August 05, 2005

Right and wrong

One line of argument that the Gloria Step Down Movement has had to contend with is anchored on the supposition that the alternatives to a Gloria presidency are so unpalatable they are practically nonexistent.

The Malacañang propaganda machine and its paid media hacks are working overtime to picture the obvious candidates to replace Mrs. Arroyo as either incompetent in governance, recycled political rejects or heirs thereto or as untrustworthy as Gloria with the potential to rival her in the lying, stealing and cheating departments. So rather than jump from the frying pan into the fire, the seguristas say let’s just sit tight, give the Gloria regime another chance to do better, tone down the “political noise” and pray for things to at least not get any worse so that the nation can settle down and survive this latest political convulsion.

This seemingly prudent, low-risk approach to the nation’s current crisis apparently has found favor with a considerable number in the middle class, or at least that part of it that still has something worth clinging to unlike those who not only feel poor, but actually are, and desperately so.

Thus we hear otherwise decent, morally upright and well-educated people (we assume they are not relatives, business cronies or political allies of Mrs. Arroyo who directly benefit from her rule) saying that the leadership crisis facing Mrs. Arroyo is overblown. All politicians cheat their way to office anyway; all are to varying degrees corrupt; all resort to half-truths, distortions and outright lies to survive the political snake pit; and all are beholden to the country’s former colonizer, the USA, and to the armed forces whose shifts in allegiance can make or break any ruling regime.

Gloria and her loyalists take this cynical sentiment a step further and conclude with the assertion that it is the “system,” a suitably amorphous and ambiguous entity, which is impaired and must be reformed. Ergo the solution doesn’t lie in replacing Mrs. Arroyo, specially not with dimwits (even if they are in the Arroyo camp) or political has-beens (vintage Marcos and Erap) or heaven forbid, those Leftist radicals (even if apart from peasant and working class leaders they count priests, nuns, professors and professionals among them) who will usher in a godless society where everyone is equally miserable and destitute.

The Malacañang spin is that the solution lies in Mrs. Arroyo’s holding on to power no matter the public clamor that she step down, for that is patriotism and adherence to the rule of law of the highest order. To do this she must entice her allies in Congress to use their numbers to defeat the impeachment complaint against her without appearing to be railroading matters. In fact the administration majority must appear to be bending over backwards to accommodate the opposition so that when they utilize the tyranny of numbers to junk the impeachment complaint, everything will appear fair and square and according to the rules. In a word, constitutional.

In her State-of-the-Nation address, Mrs. Arroyo dangles charter change via a constituent assembly to the honorable members of Congress and the response is gleeful. How then are the members of the Administration majority supposed to maintain their independence and vote according to their conscience and not party affiliation? The spectacle reeks of patronage politics and plain bribery at its worst especially in the light of Mrs. Arroyo’s challenge to the opposition to take their charges of electoral fraud and other presidential wrongdoing to Congress and there have her impeached.

The people are expected to believe that the urgent reform of our terribly flawed and untenable political system can be entrusted to traditional politicians whose track record individually (except for very few) and as an institutional body is nothing short of uninspiring if not out rightly disgusting. The people are also expected to believe that Mrs. Arroyo’s decision to back the Ramos-de Venecia chacha is motivated by her recognition of the need for substantial change in the political system rather than her own desperate need for survival.

The problem with this latest trouble-shooting approach of Malacañang bright boys is that it relies for its success on some of the most backward, uncritical, cynical and passive ideas about governance and politics in this country and that’s not saying much.

It presupposes that it is all right for Mrs. Arroyo to attempt to influence COMELEC officials to favor her candidacy using the awesome power and influence of the Office of the President since any politician in the same position would do the same.

It glosses over the fact that Mrs. Arroyo attempted to use the powers of the Presidency to cover up the discovery of her highly questionable actuations.

It justifies her resort to prevarication (“I’m sorry”); suppression of evidence (“Mere possession of copies of the wiretapped conversation is punishable”); witholding of testimony (“Malacañang has no inkling where Commissioner Garcillano is”); and all kinds of underhanded political maneuvers (chacha vs. impeachment).

Moroever it foists the unacceptable view that in a nation of more than 80 million people, there are no alternatives to the illegitimate, morally bankrupt and corrupt Arroyo regime.

On the other hand, the people’s movement calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation, impeachment or ouster is standing firmly on the ground that wrongdoing, especially by the highest officials of the land, must not be tolerated; that our people deserve much more by way of their national leaders; that those proven to be untrustworthy cannot be expected to lead the way to any genuine and meaningful system change. These are basic principles and values without which this country is doomed to fail.

A reader’s feedback to last week’s column should give Malacañang pause:

“Thanks for your analysis on current and past bedfellow arrangements in the course of getting rid of venal people.

I also think it important to state that people like me who won’t go to the rally because there is a principled feeling that one cannot go there with the likes of Imee and Jinggoy, be acknowledged and respected. BUT, it doesn’t mean we don’t want her (Gloria) to resign or that we think the alliances are beneath us, or we are less resolute or many, many other reasons put on us. You know I don’t shirk from street marching.

But it’s just the unease and the unease may certainly be wiped out when new events come to the fore.

For example, yesterday, I just happen to have been in the company of Liza Araneta Marcos and I asked her point blank, was there a meeting between GMA and Imelda and did GMA offer to have Marcos buried in Libingan (ng mga Bayani). I consider Liza to be forthright and she did confirm both questions and also said though that the Marcos children were uneasy with GMA and the timing of such an offer. They're not stupid.

Meanwhile, having confirmed this in my head, I've been very pissed. Pissed enough to know the next street march is for me, regardless of the shady characters around. The Marcos past has just been dragged in and that's just over the top. I have told many people about this fact and you can bet that there will be more street marchers and more asking for GMA's head. And you should spread this word around so that yes, the next march and the next and the next will be the tidal wave we need.”


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