Yesterday, the Inquirer editorial asked if People Power represents An immoderate threat in the face of unmoderated greed. Besides Fidel V. Ramos’s stinging rebuke to the President last Friday, on Saturday, GMA News broke the following story: Arroyo: I know ZTE contract tainted but can’t cancel deal (see also Arroyo admits NBN deal was flawed ), which has raised more questions than it’s answered: not least, because in one fell swoop, the President’s own statement proves her officials have been lying all along.
The question remains whether it will temper the “reply or resign” call made by people like Martin Bautista. In her blog, smoke makes a decision flow chart and, well, the best that could be said was a negligent President (but maybe enough to keep the loyalists stouthearted).
Atty. Edwin Lacierda, in an email to me, put it this way:
The difference I think between the Garci tapes and the ZTE confession is that in the Garci tapes, there was this legal grey area of the admissibility of the wiretapped tapes. And so, GMA could legally wiggle out of it even if we know that the accent and inflections were distinctly GMA. In the ZTE deal however, her admission opens up more cans of worms.
In the first place, she lied as to when she knew of the irregularities. I think the first documentary proof of her knowledge of the irregularity would have been when NEDA changed the investments that could avail of the loans from the People’s Republic [of China] when the [military] housing units and the Angat water project were removed from the list and the NBN deal was inserted. I may be wrong but [isn’t it that the] President [alone] can change the Neda policy.
Orally, the testimony of Romy Neri informing the president that Abalos offered him a Php200 million bribe would also constitute knowledge of wrongdoing. Inspite of that information, the president told Neri to approve the project. So, I think we know she lied when she admitted she knew of wrongdoing only on the eve.
But be that as it may, her admission runs counter to the many pronouncements of those who defended the ZTE deal, as pointed out in the Inquirer editorial. Laglagan na is the order of the day just to save the president. I dont know how long will the factotums continue to defend her at the risk to their own life and liberty. But this strategy will have unintended consequences and I am not sure the president’s men thought this out well. It started out with releasing the Jun-Joey conversations in YouTube. We dont know what Abalos is thinking but I am sure he was not pleased with the revelation. His credibility has been further eroded, if there is any ounce of credibility left in that man.
Her admission also puts into question the statements of Formoso who the government has constantly paraded as the point man in the ZTE deal. I would love to see him wiggle his way out of this mess.
The lies and the cover-up continue and it is getting harder and harder to put out a credible yarn.
And so, as Mon Casiple points out, it’s a case of the fortress showing cracks in its walls even as the administration recycling its old scripts:
Within the Malacañang fortress, there are rumors of the heightening suspicions among the key players — with the First Couple directly handling all tactical decisions, trusting no one. Whispers of last-ditch plans for a “palace coup” keep on leaking out as well as the opening of succession negotiations with the vice-president. The FG unscheduled trip to Hongkong is being interpreted as either a cover-up for a major palace counter-offensive this week or the preparation for the GMA exile to Spain.
GMA’s admission of knowing the ZTE-NBN contract problems is reminiscent of her famous “I’m sorry” speech. It may have been directed to the bishops but it only added more fuel to the fire of disenchantment with her regime. It may be the last argument to convince the fence-sitters.
The President’s people accelerated something most people didn’t want to think about, just yet: the post-Arroyo maneuvering that most people continued hoping would take place, as scheduled in 2010. Now the maneuvering has taken on greater urgency as the President’s own people have bungled things so badly. The scandal just keeps getting wider and wider and people have started to think the previously unthinkable.
And so, my column for today is When our representatives fail. It makes reference to some of my past pieces, including my Manifesto on the Tapes, and my columns,Redemption and ‘Half a People Power’. Also, it’s a response to Solita Monsod’s People Power IV? No, thank you! and, in a way, Randy David’s Bonfire of institutions (which reminded me of my column, Scorched-earth governance from 2005):
The damage to government institutions has been the most extensive. Far from being a neutral arbiter of disputes and a source of normative stability, the justice system has become a weapon to intimidate those who stand up to power. Far from being a pillar of public security, the military and the police have become the private army of a gangster regime. Instead of serving as an objective referee in electoral contests, the Commission on Elections has become a haven for fixers who deliver fictitious votes to the moneyed and the powerful. Instead of serving as the steady backbone of public service through successive changes in administration, the government bureaucracy has been turned into a halfway house for political lackeys, misfits and the corrupt. Instead of serving as a check on presidential power, the House of Representatives has become its hired cheering squad.
