Friday, October 26, 2007

Big fish set free

In response to the Erap pardon, I've posted below parts of a paper I wrote for a history class just this past semester.

Against the tide
(In response to “The Philippines: A Nation in Denial” by John J. Carroll, SJ)

THE CAPTION of the editorial cartoon published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer the day after former president Joseph Estrada was found guilty of charges of plunder was “Finally, the big fish,” as if some momentous thing had happened, as if this was finally a turn of the tides in this nation’s history.

We need not look further than what has transpired since—the very fact that Estrada is still far from any prison cell—to realize that maturity is still quite a ways away, the nation is still in denial.

History tells us that administrations’ actions are strongly influenced by their power—their hold of it. So the guilty verdict should not come as a surprise considering the shaky ground on which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo now stands. And I don’t think I’m the first conspirator to even ponder such notions.

We have never punished the man who sucked out the life of our economy during a chaotic 20-year rule. To expect us to punish an ousted president who never finished his six-year term becomes a bit of a tall order.

And while Marcos’ passed away before answering to all the questions, his wife and his children carry on the family’s political dynasty. Though it is unlikely a Filipino baring such a surname would take hold of Malacañang again, it is very realistic to believe that name will continue to be a political institution for years to come.

Cory Aquino’s presidency was an achievement in that it lasted, despite all the forces tugging at her. It is absurd to relegate the Aquino Administration as one run by a mere housewife. We should not forget the very image that catapulted her to office, her husband Ninoy, was far from innocent of playing the traditional politician’s game. And really nothing is more ‘political,’ more calculating than boldly taking on the role of martyr.

Cory had her share of talents behind the machine that was her administration. And sure we can celebrate her, but let us not begin to pretend hers was a clean six-year run.

The Ramos Administration also managed to last despite winning power by such a miniscule amount of support in the elections. We celebrate his run as one of great economic progress, much like how Ramon Magsaysay was ‘everyone’s guy.’ But similar to Arroyo, Ramos had political surplus on his side, ever since he turn-coated on us from being a Marcos man to becoming a key figure in toppling him.

The same is true for Juan Ponce Enrile, who finds himself in the Senate again after all he has admitted to doing, all that we know of his involvement in the dark years of Martial Law. In all the negativity, merely being involved during those years gave Enrile the political capital needed, from elite loyalists to Marcos’ masses. He too has a machine behind him. ...

... Perhaps we are in denial of the fact that justice can be served, as evident in the lack of will to punish the “big fishes” as well as the sorry stupidity to vote for those in connection to them. But we should not also be in denial of the inner-rumblings of the many of us who are frustrated, and who have strong inclinations to manifest these rumblings in more intellectual forms of protest, like voting, thus strengthening the very institutions we have co-corrupted by those in government over the years.

I once wrote of how our history was like photocopying the front page of a newspaper from 30 or so years ago over and over again. And we were in denial of this. Now there are signs of that photocopying machine breaking down. There is an opening now because of this momentary breakdown. It is up for the history makers of today to point the course of events to another direction, while there is a lapse in the strange inevitability history has stubbornly shown us over the years.

Loyola Heights, Quezon City
October 2007

And with the Erap pardon we regress, calling upon mechanics to fix that photocopying machine.


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