Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let them feel the rage

Bobby Kennedy, the man on his way to certain election as president before he was gunned down by an assassin, once wrote - "Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws--but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted--when we tolerate what we know to be wrong--when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened-- when we fail to speak up and speak out--we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice."

The problem with our countrymen is that they have been too busy minding their “own business”, which is selling in the sidewalks and being milked of their earnings by crooked “kotong” cops or barangay aides of another crook of a mayor, or trying to sell shares of stock in a market that has seen better days and will see red for months and perhaps years to come, or busy waiting for a 2010 as “redemption” from the bad government that they now endure --- too busy “minding their own business” and forgetting that they are part of a bigger community called nation.

But we see rays of hope. We hear more and more people speaking out. One man who has removed himself from sterling public service and in his quiet and self-effacing ways, serves the nation still by incisive inputs to that group of former senior government officials who have taken it upon themselves to analyze the national malaise as dispassionately as humans can be spared their own inner rage, is Tomas Africa, former chief statistician of the government.

I share with our readers something he recently wrote to fellow FSGO members, in reaction to a news report that had Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur boasting that his abominable Kampi is close to getting 197 signatures of members of the lower House on a resolution to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly (Con-Ass).

“If that is the KAMPI position, here is my take:

“If the 1987 Constitution intended the Congress to vote as one in amending the Charter through a Constituent Assembly, 197 signatures could already be sourced out solely from the 238 members of the House of Representatives (HOR). Why bother with how the Senate would vote?
(Incidentally, as we write this, radio is reporting that only 21 HOR members registered negative votes against the asinine impeachment report of the Committee on Justice headed by Matias Defensor, padre de Miguelito el minero, y padre tambien de Maite, who manages that infernal stretch of road called the South Luzon Expressway or SLEX – what lucky, favored family they are. Now 238 less 21, my arithmetic teacher in Grade One taught me, is 217, indeed more than Villafuerte’s magic 197.)

“What did it take to become a member of the 14th Congress? Look at some official numbers from the COMELEC website: To get into the Senate, the 12th placer in the 14 May 2007 senatorial elections got 11,005,866 (or 37.3 percent) votes out of 29,498,660 who actually voted.

“To be a member of the (horrible) HOR, the winner in the 14 May 2007 congressional elections in Batanes garnered 4,430 (or 54.4 percent) votes out of 8,147[1] actual voters. In Camiguin the winner had 24,277 votes (54.3 percent) of a total 44,677[2] voters, or.
“320, 677 (2.03 percent of 30,056,695) party-list voters placed the sectoral organization An Waray on their ballots.

“The spheres of influence and representation are obviously different. A member of the Senate is voted into office by the national electorate and a member of the HOR, by the constituency in their district (which can be less than 1 percent of total voters in the country, but of course through no fault of theirs).

“To the 167 members (and counting…) aboard the bandwagon at the HOR (ABHOR) who have already signed the resolution, what makes them think that their individual votes will have the same weight as the individual votes of the Senators in amending the Charter through a Constituent Assembly under the present Constitution? Why bother the Supreme Court justices with another test of their loyalty and insult their intelligence and integrity?

“Chances are that those promoting the CON-ASS have constipated asses which are enthroned on seats padded with 'tong-pats'.”

Indeed, what seems to be the game plan of the abominable Kampi and its other coHORts in the horrible lower House?

They get the required three-fourths vote to their resolution to convene a Con-Ass, which is 197 if you total up the membership of the two houses of Congress. The Senate will not come up with a similar resolution, and instead will elevate the interpretation of the ambiguous constitutional language on the matter to the Supreme Court. Timeline? January, by which time a new addition to the Supreme Court shall have been appointed (choose between Agnes Devanadera and one of the Sandiganbayan justices who participated in the Erap trial). By the time the Supreme Court likely decides, it will have been late February, or early March, by which time, another new SC associate justice has been appointed. That removes one each from the ranks of the 9-6 voting trend in recent constitutionally-interpretative decisions of the high tribunal, but adds one more to the ranks of the Arroyo appointees, or 10-5. Will the new appointees toe the line of the kaKampi ni GMA? Now quake in your shoes.

But how will the Dureza’s. Remonde’s, Limcaoco’s, Puno’s and Ermita’s of this world, even if one or two of them would rather slit each other’s throat, lay the predicate, prepare the public mind, to accept --- suffer if you may --- the need to amend, and later, the need to change the form of government to suit their “and she shall rule, forever and ever…hallelujah!” scripted chorus?
He,he,he. Nothing is impossible to these guys and their conjugal masters in the stinking palace beside the stinking river.

There is the economic crisis, with tens of thousands of OFW’s coming home to the benighted land, and tens of thousands in the benighted land losing their jobs in factories that can no longer export as much. There will be farmers all over the benighted land going on hunger strikes (as if they have ever been less than hungry) and march towards the metropolis, because agrarian reform shall have been given the death blow by the non-extension of CARP. There is the “terrorist” bogey in the South, with both the GRP and the secessionists not making headway in peace negotiations because both are not sincere in the first place. All of these issues, and more, the hallelujah chorus will claim, along with their better-syncopated second voices, Fajardo named after a rock in the river Rhine, and Golez whatever, to chant “charter change is the CHANGE we need”. And the high tribunal just might assent, and chant, “charter change is the CHANGE we believe in”. I would love to see President Barack Obama go to the International Court of Justice and sue these guys for plagiarizing him.

Speak out. Cry out. Shout, you hopeless citizens of this benighted land. To you we commend the voice of Joaquin “Chino” Roces, publisher of the then well-respected Manila Times who preferred to close it down than be a mouthpiece of a far more fearful Ferdinand Marcos, one of those who refused to sleep in the long night of authoritarianism:

“We all have to link and expand our ranks till the entire country is bound together with the strength and the ardour of our resolve. I do not exaggerate when I say this could be our last chance to save democracy in the Philippines. The darkness thickens and we have to move.”

* * *

A happy postscript:

Another activist in the FSGO (not that any of us are not activists), former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Ging Quintos-Deles (whose father the late respected paediatrician Florencio Quintos, MD, saved me from an epidemic called H-fever when I was a grade-schooler), recently supped at a private dining club where pig knuckles and sauerkraut are a delight, along with to-die-for seasonally available fat, white asparagus. On their way out, she and her friends saw Romy Neri (of course you haven’t forgotten him), Vic Corpus (still remember him?) and Cyril del Callar, erstwhile Napocor boss who has quietly taken sick leave and moved to the Land Bank as director, courtesy of who else but GMA. They were in deep discussions with two others who looked, according to the waiters, like they wandered here from somewhere in the sands of Araby. Probably cooking up another deal, eh?

Romy quickly recognized Ging, who sat with him in GMA’s cabinet before Ging realized she would not be party to the coven, while Romy revelled in serving the “evil” he eloquently described. Ging tried everything --- step back, turn aside, not smile, but the gentle lady that she is, could not but limply accept the proffered hand of one for whom she has lost all respect.

But the encounter has firmed her resolve, that Romy’s is the last of those “judas hands” that she will shake. Hooray for her.

Twice before she snubbed Norberto Gonzales in similar encounters. Hindi na nakatiis si Norbert, the infamous acolyte of the equally notorious Archie Intengan of the Jesuit society, both conscripted into the un-holy coven. He approached Ging, and asked, “Hindi mo man lang ba ako babatiin?” or words to that effect. Ging simply pretended she did not see, or hear, the Norbert.

Yes. Let them feel the rage. Let them all feel the rage. And yes, “be not afraid”.