Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fidel’s lament

Fidel Valdez Ramos, who together with Juan Ponce Enrile and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, led the breakaway from the government of Ferdinand Marcos that culminated in what history now calls the “EDSA people power revolt”, has reason to be miffed. The woman he helped install into office, first by endorsing her along with Jose de Venecia as his party’s standard bearers in 1998, then once more in 2001, when his political nemesis and successor Joseph Estrada was on trial after his impeachment by the House, deigned it beneath her to attend the commemoration of the event that brought the forms of democracy back to life. She preferred to be across the street, visiting briefly one of those umpteenth job fairs organized by DOLE and its POEA to make the jobless scramble for the little mercies of available opportunities beyond these benighted shores.

For Gloria the POEA affair was another photo opportunity, to show to whoever still cares, that “GMA cares”. She preferred a fleeting photo-op for a commemoration of one of the two most important political events of two generations. Almost a generation before, the most important event was the declaration of martial law, which snuffed out the same forms of democracy.

“Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit wala dito ang pangulo. Sana lahat ay sumama sa pagdiriwang at magbigay ng respeto”, the former President rued.

It is noteworthy that GMA chose to commemorate EDSA two days earlier, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. She chose the spot perhaps to subconsciously “bury” the memory of that popular expression of democracy, afraid that she may one day be at the receiving end of public rage, as the dictator Marcos experienced. And she could not control herself. She said there that “the world would not forgive another people power”. She has become spokesperson for the universe, hah! Just because she has travelled to various parts 58 times in the 97 months that she has been in Malacanang gives her no right to speak for the world. But then, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is sui generis. No other Filipino leader ever displayed as much gall, and as little shame.

FVR and Jose de Venecia saved the little girl they inflicted upon the nation once more on July 8, 2005. On June 6, GMA’s spokesman and press secretary Ignacio “Toting” Bunye exposed to the nation his tale of two tapes. Hello Garci exploded, and continues to haunt the nation, with no closure yet in sight. Ten of her cabinet officials resigned, and Cory Aquino called for Dona Gloria’s resignation. Even her then Chief of Staff, Efren Abu, gave out a very tentative statement of support, as if waiting for opportunity from popular sentiment. The nation teetered, and the government of the illegitimate Gloria was on the brink of collapse. Only the timidity of Noli de Castro (the complete opposite of Gloria who conspired to remove the duly elected Estrada five years before) and the clarion call of FVR and his JDV for the trapos of their Lakas to circle their beleaguered creation, saved the day for her.

Now, his Gloria does not even deign the EDSA he started worthy of her presence. Fidel Valdez Ramos feels understandably bad.

But the bigger disappointment ought to be not just the absence of a failed and illegitimate leader, whose government’s corruption stinks and is smelled all over the world, but the failure of the same EDSA to bring about the flowering of genuine democracy, a democracy not only in form, but in substance. That substance, which is the full freedom of every man and woman regardless of the circumstances of birth, to fulfil his aspirations in a society of equal opportunities, amply protected by a polity where peace and order reign and good governance guarantees basic services, with justice for all and towards all, has been denied the same people whose combined power defeated a tyranny. Look at all the shattered institutions of what we call democracy, and weep.

There is a legislature whose independence is compromised, because most of the traditional politicians that populate both of its houses transact with the executive branch they are sworn to check and balance. The art of political compromise, which means the balancing of competing public interests in the service of the greater good, has been corrupted into the sacrifice of greater good and public interest in favour of selfish and immoderate greed.

There reigns an executive whose be-all and end-all is power in all its forms, political as well as economic, and for such ends, will transact with everyone in the military, the judiciary, the legislature, the civil service, the media, the business community, even low-life engaged in illegal money-making, to pursue the same --- at all cost. No leader, not even Ferdinand Marcos, has ever been as amoral.

There is a judiciary which but for a few brave and conscience-struck souls, are as transactional as can ever be. And there is a “Department Store of Justice”, as my friend Frank Chavez aptly describes it, presiding over a prosecution system where those who have less in life are persecuted, while those who can either buy or pressure are protected. And a police force that is more interested in jueteng intelihensya than real intelligence work and the discipline to fight crime and protect hapless citizens.

There is a military establishment where those who cannot stand corruption and the destruction of ideals instilled upon them in the Academy languish in jails, while generals who transacted with the illegitimate commander-in-chief grow fat with perks and are given juicy positions in the soldiers’ after-life.

There is a civil service whose career system has been destroyed by a multitude of unqualified political appointees, never been as pronounced or as pervasive as in the last eight years of the president FVR supports.

Tell you what, Mr. President, sir: it is best that the president you helped enthrone did not attend our EDSA. To begin with, she was never there when you were holed in Crame, ready to die if love of country demanded. She never participated in the fight against tyranny, and she never joined in the outcry that followed the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino. She was given by Cory that little office called the GTEB (which turned out to be such a juicy thing) only out of deference to her old man who after all brought Ninoy Aquino into the Liberal Party.

But also because, Mr. President Ramos, sir --- she has done more than any single individual, past or present, to destroy the values that EDSA sought to enshrine, values that even the Filipino public seem to have forgotten as they struggle every day of their miserable lives for the next meal.

You and I, and all of us, Mr. President Ramos, by sins of omission and commission and bad judgment, have at one point in our lives contributed to the rot the nation festers through these days. But we privately and sometimes publicly acknowledge our human errors. And in our time, irrespective of roles significant or insignificant, we were motivated by what we believed at the time to be in the greater national interest.

But your creation never says “I am sorry” and means it. And she discards old allies as quickly as she changes her scarves for her peripatetic traipses. Rather, she is now busy transacting both politics and business with the very same cronies that Marcos used to substitute for the oligarchies he disliked. She has politically decapitated your Joe de Venecia. She has co-opted all your other once faithful kabaleyan in Pangasinan. She has hollowed-out your own Lakas from you and transformed most all of them as toadies she would transact with her new political and business allies.

And in the wake of her governance most bad, she will leave, if at all or if we cannot help it, an economy once more in the hands of oligarchs, and a nation where moral values are irredeemably foreclosed by civilian institutions without a shred of credibility or sense of duty, and worse, a soldiery castrated of its courage and sworn obligations to country and people.

No, Mr. President Ramos, sir, there is no reason for you to rue her absence in your annual celebration of courage. She does not deserve to commemorate an EDSA spirit she has never, never at all, cherished.