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Pity Her, Or Pity Us

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The problem when one loses credibility is that even the purest truth becomes suspect. I remember in February of 1986 when the dictator Marcos showed three military officers on television and accused them of an assassination or coup de etat plot. The public did not believe him, of course. Most Filipino thought it was another zarzuela like the 1972 staging of an assassination against then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.

I also remember the violent clash in Mendiola early in the Cory presidency. At that time, the Left who had been buoyed by the resentment of aggrieved and oppressed Filipinos against Marcos. But the Left were suddenly pre-empted by the Ninoy assassination, the Cory campaign against the dictator, the miraculous People Power, and moved to abort this journey of government goodwill and a mainstream alternative for change. They pushed their people towards Malacanang until security forces had to stand their ground and take as aggressive steps to counter the aggression from protestors. The bloody violence that resulted became a counter battle cry of a cause that was losing its acceptability.

History will show that Cory Aquino died as the most beloved president of Philippine history. The Mendiola incident did not matter much except to those who orchestrated it. Even then General Alfredo Lim went on to become mayor of Manila, a Presidential candidate, an elected senator of the Republic, and now is serving again as mayor. The Left, however, has to employ fear, forced taxation, and lick their political wounds after their losing alliance with Manny Villar and the continuing defeats of their senatorial candidates. It is a matter of credibility, or the serious lack of it.

And now, as though a personal history with the truth, or lies, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo still does not seem to have the capacity to learn. She has forgotten that millions of Filipinos still remember that she announced on December 30, 2002, that she would not run for the presidency. She lied. Then, in a seeming panic reaction, she goes on TV after the Hello Garci expose to say, with a face that did not match the words, “I am sorry.” Who believed her? She was supposed to have won the 2004 presidential elections. Who believes that? There was a survey commissioned by Readers Digest on 80 known personalities who were trusted by Filipinos. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was # 78, meaning only two more personalities were trusted less.

The credibility of Gloria is so low that there were debates if she was ever operated on the first time she went under the knife in St. Lukes Hospital earlier this year. If Filipinos don’t believe that Gloria tells the truth as a matter of character, or habit, it hardly matters whether she, in fact, happens to be telling the truth in an instance. Marcos was telling the truth when he displayed three military officers whom his security forces intercepted before they could make aggressive moves in Malacanang, but nobody believed him. Gloria may really be very sick and is on a life-threatening status, but why would Filipinos believe her?

Government has denied Gloria’s request to travel abroad, purportedly to seek expert medical help, because of the several plunder accusations filed against her. In the countries she indicated where she wanted to go, Gloria listed several countries which did not have extradition treaties with the Philippines. The prospect of Gloria, and husband Mike of the used helicopter controversy, not returning to face whatever plunder cases that may be filed is very high – for the simple reason that she is seen as not trustworthy. It does not help her that a reputable doctor who now serves as the Secretary of Health certified that Gloria does not have a life-threatening situation, that, in fact, she was improving.

The case of Gloria is worth paying attention to. In fact, all politicians and priests, as representatives of Church and State, should take lessons on how the people believe or not believe them, and why. If there is one virtue that needs to be taught again, to recover its august position in our value system, it is honesty. It is no wonder that corruption thrives in the Philippines.

Gloria now runs to the Supreme Court. She puts the Supreme Court in a very delicate position because most are her appointees and the Chief Justice was appointed by her in a most controversial manner – last minute, unnecessary, and smelled like a sweetheart midnight deal. She could have waited for P-Noy to be president, a matter of only weeks, but she forced the appointment and branded forever her choice as her future protector against cases that she knew would be filed against her. If the Supreme Court overrules the decision of the Department of Justice to deny her request for foreign travel, many if not most Filipinos will assume that this is how she gets repaid by justices who owe their position to her.

Filipinos are not suffering the ignominy of being the most corrupt in the region, or of hunger incidence affecting 20 million citizens, it has two past presidents awarded as among the most corrupt in the world. Gloria, after plunder cases are filed against her and tried publicly, may be make it as the third past president judged by the world to be among the most corrupt.

We can pity Gloria. She does have a medical problem. But we can pity ourselves more. We have allowed thieves in the highest office rob us blind, and get away with it.

By Jose Ma. Montelibano





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