People Power Not Inevitable

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People Power Not Inevitable

by Manuel L. Quezon III


Great political questions also involve individual lives. In the case of Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite, who was interrogated in the Philippine Senate over his allowing a witness to escape the jurisdiction of a Senate committee, his wife has, understandably (and even justifiably) enough pleaded for fairness because of the public criticisms of her husband’s behavior.

But we ought to consider how much of the outrageous arrows of fortune now sticking out of her husband is due to those who have accepted whistleblower Jun Lozada’s statements as gospel truth, and how much are due to Gaite’s own statesmen’s — and that of the Palace. Gaite’s defense is a simple one: He is a good soldier, but a foot soldier may be the first to fall.

For this reason and many others (he surely had a hand in drafting some of the most noxious executive issuances of our time), while I sympathize with Mrs. Gaite and I think Gaite himself tries to be a good person, I am unsympathetic to where this has all led him.

In his testimony before the Senate, and indeed, on the basis of the administration officials who testified, one thing they didn’t shirk was that they tried to prevent Lozada from appearing before the Senate. Gaite admitted the Palace’s objective was to facilitate Lozada’s leaving the country until the Senate could wrap up the ZTE hearings.

A recent Inquirer editorial summed it up as a confession of conspiracy. What the administration tried to dodge was the allegation of abduction.

Another, and related, example is when, last week, during a hearing in the Court of Appeals, Lozada’s missing passport was finally produced. I’ve heard it said that when the passport was produced, the faces of the lawyers from the solicitor-general’s office fell. The whole problem with the passport, apparently, was that a stamp showing Lozada had gone through immigration upon his arrival would have demolished the claim of abduction. The problem was, no lower-level person from the Bureau of Immigration wanted to be a party to order to stamp the passport: It would have required a lower-level bureaucrat to stake his name and reputation on saying he’d stamped the passport when Lozada arrived, when no immigration official did. This implies that these bureaucrats didn’t think it was worth their while to take the heat for their bosses — and the surrendering of the passport to the court by a lower-level security person is a similar refusal to further take the heat for the bosses.

And this is why in recent weeks, I’ve tried to distinguish between two courts: Of public opinion and of the law. Each has their proper place and they are not, much as the Palace insists, mutually exclusive: But each has its proper place and both are being actively resorted to (most recently, when Lozada filed kidnapping charges against his abductors).

Last Tuesday on my TV show my lawyer guest pointed out that Lozada’s testimony before the Senate is significant, in that it can be used to impeach him in court cases; therefore his assertions can actually fortify or weaken cases related to him or to officials in the courts.

Meanwhile, let me state for the record that whatever my own preferences may be, I do not think a consensus for People Power exists, yet; or that there is even a widespread demand for President Arroyo’s resignation, yet, because there is no consensus on what should come afterwards. I find it heartening that people from all sides are making efforts to encourage arriving at a consensus.

But I do think three things have happened: First, more people are open to either option, and second, that the president faces a significant erosion in the constituency she fairly successfully claimed to represent from 2001 to the present: Big business, the entrepreneurial class, include the Filipino-Chinese merchant class, professionals, and the provinces, and the majority of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Third, even among those still unprepared to consider resignation or People Power, there is also a growing number of people who have reached the conclusion that the president does not intend to step down in 2010, but they are still digesting the implications of this realization. But if it is unable to turn the tide very soon, then what? Let’s turn to political analyst Mon Casiple: “If it is not able to regain the initiative in the coming days, then the momentum for People Power may not be denied and a GMA resignation will be the only outcome, either to pre-empt People Power or as a consequence of one.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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