August 05, 2011

Lack of conviction

In conventional Philippine politics, grave accusations about graft and corruption, electoral fraud and other anomalies, including heinous crimes like extrajudicial killings, massacres and other atrocities, are abundant and even common knowledge. These are the stuff of the opposition’s tirades against those in power, rising in crescendo and reaching fever pitch as election time nears, or the potential for an extra-constitutional ouster of the incumbent gains credence.

One would expect that the moment the opposition ascends to power, riding on the crest of popular demand for rectitude, good governance and justice, it would have all the motivation and the means, most especially the people’s mandate and backing, to go after the offenders and throw the guilty behind bars.

But not so, going by well-established tradition since post independence. Even the most scandalous of scams and disgusting of depravities are eventually swept under the rug; shelved and archived until forgotten by all except the most zealous of chroniclers; or even pardoned and whitewashed.

The argument has always been that all such accusations are just part of the unfortunate but necessary mudslinging of electoral or ouster campaigns. Once in power, the new political leadership is supposed to “move on” and go about the more important business of governing (and, of course, taking their turn at the till), magnanimously calling for unity and conciliation rather than division and strife.

Perhaps it can be taken as a measure of the extent and severity of the crisis of Philippine society and politics that business cannot go on as usual.

For one, the crimes that former government officials must answer for have quantitatively jumped to the plunder of hundreds of millions if not billions of the people’s money. These have also qualitatively mutated to include systematic, wholesale and complex schemes to defraud the electorate to gain power and similarly well-planned, convoluted and brazenly executed maneuvers to cling to power by both government-orchestrated deception, high bribery and state-sponsored violence and coercion.

For another, in the aftermath of two people’s uprisings that toppled the hated dictator Marcos and the erstwhile popular but venal “Erap”, as well as an “almost” uprising that was itching to oust the much-despised usurper Gloria Arroyo, the people’s demand for a day of reckoning can not so easily be appeased or brushed aside.

Much more so from President “Noynoy” Aquino who campaigned and continues to work the crowd on an anti-corruption cum good governance platform while invoking the hallowed names of his departed parents.

Recently, human rights victims have taken the decisive step of filing criminal and civil cases against military officials up to and including Mrs. Arroyo as commander-in-chief. New whistleblowers have come forward regarding fraud during the 2004 and 2007 elections. New revelations have surfaced regarding graft and corruption -- nay outright plunder --perpetrated under the Arroyo regime not just by subordinates but by Mrs. Arroyo and the “First Gentleman” (“FG”) themselves.

These more than validate what critics, opponents and victims of the Arroyo regime have been saying all along about its crimes against the people. It also goes to show that with the Arroyos out of Malacanang, the cover-up of their culpability cannot be sustained and honest-to-goodness investigation can and must proceed.

Mr. Aquino does not need a so-called Truth Commission to do what was needed to run after Mrs. Arroyo and her ilk. He just needs political will including rolling up his sleeves to make sure that the serious, hard work of coming up with the evidence and successfully prosecuting cases will take place.

What we have seen so far leaves much to be desired, and raises doubts on what the regime's real intentions on the exposes are.

It must be pointed out that the Aquino administration has not filed a single case against Mrs. Arroyo, “FG” or any of her most notorious cohorts. Efforts in this direction have either failed (e.g. Truth Commission) or are characterized by press releases and innuendoes rather than hard-nosed investigation and case build-up.

Admittedly, Mr. Aquino is able to sustain public perception that he is serious about going after corruption by dint of Malacanang’s media campaign and the exposés in several government agencies like the PCSO and Pagcor and some government-owned-and-controlled corporations.

Thus there is serious if not cynical questioning whether some or most of these revelations are being orchestrated for Malacanang’s benefit, i.e. to remove attention and onus from Mr. Aquino himself for not having much to show for all his speechifying, for tolerating the questionable or outright wrongdoing by his favored government officials; for missteps or lack of rectitude in his own decisions (e.g. buying a luxury car albeit second-hand while poverty is widespread and entrenched).

More importantly, many of the economic and political interests/personalities lined up behind the Aquino administration today were originally with Mrs. Arroyo; switched sides during the campaign and elections; or flipped sides when Mr. Aquino took over. This eloquently signifies that their conflicts are not about fundamental differences in political platform but a question of shifting alignments based on factional interests.

It stands to reason that ordinary people, most especially those who were in the forefront of the fight against the Arroyo regime but who have not joined government, must continue to act as a generic Citizens’ Watchdog on the Aquino administration.

They can take advantage of the abovementioned favorable developments to push harder for the prosecution and punishment of GMA and her cohorts including jail time, removal of all powers and perks as former president and now legislator, recovery of ill-gotten wealth in favor of the people and the regime’s victims.

They must ensure their independence and initiative from the Aquino administration’s maneuvers and machinations by developing a broad flank for pursuing the campaign for justice versus the Arroyos et al.

They must maintain a critical stance vis a vis the Aquino administration on the issues of good governance, graft and corruption and even fraud (in anticipation of mid-term elections in 2013).

Most important, the gains from the campaign for justice versus the Arroyos et al are valuable in raising the people’s awareness of the roots of the problems of electoral fraud, corruption and bad governance in the bureaucrat capitalist system of governance and politics. #

Published in Business World
5-6 August 2011


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