stock of past mistakes and appropriate things to do; all the while hounded by those united in support for the President because she dressed better, spoke better, was better-educated and showed better executive control, than her predecessor.
But when, as now, she’s revealed as nothing better than him, and in many ways worse because if he was slothful, she has been industrious in undermining institutions, intimidating any organization critical of her, and corrupting the various petty crooks and mulcting officials who have always been there, but who have grown fat, proud, and left stupefied by her drowning them in money and in stripping them of whatever self-control and professional values they had left.
The result is that the enemies of the people should really be named Legion -for they are many; the ones in the cabinet who serve her with enthusiasm and no scruples; the soldiers she has infiltrated into sensitive civilian posts; the business communities she has turned into her propaganda organs; the rank-and-file who have lost even the nominal prestige their positions should accord them.
The line of men and women who have abandoned all pretenses to serving the public, who are reduced to serving the President and her family, according to their humiliating whims, has grown so long that the President’s leaving office will only be the first step in a process that will many of the formerly well-connected turned potential social and political pariahs.
But it’s that first step that can and should unite us. It unites those who wanted it years ago, with those who have come to see as a necessary thing, only now. We are together now, having seen not only the best, but the worst, in each of ourselves; but collectively, better for coming together now.
What to do? Make a list. Those who can no longer deserve a position paid for from the public coffers, and who must resign immediately. Those who supported the government to the extent they advocated means no genuinely democratic government would have conceived of adopting in the past. Those whose perks and power are made possible by their closeness to the President, who cast aside their own reputations in her service.
And make a list of the things that failed to work: impeachment, presidential commissions, appointments to departments and the judiciary, the military, only to cause those institutions grave scandal and the gutting of professional pride and esprit de corps.
And make a list of the things you want, and not the things you hate; for it is easy to hate but difficult to be for certain things. Clean elections? Greater or less party discipline? Efficient and honest tax collection, social services as a right of the people and not personally-bestowed patronage? The list is yours, but armed with similar lists, there we will have the chance to come together with a truly meaningful reform agenda.
But until then: march.
Until then: make noise.
Until then: write, call, text, to share what you feel.
From now on, forget your past mistakes, or disappointments, and focus on the task at hand.
They say: they represent public opinion.
We must say: we do!
You must say, I have had enough with feeling helpless, or fearful, or embarrassed over past loyalties; instead, I will stand, not someone, but for me; and if there are many like me, I will link arms with them; and whatever happens, let it not be said that at the country’s present opportunity for redemption, you were will trying to find excuses to postpone the inevitable.
The Black and White Movement gives you three opportunities to register your protest:
1. Log on to our website — www.blacknwhite-movement.com and register your name to declare your support for Jun Lozada.
2. Send text “Sa Totoo Tayo” to 0915-3296830 to be counted. Also, text this message to all of your friends and relatives: “Kung naniniwala kayo sa sinasabi ni Jun Lozada, text “Sa Totoo Tayo” to 0915-3296830. Visit www.blacknwhite-movement.com for latest count and activities.”
3. And if you’re in Metro Manila, join us on Sunday, February 17, 2008, 10 AM at La Salle Greenhills for a Mass organized by President Cory Aquino and the La Salle brothers in support of Jun Lozada and his family.
The time to act is now. Sa Totoo Tayo. Now na!