Bad democracy; good politics. That, in sum, is why it seems to me Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano should swallow his pride and "apologize" to the First Gentleman, Mike Arroyo.
Regardless of what Cayetano personally thinks of the "evidence" he says he has gathered, proving that Mike Arroyo had a secret bank account in Germany, he remains the accuser. And in our system, the burden of proof lies with him. Despite what we may think about the accused, it is not his responsibility to show proof; it is the accuser’s. From what I understand of the matter, Cayetano refuses to show the proof he says he has unless it were in the context of the impeachment process. That is unfortunate, because it reinforces the sweet-talking congressman’s reputation as a Senator wannabe, with the "new" accusation against Mike Arroyo a mere political stunt. Surely the good congressman knows that an accusation is different from an actual information (as a filed case is called in our corner of the world). His accusation against Mike Arroyo needs, how shall we say this, the political equivalent of a preliminary investigation. But from what I understand, Cayetano wants to go straight to trial.
My point: Whenever we upend one of the cardinal tenets of the rule of law, we are (whether we realize it or not) undermining democracy itself. But that is exactly what we’re doing, when we shift the burden of proof from accuser to accused.
But an "apology," as President Arroyo has herself demanded, also makes sense tactically — that is, as politics. Bear with me.
Of the key charges brought against the President since the Garci wiretapping scandal broke, only this accusation, that the President’s husband and his family have kept millions of dollars in secret bank accounts, has received this kind of direct, point-by-point, let’s-skip-the-niceties refutation. All the others have been met with sweeping denials, glittering in their generalities.
I am not concerned, for the moment, with what exactly Mike Arroyo and his lawyers have said, or what kind of certification they said they received from the German bank. Instead, I am struck by the fact that stares us in the face: for the first time since the "I am sorry" speech (in which former Senate President Frank Drilon had some part), the President has come right out and given a direct denial of an accusation.
My question is: Why only now? And why only this one?
In contrast, the charge of election fraud — which remains the most potent, the most "impeachable," of them all — was met with an apology that did not mention specifics, a philosophical approach that sought to both dilute the guilt and spread the blame to others in the political class, a legal tack that emphasized the lack of a proper legal forum for revisiting the vote, and (not least) a political juggernaut, fueled by so-called prejudicial questions, that crushed everything in its way.
This contrast should make us wonder: Did the President blunder? Did she make an outstanding mistake when she oh-so-publicly endorsed her husband’s unusual defense strategy? That strategy, Cayetano’s present predicament should not keep us from noticing, is based on something radical: doing away with the processes allowed under law. In other words, Mike Arroyo took the burden of proof upon himself, even though he was the accused.
My question is: Why can’t the President do the same with the other charges? The sound, legal, democratic answer is, because the burden lies with her accusers.
But Mike Arroyo’s blitzkrieg, and the President’s stand-by-her-man speech yesterday, now casts a pall on the administration’s by-the-book approach. Do you get what I mean? It is the absence of a similar approach, against the more serious charges, that is quite telling.
And that is why I think Cayetano should apologize. Done right, an apology will make that absence ever-present to the public.