Published on March 4, 2008
The issue is accountability. The allegations of abuse of power and large-scale corruption are credible; the processes to vet them, to force an accounting from the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, should be, too.
But despite new spokesmen and a return to campaign-style governance (or maybe that should read, because of the return of the perpetual campaign and deliberately clueless spokesmen), the administration is doing all it can to delay the reckoning.
The abduction of Jun Lozada is the paradigm (in the narrow sense Kuhn used it). It is the experiment, the exemplary episode that makes sense of the puzzle or problem we face. It is through this lens, therefore, that we should view the national broadband network scandal.
Even if we were to consider Lozada’s efficient exit from the airport as friendly rather than hostile, we would still have to consider the episode as part of an elaborate Malacañang-approved plot to keep Lozada away from the Senate. That much is clear; that much is key.
That leading lights of the government—from the office of the executive secretary, to the chief of the Philippine National Police, to airport authorities—cooperated (or conspired) to prevent Lozada from being arrested by agents of the Senate tells us all we need to know: as in the compromised impeachment proceedings, as in the preempted mass protests, so with the Senate blue ribbon committee hearings. This administration does not want to be held to account.
What this means is that President Arroyo and politicians allied with her lose their turn at running the country. It is really quite as simple as that. The basic principle that animates democratic elections has not changed: “Throw the rascals out.” There is, too, a deadline for throwing them out: June 30, 2010.
The strategic value of the 2010 elections lies in that deadline; a transfer of power is already in the schedule. The more our aspiring presidential candidates prepare for the May 10, 2010 contest, the more any cancellation or postponement of the elections (say, through a manufactured people’s initiative) will be resisted. No Filipino politician, not even Ferdinand Marcos, has struck it rich by betting against the Filipino’s passion for the vote. So let Mar Roxas hawk more Tide laundry products, or Manny Villar visit more provinces, or Dick Gordon play coy with Cebu’s Gwen Garcia—their ambition serves democracy’s purpose.
At the same time, the outrage over the official impunity and immoderate greed revealed by the NBN scandal must continue to be expressed. Even if people power seems unlikely, protesters must still take to the streets, fill up the churches, organize school forums, reclaim the public square.
It’s possible that such “communal action,” in the Catholic bishops’ hopelessly ambiguous term, may provoke a confluence of events that will lead to an earlier day of reckoning for the Arroyo administration. Well and good. (We must be open to surprises.) But even if it doesn’t, what of it? The important thing is to do our part.
Father Rector Rolando de la Rosa of the University of Santo Tomas asked Lozada and former president Corazon Aquino and the others who attended the Mass for Truth at the university last Sunday to consider the best way to return integrity to government: “the best way is not through a “rigodon” of leaders who are forcibly removed through people power, but through an enlightened, educated and conscientious electoral process. We have 26 months before the next election. We have enough time to prepare ourselves so we can vote wisely. Let us use people power during election time, not only before or after.”
As in 2007, the national elections in 2010 are the opposition’s to lose. Let’s hope the agitation for people power does not turn out to be a fatal distraction.
* * *
While waiting to appear on “Korina Today” last Friday, the four of us who had been invited as resource persons sat around in ANC’s make-up room and, because Pulse Asia executive director Ana Maria Tabunda was with us, discussed her poll firm’s latest (Metro Manila) survey.
What explains Lozada’s high credibility? she was asked. It’s his demeanor, she said, and his ability to answer all manner of questions. His story was believable.
My two cents: The “back story” must have also added to the credibility of Lozada’s story. Consider the circumstances. After going missing, Lozada surfaces in the middle of the night, surrounded by a bodyguard of nuns. Without a doubt, the presence of the religious was a seal of approval.
* * *
Bill Luz, formerly and famously of the Makati Business Club and now executive vice president of Ayala Foundation, and I briefed advertising creatives on the issue of corruption in a Creative Guild workshop in Boracay last week, to prepare them for international competitions in the public-service advertising category. As it happens, Luz was met at the Caticlan airport by someone holding up a sign that, serendipitously, summed up the workshop’s objective. “Creative Guilt,” the erroneous welcome sign read.
If you squint hard enough, public-service advertising can be understood (bear with me here) as creative guilt at work, yes?
With Creative Guild president Merlee Jayme of DM9 Jayme Syfu, the seven-person board of judges for the Inquirer Young Kidlat Awards recognized the work of Jonathan Bangoy and Gigay Quipanes from the J. Romero advertising agency as the best of the best; they will represent the Philippines in Cannes, France. Runners-up Cristina Araneta and Aidon Panlaqui from Lowe Inc. will represent the country at the Adfest in Pattaya, Thailand.
The anti-corruption campaign, a first in the history of the guild, is sponsored by the Ayala Foundation.