Sunday, February 24, 2008


Not yet. We're still a long way from yet another national soul-wrenching chorus of Bayan Ko.

But there's something in the air, something that wasn't there when the over-aged brats of Magdalo and kindred groups laid siege to the Manila Pen.

It's early days yet. But the outrage, which was missing in the first ZTE episode – cut short by former NEDA chief Romulo Neri's weaseling – now percolates.

Then, people shrugged off what they saw as just another quarrel for the spoils of political warfare. The travails of Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. have upped the ante and people are finally squirming.

Dirty tricks unleashed in airports are embedded in our collective psyche. With apologies to that once great human rights champion, Joker Arroyo, there are some things you do not mess around with.

It's a bit sad really but then all great lessons of history often come with a certain sadness. Barely a month ago, I wrote of how young Filipinos would rather roll up their sleeves to solve a problem than break out into song and prayers as is their elders' wont. They'd still rather do that. But, as did good men and women when the Nazis were on the ascendance, Filipinos now see what they missed when they looked away as hundreds of activists were murdered or "disappeared" or when they accepted that cheating at the polls is preferable to getting another actor elected to the Presidency: Wait too long and there may be no one around to hear your cries for help. Now, Everyman is faced with the barrel of a gun.

In this sense, it was unseemly for singer Leah Navarro to pronounce herself "giddy" over Lozada's decision to appear at the Senate inquiry into the ZTE national broadband network scandal.

Giddy is doing a tap dance; appalled is what most of us felt on hearing the sordid details of a supposed VIP security operation that looked more like a failed Mafia hit. Giddy is something we would feel should Transparency International and other watchdogs give us a passing grade in the realm of governance. Relief is what we felt at Lozada's Senate star turn; relief that this everyman, by all accounts including his flawed and well-versed in the art of moral compromise, found the courage to face what he had tried to evade for months; relief and horrified fascination as this tearful, bumbling, reluctant hero sketched the depths to which this administration has plumbed in the name of survival.

Navarro is giddy. Her fellow Black and White activist Vince Romano is all brass tacks and pragmatism, as expected of someone who withheld a creed passed on by Lozada – who even then sought anonymity -- so as not to divert attention from the Malacanang gift-giving expose of Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlillo.

Romano notes that all attempts to unseat President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed because of the colliding interests of all factions of the broad political opposition. These fissures are still there, perhaps wider as 2010 nears and politicians dream of their turn at the till. Romano points out that you cannot even begin to heal unless you address the cancer. And there lies the rub.

Ousting a corrupt and despotic leader is a right of every people as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights underscores. Revolutions are not, in the strict sense, short cuts. They take time to wage and often come with messy results; that is why they are seen as a people's last recourse.

But if we are to revolt in the name of democracy then there is no other way but to hew as closely as possible to constitutional change, as we did at EDSA 2. The fact that Mrs. Arroyo has grievously betrayed our trust is no excuse to shortchange ourselves more by anointing leaders outside of constitutional succession terms.

I do not know Vice President Noli de Castro. But he was elected by vast numbers of our people to that post, which comes with the responsibility to take over the Presidency if and when the incumbent Chief Executive can no longer fulfill the duties of that office. Whatever we may think of De Castro's capabilities or lack thereof, we cannot simply sweep away a mandate conferred by the people.

If we can't stomach him then we take our lumps and just give Mrs. Arroyo hell until her term runs out or until she institutes a belated regime of reforms, whichever comes first. We cannot decry corruption and officialdom's penchant for playing fast and loose with the laws of this land and yet do the same in the name of democracy.

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