The Long View: Bury him with the bodies


Bury him with the bodies

It seems to me that sincerity of faith is one of those things one has no choice but to take at face value. At least if you go beyond the “a-bible-verse-for-every-occasion as proof-of-faith approach.” After all, the Good Book itself warns that the devil can quote from scripture. To think otherwise leads you to one of two pointless exercises: building a bonfire in the Senate and proceeding to (literally) roast the witness; or taking turns acting out a scene from the Paris Commune of 1871:

The Tribunal: What is your profession?

The Jesuit: Servant of God.

The Tribunal: Where does he live?

The Jesuit: He is everywhere.

The Tribunal: Take this down. The accused, claiming to be the servant of one God, vagrant.

Let it not be said that the Senate majority is unthinking. Mockery is preferable to creating martyrs. That is why Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III kept the “kamao ng Senado” under a tight leash. Roll with the punches; don’t try to jab at someone with a motion for contempt the moment you’re dissatisfied with his reply.

Instead, confront Arturo Lascañas and even his lawyers, to accomplish two objectives: First, divert the discussion away from the confession and toward a pointless debate about religion-as-motivation for recanting previous testimony. Second, brush the whole thing aside as the latest installment in a tired, old script that formerly victimized the “Holy Trinity” of the ruling coalition composed of honest, outstanding public servants such as Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and that poor, misunderstood reformer, Ferdinand E. Marcos.

This required drawing out the proceedings, something easy to do considering that the political equivalent of the reptilian part of our brain that regulates basic functions is, in elected officials, the irresistible urge to grandstand and restate the obvious. The benefit of unnecessarily long and undisciplined proceedings is that several hours of testimony interrupted by grandstanding is the high probability  that the grandstanding could end up distilled into a 30-second to 5-minute gap covering the whole hearing: all that the evening news will permit to get in the way of show biz coverage.

But success for the ruling coalition also hinged on Monday’s drama being the first and last installment. Lascañas made his confession before his God and the country, and its elected leaders took turns jeering at him without taking the risk of digging into the actual allegations. He can now be buried in forgetting, along with the bodies he claims to have concealed in a quarry.

This is what I mean when I say that the ruling coalition is learning from the past. It ensured reports on the hearing would be 50 percent revelations, and 50 percent religious debate. It denied a continuing platform to corroborate the allegations. And it exercised self-control (and control of Sen. Manny Pacquiao) in verbally, but not procedurally, beating up Lascañas. Then it gaveled the hearings out of existence.

You can be sure that glasses were raised in celebration that night, whether in the majority caucus or in the Palace. Its nemesis Antonio Trillanes III is being gleefully presented in a manner resembling that of a Civil War general who once indignantly told his commander in chief, “I have not been defeated; I have merely failed to achieve victory.”

Yesterday, Sen. Francis Pangilinan tweeted that he wouldn’t hesitate to request the reopening of the investigation if other witnesses turn up. A big IF.

The most troubling about Arturo Lascañas is that he must surely be only one of many hitmen working for many local leaders with many more victims under their belts, applauded on the one hand by their constituents, and enjoying impunity because they are valuable allies for national leaders on the other. Meanwhile, anyone holding a contrary opinion is confronted with the possibility that expressing his mind could have lethal results. It is troubling because it leaves no one, and no institution, no faction, party, or movement, left with clean hands. No one, after last Monday, can ever claim they did not know, they could not imagine, or that they weren’t told.


Manuel L. Quezon III.

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