The erosion of these institutions, no doubt, has been going on for a long time. But their destruction in the last seven years under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency has been the most comprehensive since 1986. This is due not only to the particular gifts of Ms Arroyo as a politician – her survival instincts, her callousness, her readiness to set aside higher goals and principles for short-term personal gains. It is also due to the peculiar confluence of events that attended her rise to the presidency…
…But the damage is not confined to government; it has fanned out like a shock wave from the epicenter to the periphery. We have thus far only seen the debris of government institutions that have lost their standing in the public esteem. Now we are seeing how the tension is passed on and threatens other institutions. This happens when issues that are left unresolved by the institutions of law, politics and government spill over to other spheres of society.
The tremor spreads out and tests the strength of the remaining credible pillars of our society: the churches, the media, the universities, the business community, the family. Each one of these institutional spheres has their own unique operational system, code and medium. They are not organized, nor are they suited, for the processing of legal and political questions. Yet, they are compelled by the developing situation to address these questions from their own specific standpoints. Their members are called upon to lend their minds, their voices, and their bodies to a movement whose trajectory is still uncertain.
It is this uncertainty that needs to be addressed. And so, returning to today’s column, I’d like to start by reproducing, in full, the reflection by Bishop Francisco Claver, S.J. that I quoted in my column (sent to me by Billy Esposo):
An Infinite Series of EDSAs
(Ramblings of a retired bishop)
Is it possible to avoid firming up an extremely dangerous, if still inchoate, tradition?
EDSA I was about restoring a system which had been destroyed by the introduction of a dictatorial system of governance. That is why most of us bishops had no qualms about taking part in putting an end to President Marcos’ stolen power.
EDSA II was the momentary failure of the restored system–it carried a sense of desperation that the system wasn’t working as it should. (The dancing lady senator was a perfect metaphor of its dysfunctional operation.) The Supreme Court’s act in confirming GMA, for all its disputed constitutionality, was basically aimed at stabilizing a dangerous situation?
EDSA III, if it happens, promises to be the institutionalization of an infinite series of EDSAs. This is what is scary about the present situation and I’m wondering if a vague fear of it is behind the apparent unconcern of most of our people today about all the agitation to come up with yet another EDSA rebellion.
Is the question a “purely” political one? Or precisely because the danger is there that, with another EDSA ousting of an incumbent President, we help firm up a tradition of unstable governments, the question becomes a deeply moral one?
For bishops in regard to this development: Is it a moral duty incumbent on them to see to it that we do not go the way of institutionalized instability? Or at least to speak on the problem and show how we must be aware of the possibly deleterious implications of whatever option we make in the solution people give it? As one of Philippine society’s basic institutions, is the Church being called today to be the–or at least a–stabilizing force in our society?
In a very true sense then, our problem comes down to this: how to correct the aberration that is the present administration without destroying the stabilizing structure that is our democratic system of government? We keep the structure but correct the aberration? But if the correcting destroys the structure–or weakens it immensely–what then?
People power was born to bring back stability. I think it should be used now to protect it, not to destroy or weaken it. The way things are now, it is being invoked again in the effort to correct what I called above an aberration, but I’m afraid its repetition in the present crisis will only lead to that unwanted world-without-end-series of EDSAs.
If we do not go the way then of that infinite series, we still are left with what I call the aberration. We haven’t put our heads together yet to see how we go about correcting it without bringing the whole house crushing down on us. This is what we should be doing now?
I wonder if the system of four-year terms for presidents and the possibility of another four is not after all the best for us. Suffering through six years of a bad presidency (more, if he/she comes in to fill the term of an ousted one–as we have now) is intolerable, and that is why it is easy for people to succumb to the temptation of using extra-constitutional means to end the present one. This is an argument for charter change?
In more established and mature democracies: In the United States, for instance, the Bush presidency is bad enough and highly unpopular, but somehow nobody there is thinking of doing something like an EDSA uprising.
For some reason some folk proverbs keep intruding on my thoughts as I write this thing–like the one about lying on nests that one has feathered? (We tolerate corruption–and rigged elections–but we do not blame ourselves for their consequences too?) Or changing horses in mid-stream? (It’s akin to the principle in spiritual life: “In desolation, don’t change” — but that’s what we do with every EDSA?) I guess we haven’t really learnt yet what these homely proverbs mean!
