Light, truth and Gadhafi
IT WAS a most moving sight. Truth-tellers Heidi Mendoza and retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa lit their candles from the flame of the large candle in front of the altar, then went down the steps and lit the candles of Mass-goers on the front rows. One by one, candles were lit across the Church of the Gesu at the Ateneo campus, filling the darkened church with candle light row after row, while Mass-goers instinctively held their candles up high, as if to spread their glow over a larger area.
The theme of that day’s Mass was “Bear Witness to the Light,” meant to punctuate the end of the first day of House hearings on the impeachment cases filed against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. But there was much more on the minds of those who gathered at the church that day.
There was the questionable plea bargain agreement forged between the Office of the Ombudsman and disgraced AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia regarding the millions he had allegedly siphoned from the military’s coffers. The probe on the plea bargain had in turn led to a related probe on the deeper issue of military corruption. Rabusa is a key witness in this case, having first-hand experience on how funds meant for military use were transferred to generals’ accounts and concealed. Mendoza, who was tasked with tracing Garcia’s financial transactions, likewise confirmed the general drift of the transactions as traced by Rabusa.
Indeed, momentum seems to be gathering in the effort to make “big fish” accountable for their crimes and thievery. The threatened impeachment of Gutierrez would certainly pave the way for expedited and determined investigation by the body tasked by the Constitution to go after grafters in government.
But even Gutierrez’s ouster must be supplemented in turn by the appointment of a replacement with an unassailable reputation and record; an overhaul of the Office of the Ombudsman, beginning with the prosecutors who were complicit in the questionable Garcia plea bargain; and a renewed vigor among other offices charged with keeping the bureaucracy clean, beginning with the Commission on Audit.
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“PEOPLE ARE calling out (to our leaders) for (officials) to be responsible for their misdeeds,” declared Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo in his homily. With the “big fishes” hooked, he added, official response “should not be timid or tepid… let the truth come out, let the light shine.”
The bishop invoked the “fear of the Lord” over all officials tempted to steal from public coffers or compromise their calling. And it was precisely this “fear of the Lord,” said Mendoza in her response, which motivated her to speak out about what she had discovered in the course of her investigation.
A commentator, belittling the “heroism” of this new crop of truth-tellers, remarked that Filipinos are very fond of searching for heroes, willing to settle for just anyone, Mendoza said. But the “making of a hero,” she clarified, involves staking one’s life (“pagtataya”), deciding to stand for the truth without desire for reward or recognition.
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THE MEDIA have made much of Mendoza’s announcement that she is ready once more to return to government service, despite the challenges she had to face down while carrying out her duties. But Mendoza placed her announcement within the context of a long period of discernment, saying it was a decision borne out of a renewed belief that public service was still a calling worth pursuing.
She also thanked former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and Senior Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, who had recruited Mendoza into the effort to build a case against Garcia. Reacting to criticisms of how the two handled the case, Mendoza noted that “a hero should be judged not on what he did in the past, but on what his actions brought about.”
Mendoza also noted that her penchant for harking to her Catholic faith to explain her determination to shed light on the investigation once provoked a non-Catholic supporter to chide her. “But I explained that I kept mentioning my Catholic faith to serve as an eye-opener to my fellow Catholics who do not practice their faith while in public service. We need everyone to pass on the light and conquer darkness.”
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FORMER SPEAKER Jose de Venecia has written Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi to express his concern about the mounting violence in that country as Gadhafi seems to be digging in and leading his country into civil war as a result of spreading protests.
De Venecia wrote mainly in light of his personal relationship with the Libyan leader, and as a board member of the Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation, along with other prominent civic and public leaders around the world.
“I must tell you that a good number of the directors consider resigning from the Foundation because of the horrific violence that the media report as taking place in your country,” wrote the former speaker.
De Venecia held out the possibility of a peaceful end to the political impasse in Libya which would at the same time give Gadhafi a graceful way out. And this was “even this late in the day” the creation of an “interim, transition government of national salvation,” which would allow the “Tripoli leadership, its urban opposition, Libyan civil society and Libya’s tribal groupings a political framework for sitting down and reasoning together.”
It’s a long shot, given that Gadhafi and his son and heir apparent have promised to fight “to the last man or woman in Libya” to stay in power and bring an end to the protests. Still, it’s a slim opening being offered to the Libyan strongman, one that he might be inclined to take coming as it does not just from a personal acquaintance, but someone who hails from “the first developing country to experience people power.”
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