Daily Archives: October 2, 2005

Still a thrilla after all these years

A quick post, before I forget. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest prizefights in history, the Thrilla in Manila. The epic third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier rocked the Araneta Coliseum to its foundations. I was too young to merit a ticket to the actual fight, but I did get to see them, for free, in their training sessions at the Folk Arts Theater. The Manila Times carried a Reuters story on the classic, but the Inquirer’s Recah Trinidad (a consummate reporter, and Tata Recs to many of us) wrote a masterpiece.

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Paging ANC

The next time Sen. Pong Biazon guests on any of your shows, can you kindly ask him the following question?

Some of us who keep blogs or post in their comment threads have been exercised by the vexing role of a professional military in a functioning democracy. I myself tend toward the idea that the chain of command is the military; it is what makes the armed services viable in the first place. At the same time, and from different points of departure, many of us have arrived at the conclusion that, even in the military, conscience is primary.

Some, like myself, understand this primary role in a more limited sense. Only illegal or immoral orders can be the subject of a conscience-bound act of disobedience. (Edwin Lacierda asks a crucial question; I hope I will have time later today, after the many Sunday obligations have been attended to, to give the question the attention it deserves.)

Now Biazon — a former Marine general, the savior of Camp Aguinaldo, and an ex-Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces — has struggled with the tension between the primacy of conscience and the essential role of the chain of command almost his entire life. In his questioning of Marine general Franciso Gudani ("Congratulations, Marine!"), he hinted as much.

At one point, after Gudani told him about his moral dilemma regarding possible election fraud, Biazon recalled an incident in his military career which he said was similar to Gudani’s. A long time ago, in a matter involving smuggling in Cavite, he said, he was asked, either by a superior officer or an influential politician, to look the other way. He said he refused to do so.

I do not remember what he said after that, whether he was relieved of his command or transferred to another post or left to wither on the narrow ladder of military promotion. In fact, Biazon left it pretty much at that. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile butted in to crack a joke, saying, "This minister was not the one who told you to look away, right?" or words to that same effect. (Which makes me think the incident happened during martial law.)

The question for Biazon: Did he break the chain of command then? If he didn’t, what did he do, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of smuggling and high-level cover-up?

These aren’t facetious questions; I really would like to know how, in that particular incident, the tension between conscience and chain of command was resolved. Perhaps he has answers the "internal audience" of the AFP needs to hear.

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Po-tay-to, po-tah-to

Why is it that Maid Miriam considers Gen. Gudani’s testimony about Mike Arroyo (retailed by a friend, who heard it from a security aide) mere hearsay, but sees her own narration of an alleged kill-GMA plot (gained from an "impeccable source," who heard it from a relative of Frank Drilon’s) as the truth worthy of the headlines?

Why is it that Drilon took his sweet time after Manong Johnny questioned the NorthRail contract in a privilege speech last February (when the Senate President was still a close ally of the President’s, and the Garci tapes were still unheard of), but now (after calling on Gloria to resign, and after Enrile joined his working majority in the Senate) says that the then-stalled, now-jumpstarted Senate probe is mere matter of course?

Why is that Palace defenders have always reminded the opposition of the basic rule, that the burden of proof lies on the accuser, but now, through Toting Bunye, they have called on Drilon, whom Bunye has accused of "setting up" the President, to prove that he had not done so?

Why is it that Nene Pimentel can consider EO 464 rankly unconstitutional, but insists up to today on delaying any petition before the Supreme Court, the only instrument of government with the Constitutional mandate to declare the EO unconstitutional — and thus, without effect?

You can, of course, add your own questions; perhaps the heading "Intellectual Candor, or the Lack of It" would do.

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