Francisco Claver, S.J.
February 19, 2008
Esposo says the piece is an attempt to clarify what the Catholic hierarchy meant by “communal action”. It is a reflection that to my mind reflects the unease with which people view the escalation of political tensions. However at this point, it leaves a lot, perhaps everything, in the hands of the President who has gambled on the fear of the unpredictable consequences of People Power vetoing any widespread support for it as the instrument of last resort.
But the best-laid plans of mice and men… they also tend to go unexpectedly awry. The most unexpected development is how young people have decided, in increasing numbers, to get engaged.
Inday Espina-Varona tackled this development in her blog, scaRRedcat:
Dirty tricks unleashed in airports are embedded in our collective psyche. With apologies to that once great human rights champion, Joker Arroyo, there are some things you do not mess around with.
It’s a bit sad really but then all great lessons of history often come with a certain sadness. Barely a month ago, I wrote of how young Filipinos would rather roll up their sleeves to solve a problem than break out into song and prayers as is their elders’ wont. They’d still rather do that. But, as did good men and women when the Nazis were on the ascendance, Filipinos now see what they missed when they looked away as hundreds of activists were murdered or “disappeared” or when they accepted that cheating at the polls is preferable to getting another actor elected to the Presidency: Wait too long and there may be no one around to hear your cries for help. Now, Everyman is faced with the barrel of a gun…
…Ousting a corrupt and despotic leader is a right of every people as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights underscores. Revolutions are not, in the strict sense, short cuts. They take time to wage and often come with messy results; that is why they are seen as a people’s last recourse.
But if we are to revolt in the name of democracy then there is no other way but to hew as closely as possible to constitutional change, as we did at EDSA 2. The fact that Mrs. Arroyo has grievously betrayed our trust is no excuse to shortchange ourselves more by anointing leaders outside of constitutional succession terms.
I do not know Vice President Noli de Castro. But he was elected by vast numbers of our people to that post, which comes with the responsibility to take over the Presidency if and when the incumbent Chief Executive can no longer fulfill the duties of that office. Whatever we may think of De Castro’s capabilities or lack thereof, we cannot simply sweep away a mandate conferred by the people.
If we can’t stomach him then we take our lumps and just give Mrs. Arroyo hell until her term runs out or until she institutes a belated regime of reforms, whichever comes first. We cannot decry corruption and officialdom’s penchant for playing fast and loose with the laws of this land and yet do the same in the name of democracy.
Agree! By the way, see another entry, He Said, They Said, a piece of Inday’s originally published in the Philippine Graphic, for a brilliant summary of why the government’s gotten itself into so much hot water. Well done, as well, is Patricia Evangelista’s She said. Over at Placeholder, you can see the La Salle Brothers’ chronology of the Lozadas seeking sanctuary in their school.
And indeed, that was the gist of my column for today: a last-ditch effort to kick-start our institutions into functioning properly might require the threat of People Power.
But people are wracking their brains (and searching their hearts) for ways not to have to resort to it, yet. Though there are those, as reproduced by onomatopoeia, who don’t think the threat should be invoked at all. Disagree!
While the threat of revolution that makes possible a return to the way things ought to be, such a threat, once made, risks having officials call the public’s bluff.
Which means the coming days and weeks requires even more soul-searching to take place.
How far will you go? Should we go? Even Business divided on another ‘People Power’ revolt.
tatsquiblat has some useful advice on what to do: or rather, a prudent approach to take. And review the emerging consensus on concrete steps to take, and the debate on the things that remain unresolved, in Sylvia Mayuga’s Firm Steps to the Light.
One proposal that’s gained wide currency, is for the President to immediately revoke her own Executive Order 464, but as one of many conditions; however,what Joaquin Bernas, S.J. proposes is that revoking the order is enough and all he really wants:
What do I support therefore? I favor attempting a rehabilitation of the presidency. To start with, I favor the complete dismantling of EO 464, the notorious gag which the President has clamped on the mouths of executive officers who are in a position to reveal incriminating truth.
True it is that the objectionable portions of EO 464 (Sections 2b and 3) have been declared unconstitutional. But the executive department continues to behave as if Senate v. Ermita never happened. You will notice that, whenever executive officers are called to testify in an investigation, rarely do such officers claim the lame excuse of executive privilege. They simply say that they are prevented by EO 464. EO 464, although constitutionally dead, remains the biggest obstacle to the discovery of truth. Its dark spirit remains.
