Wonders never cease in this magic-realist country. “Ver” used to be a name attached only to “Fabian.” Fabian Ver was, of course, Ferdinand Marcos’ chief henchman, the general who did his dirty work without question. Well, not entirely without question, as the joke suggested. Asked by Marcos to jump from a building, he asked: “What floor, sir?”
The irony of course is that “ver” means to see or to grasp in Spanish, which itself owes to the Latin “veritas” which means truth. Those were the last things Fabian Ver was known for, the ability to see or grasp things, or indeed the ability to tell the truth.
Comes now someone who has given a more proper meaning to the word. Asked about the condition of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Dr. Mario Ver testified that she was fit to be released from the hospital. Contrary to rumors that her condition had worsened and become life-threatening, Ver said, she was in fact getting better and could be treated as an outpatient.
The Arroyo camp is fit to be tied, assailing Ver for betraying his Hippocratic Oath by divulging confidential information about a patient. In fact, not so. The Hippocratic Oath merely forbids him from saying so on his own, it does not forbid him from saying so when asked by the court. He is bound by the Hippocratic Oath, not the Hypocritic one.
Ver saw and grasped Arroyo’s condition. Ver told the truth.
It’s no small irony that Arroyo should be laid low in this way: by being shown that her condition is not so low by a doctor named Ver. I have always said that Arroyo’s greatest fear was the truth, Arroyo’s greatest scourge was the truth. That was how good and evil expressed itself in her time, as the battle between truth and lie, the way it expressed itself in Marcos’ time as the battle between light and darkness. (Jose Concepcion caught the essence of the latter when he dredged up that famous line, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”) Arroyo’s entire rule was marked by lies, from “Hello, Garci,” which told the lie of her claim to the presidency, to “executive privilege,” which told the lie of her presumption to untouchable-ness.
Till the end, she has continued to lie, this time with the aid of a quite graphic and bizarre contraption attached to her head. Alas, for her the public is unimpressed and has greeted her sight with howls of laughter. Proving that if you cry wolf all the time, you won’t be believed when a real one comes along. Indeed more alas for her, her doctor is willing to testify that even the latest apparition is no wolf at all. Proving that you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Proving still further, as Gregoria de Jesus said after her husband, Andres Bonifacio, was executed by his rivals, that the truth of things has a way of coming up, no matter how long it takes, no matter how deeply it is buried, to the light of day.
This thing has parable written all over it.
What Ver’s testimony does is to open the door for Arroyo to be held in detention, or to shut the door on her demand to continue to seek refuge in a P50,000-a-day hospital room. By all means, as I said before, Arroyo should be accorded courtesy and respect as befit not her stature as a former president of the Philippines, which is the very core of the lie of her rule, but her status as a citizen of this country, whose freedoms she stole but which freedoms may now be bestowed on her by a government that won them back. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be hauled to a precinct and fingerprinted the same way Erap was courtesy of her. Or to be magnanimous about it, that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be fingerprinted where she is right now to the flash or blinding light of newspaper and television cameras.
That particular image should hold a world of meaning for us. That particular image should send a luminous message to us.
The least of it is that finally we can hope to attain the one thing we have envied other countries in the East and West for, which is their capacity to punish the wicked however high up they go. The United States, in particular, for its capacity to jail the Madoffs of this world. Though we had the same image before in a former president being hauled off to a nearby precinct and fingerprinted like a common criminal, who was Erap, that meaning never yielded itself to the public, that message never found the public. The reason for it being that the person who did that to him did not have the moral clout to do so, only a political one. The public saw it as many things, and not one of those things was justice.
P-Noy does it today and it will be the dawning of a new day.
The most of it is that it serves as a proxy image as well for something we never saw but should have a long time ago: Ferdinand Marcos being fingerprinted in a dingy precinct like a common thief or thug, however uncommon he was as a thief or thug. Assuming, of course, he survived a Mussolini- or Ceausescu-like fate if he hadn’t been plucked by an American helicopter while a crowd howled at the gates. Arroyo being fingerprinted in a precinct or hospital bed screams out the caption, “Never again!”
It’s a triumph of decency, of reason, of justice. Maybe one that could spell an end once and for all to the Marcoses’ demand to have the one person who turned this country into a living hell turned into a hero. Maybe one that could retard, if not stop altogether, Erap’s capacity to reinvent himself and bounce back to the frontlines. Maybe one that could put the former first couple, however sick they are or claim to be, behind bars, thereby healing a very sick land. One thing I know for sure:
The truth shall set us free.
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