October 07, 2005

Paranoia and desperation

Why is it that the more the government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo bares its fangs and lets out its claws in a parody of the “strong republic”, the more that it looks like its days are numbered?

The Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties (MCCCL) sponsored a symbolic protest march last Tuesday dubbed “Walk for Democracy” that saw respected civil libertarians back on the streets after the September 21 “Never again to martial law” rally in Makati.

It was called to denounce the “calibrated preemptive response” or CPR, the “no permit, no rally” policy and the E.O. 464 as blatant attempts “to suppress and quell dissent, cover up the truth, and obstruct justice in order to maintain the status quo.”

The protest started out with a 30-minute prayer inside the United Church of Manila. But what was planned by MCCCL to be a solemn, quiet walk to the foot of Mendiola Bridge ended in another illegal and brutal dispersal by the police.

About 200 demonstrators, many of them youth, women, church people and professionals as well as some workers, peasants and urban poor, seemed to be playing a game of “patintero” (cat-and-mouse) with the police as they marched, were blocked several times, and were pushed and shoved with shields by burly police. Midway, they managed to maneuver and break away, then run free to Mendiola Bridge.

MCCCL leaders tried to negotiate with the police ground commander, Superintendent Quirante, in vain. He quickly ordered the violent dispersal that resulted in scores hurt, several illegally arrested. There were even attempts by policemen without identifying nameplates to treacherously arrest UN Ad Litem Judge Romeo Capulong, Rep. Satur Ocampo and other rally leaders. One of the demonstrators emerged from a Western Police District car with a bloodied face after he was viciously punched in the face with metal knuckles while in the WPD car.

After Mrs. Arroyo’s successes in thwarting the Opposition’s move to impeach her and shoring up her tottering regime with critical support from the Bush administration, the military top brass and the church hierarchy, she is now escalating police violence versus rallyists to coerce and intimidate them into silence.

But all these successes are turning out to be short-lived and largely illusory.

For one, a heap of damaging issues continues to pile up. Even when the Arroyo camp is able to wiggle free from the controversies and scandals by means of some legal maneuver, a cover-up, intimidation or buying off witnesses and manipulation of mass media coverage, the issues do not die down completely. No amount of plugging the holes
can keep the stench of corruption and anomaly from leaking out of the Malacañang walls.

Every new issue that raises questions about the Arroyo government’s legitimacy threatens to re-open the can of worms of the Arroyo administration’s wrongdoing and abuse of power for self-serving ends.

The Gudani and Balutan testimonies are examples of how, when everyone thought the Opposition had run out of issues to raise against the Arroyo regime, seemingly divine providence (or is it retribution?) delivered the two military officials’ testimonies to the Senate.

Earlier, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales’ disastrous attempt to cover-up the truth about the Venable contract in a Senate-led investigation led to his being placed under technical arrest. Speculation was rife whether Gonzales was covering up for his boss.

Another clear indicator that the Arroyo camp is growing paranoid and desperate is the clumsy and panicky manner by which it has reacted to charges raised against it.

A short listing will suffice to prove the point.

Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio Bunye’s hurried press conference where he reveals the existence of a plot to fake wiretapped conversations of the President talking to Comelec Commissioner Garcillano aka “Garci” and claims to have the untampered version where Mrs. Arroyo is supposedly speaking only to a staffer in her campaign group.

The extraordinary disappearing act of Commissioner Garcillano who alone can verify the information and bring to light the truth in the GMA-Garci wiretapped conversations.

The crude attempts of DENR Secretary Mike Defensor to muddle up the issue of the Garci tapes further by faking the opinion of an alleged expert he paid top money to study whether the Garci tapes were tampered.

The manner in which the impeachment complaint was bludgeoned at the House of Representatives with the railroading of the dismissal by the pro-Administration majority.

The illegal raid on the rented room of Opposition witness, handwriting expert Tabayoyong, that was patently unjustified, meant to tamper if not do away with vital evidence of electoral fraud by the Arroyo camp and involved the highly irregular use of the intelligence units of the police and military.

The gag order, E.O. 464, that aims to shield Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts, first and foremost from any accountability but in the process challenges a co-equal branch of government, the Senate, from exercising its authority and prerogatives thus creating a Constitutional impasse that forebodes more political instability.

The concoction of more unbelievable “destabilization plots” such as the Cory-Drilon coup cum assassination plot, the so-called “de facto impeachment trial” by the Senate and more plots to come from the fertile imagination of Mrs. Arroyo’s canine subalterns and allies.

The unabated political killings of known critics and dissenters such as human rights lawyers, progressive church people and party-list leaders, militant peasant leaders, trade unionists and youth activists in an attempt to neutralize if not silence the most vocal, the most resolute and the most effective opponents of the Arroyo regime.

No matter the cynical view and the tall tale of Arroyo apologists that GMA’s sins are mere lapses in judgment, common practices engaged in by all politicians and the result of a bad political system that will be cured by charter change and not a change in leadership, most people are just not buying it.

The majority of Filipinos are still desirous of rectitude in government; that right be upheld and wrong be discarded; that good deeds be rewarded and crime punished. Cheats, liars and thieves -- especially when they occupy high positions of public office that require and presumably enjoy public trust -- must be called to account.
What the mass movement seeking regime change must do is to tap onto this lode of uprightness and decency in the Filipino psyche as well as utilize the gut issues springing from the worsening economic crisis to spur our people onto decisive action.

7-8 October 2005


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