How dismantle EO 464? The most efficient way would be for the President and the executive secretary to forget it. Easy, no; difficult, yes. Nevertheless this is a more viable goal than trying to persuade the President to resign and effectively jump into the fire. Moreover, the total abandonment of EO 464 can be the beginning of the rehabilitation of her ailing presidency. E.g., she should now allow the exposure of those who were involved in the corruption that caused her to cancel the ZTE contract. It would be a very concrete way of substantiating her loud cries against corruption. With political will, between now and 2010, much can be achieved toward rehabilitation of the presidency.
The kinds of minds he’s molded are best exemplified by this Ateneo blog. The Arroyo Presidential Library planned for the Ateneo will definitely be a suitable monument.
But what’s at stake and why, despite attempts by the good Jesuit to focus attention on asking for rehabilitation, or even the Senate President’s trying to propose an eventual impeachment, things seem to be coming gingerly to a point of no return, is best explained by Writer’s Block:
In light of all this, we are still obliged to be vigilant. Many people would ask: why continue? The elections are two years away; like her counterpart George W. Bush, she has only this one term left. But remember that we are talking about an “Arroyo government”. How are we to know that Czarina Arroyo would not control the Philippine government from the sidelines, the same way Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore? There are also the earnest efforts among elements of her government to push through “Charter Reform”, to ensure their continued tenure in power. The point is, two years is two years away, and a lot can still happen in that span.
That’s why the Opposition continues to resist her, and find ways to overthrow her. Not only for the sake of vindication; it is also to ensure that they could sooner dismantle the “Arroyo government” and make sure that the next elections would indeed represent the people’s voice. No one can get her to quit. She, like Hitler before her, can always claim “divine appointment”.
We fail to do this now, the wages of our apathy will be Charter change forced down our throats; we will never see an election ever again in our lives; and we will have the Arroyos and Pidals and Abaloses holding our souls in their hands to the end of our days. And even beyond.
This is the ultimate danger of trying to ease the pressure. It won’t strengthen institutions. It will give the President a second wind. Liling Briones says the economy shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction. Cielito Habito reviews economic prospects for 2008.
As for today’s commemoration, I’ll be at Baclaran, where the Comelec computer operators found refuge after their historic walkout from the PICC. Review The Road to Edsa I, and the events in The Edsa Revolution Website. And do some Reading up on Edsa. And looking back, a mere year ago, to Edsa at 21. And doing his own looking back is Lito Banayo.
Postcard Headlines says the real challenge of Edsa is sustaining public vigiliance. Philippine Commentary insists on impeachment or nothing. It will take at the very least a national strike to get that past the House. JB Baylon waxes eloquent:
As I type this while once in a while peering out of my Hong Kong hotel window to watch a gathered mass of Filipinas outside, I feel a rollercoaster of emotions as memories of Edsa 1 flash before me interspersed with images of a weeping Lozada, a grinning Estrada and a still-missing Joc Joc Bolante. I think of Francisco Tatad and how he went public with the declaration of martial law; then I think of Ignacio Bunye and how he went public with his “I have two discs” spin. I focus on how Enrile was “forgiven” his sins in recognition of his key role in Edsa 1, and wonder whether Chavit has been forgiven, too. I think of Clarissa Ocampo and remember Jun Lozada and then I think of Mike Defensor and Mawanay, Garcillano and Bedol. I think of Macapagal Avenue, and then I remember the Centennial Expo scam. I muse about Imelda’s glamor and greed, and think of FG and wonder where the glamor went. I remember Manny Villar’s maneuverings on the impeachment, then recall JDV’s maneuverings and also the maneuverings that led to his own ouster. I think of Fabian Ver and I wonder about Hermogenes Esperon; I think of Fidel Ramos and his relationship with Ver, and wonder who is the Ramos to Esperon. I recall a young and idealistic Gringo, and I imagine a new crop of young officers replacing the ideals of Trillanes and Company. And all of these come to a dead stop like a roller coaster car does when I think of the Filipinas outside my window, huddling under open umbrellas in the cold drizzle that is gripping Hong Kong, and I wonder how their lives will ever change if, at home, years go by and yet everything but the faces of power and greed stay the same?
And good news for all people who like to read: Pete Lacaba has a blog! He has an article on names derived from Martial Law, Edsa, etc. (hat tip to my lil’ red book for noticing that particular article). Another blog to check out is Republic of Pundits.