I write this column at about the time the polls closed in most of the United States. While most every survey gave the edge to Barack Obama, anything can yet happen, and I do not have Virgilio Garcillano or Benjamin Abalos in mind when I say that.
The American elections took place at a time when most everyone in the country feels so low. Jobs are being lost, pension funds have been depleted, homes are being foreclosed even as property values have sunk precipitously. The financial bubble has burst, and with it, their "noble" houses of finance have become either dead or decrepit.
But elections are supposed to bring hope even in direst straits, and indeed, with the well-deserved political demise of George W. Bush, Americans find reason to hope, whether a John McCain scores an upset, or, and especially if, Barack Obama makes history by being the first black president to enter the White House.
In this benighted land, unfortunately, there is no reason to hope in the midst of an economic crisis whose full impact we have yet to feel. We have a president who has been in the saddle for four years and four months of an illegitimate term, and before that, three years and five months of a usurped term. And having suffered governance so bad, characterized by corruption without parallel in our history both in scale and in shamelessness, we are bound to suffer her presence in our lives for one year and seven more months.
Even that is now a big IF. Afraid that a new leader elected in 2010 might lose popular support if he or she should cut a deal with the most despised president ever, the Boss Woman of Ronnie Puno and Ed Ermita is now planning how she could prolong her stay in power. Already, moves to change the Constitution are afoot, and if their timelines are followed, the scenario should start unfolding when Congress reopens next week. Failing that, even the unthinkable, which is some kind of martial law, a la Marcos, has not been ruled out by Palace rasputins.
Yet unarguably, even if she should mercifully bow down in 2010, one year and seven more months is too long a time to suffer her bad governance. One wonders whether the diminution of fortunes stashed away in foreign havens due to the financial meltdown, by those who have plundered the treasury in the last eight years, will be used as license to plunder even more rapaciously in the remainder of this insufferable term.
It is the height of stupidity to think, as some alleged business leaders who speak for no one but themselves intone, that changing leaders in the midst of a crisis would only exacerbate the same. Not if the "leader" is the one we have. Bereft of a legitimate mandate, and immersed in an unending quagmire of corruption, she lies and buys her way out of every political crisis.
Stuck with her as self-imposed leader in dire crisis, we have absolutely no reason to hope.
Which is why to say that we need a Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to tide us over impending economic disaster is like asking the skipper of the MV Princess of the Seas (may he rest in peace) to steer our ship out of harm’s way. So those business lapdogs who chastised the bishops for expressing moral condemnation of a hopelessly amoral regime and added their prayers for liberation therefrom, were clearly doing their puppet act only to aggrandize themselves with their patroness. They make one puke.
Archbishop Oscar Cruz said it succinctly thus: "When a government is corrupt from top to bottom; when an administration is deceitful left and right; and when a national leadership is questionable in legitimacy, integrity and competency, there would be nothing more desirable and agreeable to these mighty and influential ones than to have a constituency basically composed of blind, deaf and dumb citizens with the added social liability of apathy and indifference, fear and fright."
Which is what these business lapdogs would want to make us all – blind, deaf and dumb, with the added insult of being so in bliss through sufferance.
Still and all, the tempest brought about by the call of the five bishops Tuesday last week refuses to die down. It remains grist for the mill from coffee shops to neigborhood "umpukan" even beyond the usual news graveyard that Todos los Santos usually is.
Betraying her nervousness, GMA quickly sent her acolyte Nena Valdes to arrange a meeting with Archbishop Lagdameo, who gallantly obliged. But when her emissaries, the PAGC chair Constancia de Guzman and the unflappable budget secretary Nonoy Andaya saw Lagdameo to appeal the case for the patently corrupt Arroyo administration, all they got was a firm resolve, that "No, no, no…we will not change it (the bishops’ stand)".
"We will involve each diocese in the workings of government," the bolero Andaya offered. Who does he think he was addressing, a senator, a congressman? What does he think of these bishops, kindred spirits of Manny Villar? Would they likewise "insert" their influence in his budget?
And now, Vicente Paterno, the highly respected former trade minister of Marcos, once a senator of the realm during Cory’s reign, has additionally weighed in, by saying that in all of Gloria’s cabinet of three dozen, he regards only two as "matino". Upright, as in Espie Cabral of DSWD and Gibo Teodoro at Defense. Now that’s a searing indictment.
And who, pray tell, volunteered to say "ouch"? Why, Cerge Remonde, the PMS chief! Ha, ha, ha! Protest as much as you want, Cerge, and in Cebu at that, where the talk of the town is how you "inserted" your favorite as immigration director, at the expense of an upright career official. Truly, Remonde has come a long way from being a radio commentator of Quito Mendoza. Only in a government like Gloria’s is this possible. Wala na bang matino na magsasalita para kay GMA?
Which is why when political analyst Joel Rocamora observed that "whether or not the bishops are, consciously or unconsciously, part of a conspiracy, what they’ve done is important because it reminds us that moral outrage does not recognize the political calendar. Practical politicians on both sides of the pro-anti-Gloria divide say talk of liberation has to make way for preparations for the 2010 election, only a year and a half away. The moral sensibility asks why we have to wait. If we can, let’s get rid of her now." Amen to that.
The five bishops and many more among our religious leaders who share their indictment of this plundering government have spoken nothing but the truth that is in every one’s heart, but timidly hesitate to shout. And they have issued to all of us a moral challenge, why in heaven’s name must we put up with and abide by this immoral regime led by one so amoral?
Father Cornelius Lagerway, the Dutch missionary-preacher who in my high school days used to urge us into Catholic action kept chiding, with words I shall always remember: "Not tomorrow, but today!"
Today. That we may all have reason to hope.
Later, that we may all lose any reason to hope.
Take to heart, whether you are a plain citizen eking survival on a daily basis, or a soldier worrying about the future of your family while you offer your own life for government so undeserving, the five bishops call … "The time for change is NOW".