Moving on | Inquirer Opinion
There’s the Rub

Moving on

I’m glad my favorite senator reminded the world of it.

Wednesday last week, Grace Poe took to the Senate floor to deliver a privilege speech, and never has “privilege” in “privilege speech” been more apt. It was a privilege for the other senators to listen to it, and it was a privilege for the nation to have its memory rekindled in that way. Wednesday last week, Grace Poe brought the country to hear again the two words that have haunted it for the last 10 years, demanding resolution, demanding closure, but not finding one: “Hello Garci.”


In her speech, Poe recalled an infamous chapter in Philippine history that took place 10 years ago, a chapter as infamous as the declaration of martial law itself, entailing as it did a seizure of power, a rule without the people’s mandate, an anointment not by God but by Garci.

The hurt wasn’t just to their family personally, Poe said—“Hello Garci” specifically stole the vote from her father, Fernando Poe Jr.—it was to Filipinos generally. Poe lamented in particular the monumental injustice of the people who exposed the crime being persecuted for it, a thing that hasn’t been rectified to this day, and those who wreaked it rewarded handsomely for it, which continues to this day.


Look, she said, at the shabby treatment of Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani; Sgt. Vidal Doble, the intelligence agent who leaked the Garci tapes; Michaelangelo Zuce, Virgilio Garcillano’s nephew who testified about the payoffs he made; Abdullah Daligdig, a Namfrel official who exposed the discrepancies in the election results in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); and Samuel Ong, the NBI deputy director who took the Garci tapes to the media. Ong died largely unnoticed and unsung some years ago.

And look at how the criminals are laughing their heads off. Not one of them has been charged, let alone seen the light, or dark, of jail. Not Garcillano, not Benjamin Abalos, not Lintang Bedol, not Ignacio Bunye, not Rey Sumalipao. Sumalipao has not only not landed in jail, he has landed the post of ARMM elections director. You can understand how that can be possible in Arroyo’s time, but you cannot understand how that can be possible under President Aquino’s time.

The culprit in Mr. Aquino’s time is specifically Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes. Alan

Peter Cayetano is right to not let him get away so easily with this vicious charade of rewarding the guilty. And not quite incidentally insisting on obliterating the past. He it is who recently announced that the Comelec will no longer pursue the “Hello Garci” case. As though it was a task he entertained doing earlier, which he never did. From the start, he kept saying resolving the “Hello Garci” case wasn’t his “priority,” a not very coded way of saying, “No dice.”

At least he has made it clear in no uncertain terms today. For reasons that give new meanings to “warped.” “There has been no progress on the 2004 case despite separate investigations by Congress. We don’t have that much interest anymore because of several legal and procedural issues. Why will we belabor ourselves when there is weak evidence due to the fire? (A fire broke out in 2007 at the Comelec which razed important documents.)” But not to worry, he said, they will still exert themselves to hound the cheaters in the 2007 elections.

What is Brillantes saying? It will be easier to investigate cheating buried in the tangle of Comelec bureaucracy than one bared before the world’s gaze, or hearing? And with the people who committed the crime themselves doing the investigating? What documents in fact, immolated by fire or otherwise, do you need to prove Arroyo’s guilt in “Hello Garci”?

Is it her voice on the tape? Yes. It is God’s justice that she has a voice so DNA-imprinted, it is hard to mistake it for anybody else’s. Is she the one talking to a Comelec official at the height of canvassing, a crime by and of itself, proposing among other things to kidnap a public school teacher who witnessed cheating? Yes. You cannot listen to the entirety of the tape without cringing at the thought that you had a president like that for three years and would have, Garci-willing, a nonpresident like that for another six years.


Is the crime monstrous?

Well, is stealing the vote monstrous? Is seizing power monstrous? Is unleashing a reign of impunity monstrous?

Or is it simply, as Arroyo’s defenders then whined about and as the Comelec now wags its head about, merely “a lapse in judgment”?

In fact the Comelec has no bigger priority than resolving “Hello Garci.” In fact the Comelec has no greater task then rectifying the injustice known as “Hello Garci.” There is no theft bigger than the theft of the vote itself. There is no corruption greater than the corruption of governance itself. The injury isn’t to FPJ himself, it is to Juan de la Cruz. The insult isn’t to the Poes themselves, it is to the people themselves. Have we become a nation of fools, quite apart from a nation of crooks, we can dismiss a plot by a sitting president to win a new term by one million votes carried out with the help of a Comelec official as “just one of those things”? And move on?

I am glad that by the grace of God and by the grace of Grace we have been reminded that an open wound festers in the body politic to this day. The premise of “Never again!” is “Never forget!” We keep forgetting the things that may not be forgotten and we will continue repeating history, as tragedy or as farce, again and again. The only way to secure the future is to confront the past. The only way to guarantee that no one will do tomorrow what Gloria did yesterday is to damn the deed and punish its author. “Moving on” is never a way to move on, it is only a way to grind to a halt.

Justice is sibling to truth: It shall set us free. It shall set us moving.

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