A Nation Divided, A Truth Concealed

The Supreme Court decision upholding the right of CHED Sec. Romulo Neri and Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to invoke executive privilege did not serve the cause of justice and truth. It helped conceal a crime, added to the cracks in the institutions of government, and left the nation more deeply divided.

Vol. VIII, No. 8, March 30 – April 5, 2008

The Supreme Court decision upholding the right of current Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Sec. and former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Sec. Romulo Neri to invoke executive privilege in refusing to answer the queries of Senators regarding the role of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the approval of the corruption-ridden, grossly disadvantageous National Broadband Network (NBN) contract with ZTE of China did not serve the cause of justice and truth nor did it effectively arbitrate the conflict between the Senate and Malacanang. Instead, the decision of the Supreme Court provided the Arroyo government with the legal weapon to continue concealing not only the truth but another of its many crimes against the people; it gave primacy to the right of the executive over the right of the people to information affecting their lives; and it practically clipped the oversight functions of Congress.

Worse, the recent decision of the High court tainted the integrity of the only remaining branch of government that, before this controversial decision, has not yet been debased by the Arroyo government in its desperate attempt to stay in power. The Macapagal-Arroyo administration has once more utilized its dominant number in government to subvert the will and suppress the rights of the majority of the Filipino people. In one bold, blatant stroke it has practically closed one of the few remaining venues where the people can seek redress against the abuses of power of the executive.

What venue or democratic process is there left for the Filipino people? The Arroyo government has closed the door on the impeachment process with the consolidation of its hold on the Lower House of Congress. It has clipped the investigative powers of Senate. It has been using the Justice Department to legitimize its illegal acts and to persecute its critics. It has rendered the Office of the Ombudsman inutile. And now this!

But this is a tenuous victory for the Arroyo government. It cannot, as it dreadfully hopes it could, move on for it added to the issues that would persistently hound it. It has in fact worsened the political crisis it is in by adding to the cracks in the institutions of government and deepening the divisions in Philippine society. Now even the Supreme Court is divided. The dissenting opinions of the minority position in the Supreme Court have been so widely publicized with that of Chief Justice Reynato Puno alone consisting of 120 pages. Added to this, the dissenting opinion of Justice Antonio Carpio was very passionate and acerbic, practically calling the acts of the Arroyo government concerning the NBN-ZTE contract as criminal.

The whole country is irreconcilably divided between the few who would defend the Arroyo government at all costs, even to the point of besmirching their integrity – or what is left of it- and earning a place of infamy in history, and the many who wants it out to salvage the few remaining traces of democracy in our troubled land.

But there are some who are against the Arroyo government but fears another people power for it might “weaken” the institutions of democracy. There are also some who hesitate to act because they could not see an acceptable replacement to Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or do not see the possibility of any meaningful change resulting from another people power.

But what is the real threat to democracy, the collective act of a people asserting their rights or the impunity of a corrupt and repressive government supported by a few who are benefitting from it?People power 1 and 2 did not result in any meaningful change but it got rid of a fascist dictatorship in 1986 and a corrupt government in 2001. While it is true that we got a far worse corrupt government that has the propensity to violate the people’s rights after EDSA 2. But that was not because of People Power 2. It was because we merely let the succeeding administration, in that case the Arroyo government, take over without pressuring it to mitigate the people’s sufferings, much less to undertake substantial reforms.

Now, there seems to be no acceptable replacement to the current administration but only because we are not looking beyond it and are merely limiting ourselves to that provided for by the line of constitutional succession. There are other options available such as a installing a caretaker government that would immediately mitigate the people’s sufferings, prepare for an election, and lay the groundwork for reforms. And the caretaker government may even be composed of acceptable representatives of the three branches of government. No meaningful change would result from another people power if – like what we did in EDSA 1 and 2 – we do not see it through and work persistently to defend and to promote the people’s interests, rights, and welfare. (Bulatlat.com)

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