Send in the Marines

Just three quick points about the still ongoing hearing at the Senate.

1. The testimony of Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani marks a true turning point. The actual content of his testimony was rather limited in scope, having to do with election fraud in two provinces (or, if I heard right, actually only three municipalities). As he himself said, when he was offered a bribe, the amount was only "at the municipal level." (The Marine general meant P1.2 million.) His most dramatic assertions were stark indeed, but they are in the nature of hearsay; they must be corroborated. (These have to do, for example, with the First Gentleman personally bringing some P500 million in bribe money in two helicopter trips to the area.) But the mere fact that he and Col. Balutan decided to unburden their consciences, all the while invoking a higher loyalty to the chain of command, to the principle of civilian supremacy, and to "Constitution, God, and country," is stirring indeed — not least for other similarly situated officers and men in the Armed Forces. 

2. The questioning of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile about morale in the military was not in search of truth, but of confirmation. He began by telling Gudani he didn’t have to answer the question about morale. Then when Gudani said he could only speak from his position as Assistant Superintendent at the Philippine Military Academy, Enrile said "national interest" demanded Gudani’s candid answer. When Gudani said a group of cadets "think that the President is guilty," Enrile pressed on. Is their "disaffection" widespread in the Academy? When Gudani replied that only graduating cadets had "access to current events," Enrile concluded: So their disaffection is shared by all classes? When Gudani tried to nuance his answer, the former and long-time defense secretary then said: But that is why I ask this question about morale. Because what the cadets in the Academy think "reflect the Armed Forces." Does it now?

3. The hearing may have been called to investigate the wiretaps on the President, but it doesn’t take a degree in political science to know that the real target of the investigation was the President herself. That is why, as far as questions go, anything goes.

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