Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beyond shame

My friend Conrad de Quiros has been consis-tently saying that her gravest of sins is her illegitimacy. Nothing could be worse than stealing the people's vote, he always writes. The lying and the stealing will always follow the cheating. How absolutely correct.

When the FSGO wrote about the seven curses brought about by the Arroyo regime, it listed her illegitimate leadership as Curse Number Six, and Conrad disagreed with the hierarchy of the litany of curses. Of course the FSGO titled its pre-SONA statement as "The Stolen Republic," as contra-distinguished from what Gloria Macapagal Arroyo keeps touting as her "strong" republic.

In this space, for months on end, we have been writing a definitive conclusion that some of our friends found too speculative: That she will not go quietly into the night after her stolen term ends on June 30, 2010. No, it's not like Cory refusing to extend her stay in power, even if she had a legal peg. She was elected under the aegis of the Marcos Constitution of 1973, in a framework of dictatorial rule. The transitory provisions of the 1987 Cory Constitution did not expressly restrict the incumbent president from seeking election under its framework. But Cory Aquino had class. She refused the blandishments of extended power, and she transferred power to Fidel V. Ramos with absolute grace.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has absolutely no class. And the grace of self-abnegation is alien to her persona, certainly not in character. When Joseph Estrada appointed her his social welfare secretary, she and her husband started plotting, along with faithful acolytes some of whom have regretted their participation, on how to prematurely eject the duly elected president. Estrada had the grace to conscript her in his government, the kind of grace Carlos P. Garcia did not deign her father Diosdado, who was his elected vice-president, worthy of. But her father Diosdado plodded on, and defeated Garcia fair and square in the elections of 1961. And Garcia had the grace to accept defeat.

Not his daughter Gloria, though. She conspired with many to eject Estrada. She succeeded, by "grace" of Sin and the treachery of Estrada's military generals.

Claiming after two years in power that she had failed to heal the wounds inflicted upon the nation by the "divisiveness" her act of usurpation had spawned, she pledged, with the national hero's monument as witness, that she would voluntarily remove herself from the electoral contest of 2004. At that very instant, I did not believe her. I just wondered how she would wiggle out of her avowal. I was right. In October of 2003, this time in her father's Kapampangan homeland, she took back the words that nine months before she declared in Baguio. Her excuse? The opposition taunted her with false charges. Instead of harkening to her proffered political "sacrifice" and uniting behind her, the opposition continued to fight her. And so she will fight, she said then. He, he, he. Only the naive believed her in December 30, 2002 anyway.

But perhaps that was in character. Her father Diosdado also promised his fellow Liberal Party leader, Ferdinand Marcos, that he would rule for only one term. He was not true to his spoken word, so Marcos jumped ship, joined the rival Nacionalista Party, and became its standard bearer in 1965. But here is where father and daughter differ. Diosdado accepted his defeat, and as far as political history writes, he did not attempt to cheat to prevail over his political rival. So he served his one and only term, content, as he later wrote, that he had contributed a "stone to the edifice" of nation-building.

In the case of Diosdado's daughter, she was not beneath conspiring, as constitutional successor, to destroy and eventually eject her elected president. Then, she dishonored her own vow not to seek election. And worse than all these, she conspired with election officials and military generals who have no concept of honor to ensure her victory. Nothing could be more dishonorable.

When we had the chance to eject her because we all discovered her illegitimacy, "not once, but twice" as her cheated and fallen rival's widow charged, we failed. Why?

Because Gloria's amoral use of power and public money prevailed against the puny if sincere attempts of many of us to save the nation from this paragon of lying, cheating and stealing. She beat us, even the less than fifty congressmen who remained steadfast despite the bribes and the pressures, simply because she was "beyond shame."

(After Hello Garci burst her electoral claim, some members of what contemporary history calls the Hyatt Ten, asked her to consider the honorable act of relinquishing power. In the welter of their arguments, she supposedly told them, "I am already beyond shame".)

Attempts to recreate people power then went for naught, among other reasons being the trepidation to jump into the unknown of a Noli de Castro succession. Where in the first people power revolt, we summoned the best in our national character and made a courageous leap into the future, when it came to ejecting the unelected and the cheat, we quibbled, we hesitated, and decided by apathy and inaction, to accept what ought to be patently unacceptable. How our mores have changed.

And so now we try to survive her. We suffer what would be insufferable to other people in other nations who understand what national honor means.

We kept consoling ourselves that this unhappy chapter will end anyway on June 30, 2010. Now it is clear she intends to stay beyond, and perhaps, till death do us part. And she has no qualms about using the Moro card, and sacrificing the lives of soldiers and civilians in the process, just to push naked obsession for continued power and continuing immunity for high crimes. Now she piggybacks on the federalism card, ostensibly to push peace in her time with the Moros, when all she wants is power for all time.

So what are we to do? What should we do?

The answer ought to be simple. Eject her from office that does not lawfully and morally belong to her anyway.

When? The answer ought to be simple too. Now. Because we should have done that earlier.

But how? We removed Marcos. Some of us ejected Estrada. Can we not summon the same courage that animated people power in 1986?

If we cannot, or those of us who are able to - decide not to move, and merely and meekly suffer in abject indifference, preferring instead to "move on" or plod on with our individual lives, never mind the nation's life, never mind the nation's honor, never mind the nation's future, then God help us all.

We might as well line up for immigrant visas to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

Malaya, August 14, 2008