The good news is that Sixto Brillantes, the Commission on Elections chief, now says the former first couple may be spending their Christmas in jail. Though that might not be such good news for Malacañang, which he has just boxed into a deadline.
But about time too the Aquino administration produced results in its crusade against corruption. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, who never had such a crusade, arrested Erap just a little over three months after she took power, a thing that was violently protested by his loyalists. And which sparked the farcical “Edsa III” shortly later, the one that had Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile goading the crowd to “sugod, sugod” the Palace before they became its fiercest defenders after it fizzled out. We can at least be sure there won’t be a crowd of Arroyo loyalists taking to the streets to rail at the sight of them being fingerprinted in a police station like common thieves. Even if, like Erap, there is nothing common about their theft.
At least Brillantes has changed his tune from the one he was humming some months ago. The one about not particularly caring, or daring, to look at the past, he was more concerned about the future. The one about not particularly caring, or daring, to rectify the cheating in 2004 and 2007, he was just concerned about preventing it in 2013 and 2016. I don’t know if he has finally come to realize the folly of trying to raise a grand structure from rotten foundations, or if he has merely discovered the wisdom of showing some boldness before the people who have confirmed his appointment. Whatever his reasons, I’m glad for the new tune.
The bad news is that he’s riveted toward the 2007 elections when he really should be so toward the 2004 one. He’s like the pastor in the joke about the man who went to a church naked and smoking a cigar. The pastor went up to him and rebuked him—for smoking a cigar. Smoking a cigar is the 2007 elections, being naked is the 2004 one. The wonder of it is how Brillantes can see the first but not the second.
There are at least two problems with his tack. At the very least, the people who have been coming out to offer testimony that Gloria expressly ordered them to manipulate the results of the 2007 elections to produce 12-0 in various parts of Mindanao are not exactly the most trustworthy people in the world. Benjamin Abalos himself says he ordered the two Comelec officials who have accused him of carrying out Gloria’s orders arrested years ago for fraud and can’t understand why they’re still free. Of course Abalos isn’t the most trustworthy fellow on earth either, but that makes it his word against theirs. As to Zaldy Ampatuan and friends, having them for witnesses is building a castle on sand. Or quicksand.
At the very most, the 2007 case is secondary and derivative. It is secondary to, and derives from, the fact that Arroyo was the president in 2007, when she should not have been so. Not after 2004. Taking up the 2007 election fraud first will have the unwitting effect—though one can never really be sure if that’s not the true intent all along—of legitimizing Arroyo’s presidency. It will be saying that as president, Arroyo ordered the cheating in the senatorial elections. While the second part of the proposition is fine, the preface, “as president,” is not.
You take up the 2004 fraud first and the 2007 one becomes superfluous. At least as far as Arroyo is concerned—it cannot be superfluous to people like Koko Pimentel who had the bulk or even the entirety of their terms stolen from them. But that cannot be the No. 1 priority.
The 2004 election is, or should be. And you don’t have to look far to find proof of fraud Arroyo committed there. It’s there in front of you with “Hello Garci.” That’s the naked man in church Brillantes can’t seem to see, though that’s not limited to him, the blindness seems to afflict the justice department and sundry prosecutors too. Everyone has been at pains to find evidence of fraud in 2004 when it is staring them right in the face.
Arroyo’s defenders say Brillantes should resign because he has already prejudged her guilt in the 2007 elections. He will have no such problem in the 2004 one if he simply based her guilt on “Hello Garci.” Arroyo should have been in jail long ago for it. Certainly long before this Christmas.
To repeat, “Hello Garci” is a crime in, of and unto itself. It is like a pilot driving a 747 while roaring drunk. The question whether he crashed the plane or not is irrelevant. At least to his fate, it is certainly not irrelevant to the passengers. Driving a plane drunk, roaring or not, is a crime, in, of, and unto itself. At the very least a pilot who does that deserves to be fired. At the very most he deserves to be jailed, if not indeed handed over to the irate passengers.
The laws of the land are clear on the point. No candidate may talk to a Comelec official during counting. For the same reason that no accused may talk to the judge while he is deliberating. That Arroyo talked to Garci during the counting is ground for her to not have become president. That Arroyo talked to Garci repeatedly during the counting was ground for her to have been stripped of the position she got from Edsa II. That Arroyo kept quiet while Garci proposed that a public school teacher in Tawi-Tawi be kidnapped to prevent her from exposing the fraud she witnessed is ground for her to be jailed.
“Hello Garci” is this country’s crime of the (21st) century, not the Maguindanao massacre. That one massacred only a hundred people, however brutally. This one massacred a whole population, however bloodlessly. To this day, the victims have found no redress. Have we become so inured to perfidy we can’t see these things anymore? I mean:
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