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There’s The Rub

Closure

I am glad Teddy Casiño is showing dogged persistence in getting Congress to “tie up the loose ends” in the 2004 elections. It’s time to put a closure on it, he says, the proper kind, which is the kind that goes with justice and not the kind that you just walk away from, chanting the bishops’ mantra, “Let’s move on.”

He has good reason for it. More than 700 activists were killed in the course of Arroyo’s usurpation, a good many of them after she unleashed a renewed anti-insurgency campaign—which produced no results other than a mountain of dead—whose real purpose was to give the military free rein to stamp out any opposition to her after “Hello, Garci.”

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It takes that kind of dogged persistence to put a closure to atrocity. The kind of dogged persistence the Jews showed in going after the authors of the Holocaust. The kind of dogged persistence the women of the Plaza de Mayo have shown in going after the officials of the Argentina military junta who made their sons and daughters disappear from the face of the earth. The kind of dogged persistence the victims of crimes that cry out to heaven for justice show without waiting for heaven to mete it out.

The passion is essential, but equally so is seeing what needs to be done. I myself think putting a closure to the 2004 elections involves three things.

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The first is voiding Arroyo’s term from 2004 to 2010. All you need for that is the “Hello, Garci” tape. The notion that Arroyo won the vote in spite of that tape is arrant nonsense. Or specifically the notion that even if Arroyo had not cheated in Muslim Mindanao she would still have won the vote is idiotic. As I keep saying, that is like saying, after you catch a student cheating in the final exams, that even if she hadn’t cheated she would probably have passed the final exam.

The idiocy of it is not just the problem of separating chaff from grain, determining which answers were honest and which were not, or in Arroyo’s case which votes were genuine and which were fake. But infinitely more than that, you catch a student cheating, you send him out of the exam room, you flunk her, you expel her. Cheating in exams is an offense, a transgression, a mortal sin against academic integrity. You catch a presidential candidate cheating, you bar her, you prevent her from getting near Malacañang, you jail her. Stealing the vote is a crime, an outrage, a violation of everything democracy stands for.

Not being called president is the least you deserve when you are caught cheating in elections.

This we can do more or less immediately by reviving the “Hello, Garci” case. If Virgilio Garcillano refuses to appear in Congress or in court, arrest him, and (preferably) put him in chains. This creature has dodged justice long enough for unspeakable crimes, including proposing to “Ma’am” (which “Ma’am” agreed to by her silence) abducting the family of a public school teacher in Tawi-Tawi who had witnessed wholesale fraud and was threatening to expose it. It’s time he paid his dues.

The second is hailing the true president for 2004-2010. It doesn’t matter that he will never get to serve the term, it’s never too late to give the rightful winner his due. I myself voted for Raul Roco then, but that doesn’t matter either, the point of elections is to put in office the candidate the voters voted for and not the one we prefer to be there. A point that keeps being forgotten in this country, but that’s another story. That rightful winner is very likely Fernando Poe Jr.

That is where the other investigations come in, not the least of them the generals who attested to the fraud in Muslim Mindanao, whose testimonies were ignored in the Mayuga Report. Though while at that, the “Hello, Garci” tape itself is a good source of it already, as Manuel Alcuaz, president of Systems Science Consult Inc., has shown. Alcuaz, who died recently before the Inquirer rediscovered an article he wrote in 2006, merely followed the trail left by the “Hello, Garci” tape, analyzing the results in the places Arroyo and Garcillano mentioned and finding a mind-boggling discrepancy between the official tally and that done by groups like Namfrel. The unofficial count had FPJ dwarfing Arroyo in votes in those places—no surprise given that these places had been known to have movie houses where audiences took shots at the screen whenever a villain threatened “Da King” in his movies—while the Comelec had the ratio reversed.

It’s not just that we owe it to FPJ to recognize him as the president we never had, it’s that we owe it to ourselves to realize Arroyo was the bane we never should have had.

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The third is prosecuting all those who conspired with Arroyo to steal Malacañang, particularly the implicated Comelec officials and generals. It’s time we took elections seriously. You can’t have an institution dearer to democracy than that—the voice of the people is the voice of God—and yet no institution in this country has become more infirm and rubbery over the years. You can’t have two institutions more sworn to defend it than the Comelec and the military— that is the be-all and end-all of the Comelec at least—and yet no two institutions have done more harm to elections than they. It’s time that stopped. It’s time we truly had a basis for saying, “Never again!” Never will we allow the vote to be stolen, never will we allow the presidency to be seized again. That can only be done by punishing the Comelec officials and generals who have made it a point to screw the electorate.

If the jails are not enough to accommodate the crowd that deserves to be sent there, we should build new ones. That is the only way to do it.

That is the only way to put closure to an atrocity.

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TAGS: “Hello, ” Plaza de Mayo, 2004 elections, Argentina military junta, Comelec, congress, Fernando Poe Jr., Garci, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Manuel Alcuaz, Namfrel, Teddy Casiño, Virgilio Garcillano
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