There’s The Rub

Gus-tice for Gus

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GUS LAGMAN sent friends this letter:

“Without a new appointment, I cease to be a Comelec commissioner.

“It is common knowledge among senators, Malacañang officials, and some members of the Lower House, that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Chairman of the Commission on Appointments, will reject the confirmation of my ad interim appointment as commissioner of the Commission on Elections. As such, Malacañang explained to me that they thought it best not to renew my appointment in order to save me from having to go through the ordeal of a confirmation hearing where I could be rejected. I truly appreciate their concern and, initially, I also thought that that would be best. However, after thinking about it the last few days, I am now convinced that I would much prefer to be given my day in court, i.e., go through the confirmation process despite the risk of a rejection.”

I’m elated that Gus Lagman has decided to challenge the prejudice against him—yes, prejudice, and a vile one—rather than just roll over and die. It would have been out of character if he didn’t. He has never lacked for courage. He has never lacked for principle. He has never balked at bucking the odds.

Why is Gus Lagman, one of the few honest people on this earth, in danger of losing his job? Why is Gus Lagman, one of the fewer people dealing with elections who know how to count, almost certain to be rejected by the Commission on Appointments? Why is Gus Lagman, one of the fewest people who understand IT and can make sure it is used to enforce the voters’ will and not thwart it, pretty much doomed to not have a say in how the Comelec runs elections?

Because he is all of the above and nice guys finish last.

More specifically, because Juan Ponce Enrile, who is the head of the Commission on Appointments, is none of the above, and Enrile is pissed off with him. Or still more specifically, because Juan Ponce Enrile is also the presiding officer in the impeachment trial of Renato Corona, and Malacañang doesn’t want to piss him off.

Enrile is pissed off with Lagman because he presumes, and accuses, Lagman to have cheated in the 1987 elections. Specifically, of using the Namfrel in conspiracy with the Comelec to cheat the Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD) of its place in the sun, or Senate. Proof of this apparently was a program used by Namfrel that prescribed how cheating was to be done, a copy of which was supplied the opposition. Namfrel has repeatedly debunked that accusation, saying its computers were sabotaged by a couple of volunteers who sold the re-engineered program to its detractors so they might claim fraud.

Quite apart from that, why in God’s name would you need to cheat GAD? GAD was the party that consisted of Marcos loyalists. In 1987, when the public still seethed with rage over martial law, GAD had only two candidates who could possibly win, who were Joseph Estrada and Enrile himself. They did in fact win.

Otherwise, would you need to cheat, in the afterglow of Edsa, Arturo Tolentino, Blas Ople, Vicente Puyat, Kit Tatad, Romeo Jalosjos, Rene Espina, Wilson Gamboa, Wenceslao Lagumbay, and the other characters there?

Quite interestingly, to the end of his days, Bobbit Sanchez, who finished 25th to Enrile’s 24th, remained convinced that it was Enrile who had cheated him of his post in the Senate. A thing he spent the rest of his all-too-short life trying to prove, in the end futilely. It’s interesting because Sanchez’s comrade-in-arms in the anti-Marcos struggle, Nene Pimentel, would find himself in the same boat less than a decade later. He would accuse Enrile of cheating him of the last spot in the Senate by way of dagdag-bawas. And end up unable to find a legal sanction for it.

That is the epic, sublime, awe-inspiring irony of it all, that Enrile should now find himself, as head of the Commission on Appointments, in a position to legally sanction, of all people, Gus Lagman, for, of all things, cheating in elections.

And that is the epic, sublime, awe-inspiring irony of it all, that government should be willing to go along with it.

What is the point of impeaching Renato Corona? It is to end an order of things where the law may be used to foment injustice, where the law may be used to commit the vilest crimes possible, where the law may be used to raise an altar to tyranny. It is also to make sure that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is made to pay for her sins.

What is the point of making Arroyo pay for her sins? It is to make sure that this country finally discovers the principle of crime and punishment, or specifically where there is crime there must be punishment, a principle that has eluded it all this time, the tyrants of this country routinely getting away and coming back to haunt. It is to end an order of things where wrongdoing may be committed with impunity, where the good are routinely punished and the wicked rewarded, where the aggrieved and grieving are comforted with the thought that life goes on, let not the deaths of their loved ones halt it in its tracks. It is to make sure a reign of decency comes back to, or is ushered in for the first time in, this land.

And you sacrifice a decent man to do that?

That is what government’s lack of support for Lagman comes to. That is what government’s willingness to not risk Enrile’s ire comes to. That is what government’s illusion that bad means can justify good ends comes to.

I’ve never thought Gus Lagman should be a Comelec commissioner only because I’ve always thought he should be the Comelec chair. He has the ability for it, he has the perspicacity for it, he has the morality for it. And now he may not even be part of it. Justice for Aquino, justice for all, Jaja used to say.

Well, gus-tice for Gus, too.

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