Has the fight against corruption become like the war on terror?
Remember the ‘war on terror’? It seems ‘so last decade’ right? Do you remember how it ended? When ‘dubya’ launched it, he framed it in high moralistic terms: fighting for ‘the cause of freedom’, bringing justice to ‘those evil-doers’, ‘preserving our way of life’. Yet, in their pursuit of the perpetrators of 911, the Americans and their ‘coalition of the willing’ ended up dispensing with the very ideals they sought to uphold.
In their desire to ‘even the score’, the agents of this war trampled upon the basic freedoms and human rights that their sacred document considered ‘to be self-evident’. To bring the outlaws to justice, they may have violated international law. They tortured suspected individuals, detained them indefinitely without charge, denied them the right to a fair trial, and did this all at the expense of the taxpayer. The total bill for this war was largely responsible for the ballooning deficit of the US Federal Government.
We now turn our attention to the Philippines and its fight against corruption. The same sort of high-minded rhetorical flourishes accompany it. The same sort of idealistic pursuit of justice, freedom and preservation of democracy motivate it. The fear was that the Evil One deemed responsible for the ‘ground zero’ of corruption was ‘heading for the hills’ in the same way that the Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden did and was not to be found until many years later.
The same way that evidence of mass destruction was presented before the UN to justify a ‘pre-emptive strike’ on a sovereign country ‘a smoking gun’ has been dug up from questionable sources to convict an ‘enemy of the state’ in the minds of the public, which upon closer examination appears to be a mere fabrication (just as the evidence against Saddam apparently was).
‘Had we rushed to war?’ was the burning question in their minds after the US occupation of Iraq was in full swing. America had gotten itself mired in a decade long conflict all because in the heat of the moment, its president used the heroism of those who suffered from terror attacks to force his views on Congress to authorize a war that later proved to be misguided. His trigger-happy administration learned to rue the day that it did this.
Similarly has the prosecution of the war on graft led to some dead ends in the case of the Aquino administration? The articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Corona which were rushed through the lower house now seem to suffer incurable infirmities. Many of the charges seem baseless. The charges that do matter don’t seem to match the evidence presented. The prosecution’s appeal to the jury to look beyond legal formalities is an admission that their case is inherently weak.
A much deeper worry is the implication that a vendetta mission had been afoot as early as November of last year. If one follows the paper trail of leaked documents, the logical conclusion would be that instruments of government were used inappropriately and illegally to gather evidence against targeted officials. The conclusion would be that the very same ideals that the fight against corruption seeks to uphold have had to be compromised to achieve its goals in an ‘ends justifies the means’ sort of way. How then should we describe it? The word ‘Kafkaesque’ comes to mind.