New Year resolve
At a 2006 press conference, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unveiled her New Year’s resolution. She’d leash her temper. The pledge renewed her 2005 undertaking not to blow a gasket too often.
“Can one make resolutions when over 40?” the 1947 Nobel literature laureate Andre Gide wondered. “I live according to 20-year-old habits.”
Then 58, Arroyo was at the zenith of political dominance. This is a critical landmark. Power can corrupt most then. Thus, slaves in ancient Rome would trot behind chariots of triumphant rulers, burning straw and chanting: “These too shall pass away.”
The stamp-pad Supreme Court of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship mirrored this moral corrosion. Marcos justices abjectly surrendered their exclusive right over the writ of habeas corpus.
Shortly, thereafter, returning exile Benigno Aquino Jr. was gunned down at the airport. Ninoy’s undelivered arrival statement skewered the Court’s capitulation in this key safeguard.
Arroyo “habitually refuses to go ballistic at piranhas swirling about her,” Viewpoint pointed out. (Inquirer, 1/3/06) This column pinpointed, among them, Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and Presidential Commission on Good Government chair Camilo Sabio.
Today, GMA is 65, going on 66—and under hospital arrest for electoral sabotage. Plunder charges have been lodged against her. “Ambition has but one reward for all, a little power, a little transient fame/A grave to rest in, and a fading name!”
Arroyo kept her 2012 New Year’s resolution private. So did the former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. If the Senate blue ribbon committee is right, Mike is up to his neck for dumping overpriced second-hand helicopters on the Philippine National Police. Who prayed “may all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions”?
Did Garcillano and Sabio draw up New Year’s resolutions? A key figure in the “Hello Garci” scandal, Garcillano stews in the electoral fraud scandal. Given half a chance, “Garci” may scram, many people fret…. The Ombudsman filed criminal charges against Sabio for allegedly misappropriating about P12 million in PCGG funds.
The courts will determine whether the former president and her associates are innocent or guilty. But for New Year 2012, the question is simpler: What is the worth of a New Year’s resolution?
Are they “simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account” as Oscar Wilde cynically insists? “No,” counters the widely admired TV host Oprah Winfrey. “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has not made public his New Year’s resolution, if any. He pledged, however, to preside over the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona with fairness. That is about as good as New Year’s resolutions come. People still rankle from the “Craven 11” senators who spiked the second envelope in Joseph Estrada’s aborted impeachment.
In 2012, will the Supreme Court justices resolve to stop somersaults over final decisions? They flipped-flopped repeatedly over the 16 towns masquerading as cities and over the PAL flight attendants case. “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year,” G.K Chesterton wrote. “It is that we should have a new soul… a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”
How about a blanket “Zacchaeus Resolution” for 2012?
“Restore what you stole,” then CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) president Angel Lagdameo proposed in 2007. “Then, give restitution to the poor.” That’s what the tax collector Zacchaeus did.
“Being of short-stature,” the despised taxman couldn’t get a glimpse of Christ because of the crowds, Luke wrote. He scrambled up a sycamore tree when Jesus looked up and said: “Come down Zacchaeus,” then dined in his house. Why should the Master break bread with sinners? The Pharisees snarled.
The tax collector’s defense is known as the “Zacchaeus Precedent” today. “I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Indeed, restitution is required of those who fracture the Seventh Commandment: “Thou shall not steal.” That is true whether for coconut levies, broadband scams or Armed Forces budgets.
In May 2004, the anti-graft court ruled that 27 percent of San Miguel shares, bought with coco levy funds, be surrendered to government. “Shares owned by 14 companies are declared owned by government in trust for all coconut farmers,” Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro and associates ruled.
They were “ordered reconveyed.” That reinforced a Davide Supreme Court finding that coconut levies were “prima facie” government funds.
Tycoon Eduardo “Cojuangco will fight to retain control,” a Cebu Daily News editorial foresaw then. “I don’t have to be president,” Cojuangco said. “I don’t need the job.” Yes, yes. But does he agree to restituting what was ripped off? Here, the writ of reimbursement ends where the money bags of aristocracy begins. The elite tolerate anything—except hurting their wallets.
Seven years later, the Arroyo Supreme Court blinked at Cojuangco pocketing 16.2 million San Miguel Corp. shares. He dipped into levies squeezed from indigent coconut farmers. Then Justice Conchita Carpio Morales whacked that as “the biggest joke to hit the century.”
Was Mark Twain right after all? “New Year’s Day… is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them, as usual.”
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