by René B. Azurin
Sophomoric speechwriters and an uncritical president make for an exasperating combination. President Aquino’s statement castigating the Supreme Court for declaring his Truth Commission unconstitutional sounded like it was written by a college student cramming to produce an essay on the search for truth. Riddled by cliché rhetorical flourishes — like “Kasalanan ba ang maghanap ng katotohanan?” and “Ang hustisyang inantala ay hustisyang ipinagkait” — the speech also felt awfully like Mr. Aquino was setting up an excuse to fail.
In leadenly reading the statement prepared for him presumably by his so-called communications strategists, Mr. Aquino seemed to be saying that the cause of putting former President Arroyo in jail — as promised (pag nanalo kami, kulong si Gloria) during his campaign — was already effectively lost. That makes long-time critics of Mrs. Arroyo — like me — extremely angry. Did he mean that Mrs. Arroyo and her minions were now home free and laughing all the way to Spain and other loot-stashing places?
Good lord. Did Mr. Aquino just have the incredible temerity to tell the Filipino public that he and his sanctimonious yellow “saints” have thrown in the towel on justice hardly six months into his presidency? Ah, we shouldn’t be surprised I guess. That quick admission of failure is entirely consistent with Mr. Aquino’s sitting in Congress for 12 years with not a single solitary achievement to show for it.
While many can disagree with that Supreme Court ruling, others have already correctly pointed out that nothing has ever prevented Mr. Aquino from setting up a dedicated unit within, say, the Justice Department to do precisely the sort of “fact finding” that the said Truth Commission was supposed to do. That he did not do so immediately after he assumed office and has not — nearly six months later — taken any serious action toward filing charges against Mrs. Arroyo for corruption or human rights violations or stealing elections indicates to me that Mr. Aquino — who has not heretofore demonstrated any seriousness about any cause in his public life — is not serious about this one now.
In effect, Mr. Aquino was telling the Filipino public that, with all the powers given to his office and with all the billions in discretionary funds at his disposal, he is absolutely helpless in pursuing corruption or human rights cases against his predecessor simply because the Supreme Court nixed this currently-in-vogue “Truth Commission” idea. Huh? Is it possible that Mr. Aquino is so taken with his touted issuance of Executive Order 1 that he actually expects the Filipino people to buy the patently absurd notion that you can’t investigate the former president and her cronies within the present structures of government and file cases against them in the appropriate courts of law without the nicety of a Truth Commission?
Mr. Aquino asks, rhetorically, “Hahayaan ba nating maantala ang paghahatid ng katarungan sa taumbayan?” [Are we going to let the delivery of justice to the people be delayed?] We? Wait a minute, Mr. Aquino. Don’t you dare lay this one on us! It is not us but you who has done nothing on this for the past six months. It is not us but you who has put together an apparently lightheaded team who can’t even now be given credit for a sincerely serious (if ultimately fruitless) effort. One really has to wonder if you actually thought that your work would end with your ascension to the presidency. Is that why you have not, to this date, even called a single Cabinet meeting to discuss matters of state with your selected management team? Did you imagine that, having been elected (or selected) president, you could then spend the entire six years of your term playing video games while occasionally reading speeches prepared for you by college sophomores?
But wait. Maybe Mr. Aquino doesn’t really want to put Mrs. Arroyo in jail. With the unfolding developments, should we all now give credence to the scuttlebutt that Mrs. Arroyo threw her financial and logistical support behind Mr. Aquino when American political operators signaled to her that Mr. Aquino was their candidate? Did the rumored deal between Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. Aquino, allegedly struck a month before the May elections, actually happen?
Well, the appointment by Mr. Aquino of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. as chairman of the proposed Truth Commission certainly does not help put such rumors to rest. Wasn’t Justice Davide the one who quickly swore in Gloria Arroyo as president after former President Estrada (who had appointed him chief justice) was ousted in 2001 and wasn’t he given by Mrs. Arroyo the sinecure of an ambassadorship to the UN after his retirement, a post he improperly assumed without the required Commission on Appointments confirmation and which he held until April 2010? Balimbings of course are masters of the quick gear change, but we should still ask, when did he have time to switch loyalties from Arroyo to Aquino? Or did he?
Mr. Aquino ended his ill-crafted statement by making yet another rhetorical claim, “Huwag po kayong magduda, bago ang sarili ko, bago sino man, ang papanigan ko ay ang interes ng taumbayan. Habang nandito ako, hindi ako papayag na patuloy na apihin ang Pilipino.” [Do not doubt, before myself, before anyone else, I will side with the interests of the Filipino people. As long as I am here, I will not allow the continued oppression of the Filipino.] OK, never mind the farmers who, after half a century, continue to wait in vain for his family to finally comply with explicit provisions of a government loan agreement and the land reform law that call for the distribution of the landholdings of Hacienda Luisita to them. Never mind those who are not taken in by the posturings of the oligarchic elite around Mr. Aquino and who did not vote for him in the last elections. Do those who believed in him still do? Why?
René B. Azurin is a columnist for Business World.
“Rumor unfolding as truth?” is republished with permission from Mr. Azurin