Hello again | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

Hello again

Chiz Escudero is all for reopening the question of who won in the 2004 elections so history could be corrected. With the new allegations of poll fraud in Mindanao being raised by Zaldy Ampatuan and Lintang Bedol, it’s time to determine once and for all who the real winner in those elections was. If a fact-finding body were to confirm that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated there, then her nearest rival, Fernando Poe Jr., could be declared winner posthumously.

Malacañang agrees. “We, along with the entire country, are interested in learning the truth of what really transpired in the 2004 and 2007 elections amid allegations of cheating,” said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte.


That is all very well. True enough, we’d all like to know the lengths Arroyo went to grab a position that wasn’t hers (including the lengths she went to get the bishops to prop up her rule). True enough, we’d all like to see history corrected; a country cannot move on with an epic injustice weighing it down. True enough, we’d like to see the rightful winner proclaimed, however he has returned to dust, or his Maker, and there is no statute of limitations on undoing a great crime.

But why on earth do we need to reinvestigate what happened in Muslim Mindanao seven years ago? The proof of it is right there before our eyes. The evidence is right there before our eyes. The ultimate argument is right there before our eyes. It is “Hello, Garci.”


“Hello, Garci” by itself, of itself, and in itself says we did right by the wrong president for the last six years till last year. “Hello, Garci” by itself, of itself, and in itself says we did wrong by the right president for the last six years till last year.

Lest we forget, it was the congressmen themselves who killed the impeachment bid, citing the loftiest arguments to justify the lowliest deed. Ignoring the fact that it was government itself in the form of Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye who apprised the world of the existence of the “Hello, Garci” tape in an effort to blunt or preempt a firestorm they were certain an independent revelation would have sparked. Ignoring the fact that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself had admitted calling up a Comelec official in the middle of the canvassing but passing it off as “a lapse of judgment.” As though a stock broker calling up an insider in the middle of bidding could ever justify his action as a “lapse of judgment.”

There is a place for people who commit those lapses of judgment. It is called jail.

“I…am…sorry,” Arroyo would say robotically. And Susan Roces, the true first lady, widowed by a husband who died of a broken heart, betrayed by friend and foe alike, would reply: “I looked into your eyes and saw no contrition there.”

Yes, it’s time we corrected history. It’s time we gave the aggrieved justice. It’s time we gave the president who never became so his due.

But again why bother to go into Ampatuan’s and Bedol’s allegations? “Hello, Garci” by itself, of itself, and in itself voided Arroyo’s ascendancy to, or continuing stay in, Malacañang. “Hello, Garci” by itself, of itself, and in itself affirmed Fernando Poe Jr.’s aspiration for, or claim to, the presidency.

The notion that we need to look more closely at what really happened in the 2004 elections because it is perfectly possible that Arroyo won despite “Hello, Garci,” that Arroyo did not really need to talk to “a Comelec official” during the counting because she had enough votes to make her win (no small thanks to Ping Lacson who divided the opposition) is based on an idiocy. It is like saying, when you catch a student getting the answers to the questions in the final exam through a cell phone: “Teka, let’s go over her exam papers first and see if she got enough right answers before she started consulting her cell phone. If she did, then we can pass her.”


At the very least, how can you possibly know which answers are legitimate and which are not? Or which answers came from cheating and which did not? If Arroyo spoke with Garci to make sure she won by a million votes over FPJ, how do you know she—and Garci—fudged the numbers only in Muslim Mindanao? How do you know they did not do that everywhere else?

But that’s nothing. The point is, you catch a student cheating in the final exams, you send her out of the room, you flunk her, you expel her. School is no place for displays of devious minds and devious actions. Final exams are no place for showing a talent only for deceit and subterfuge. To pass the final exams, you have to demonstrate not just a capacity for acuity but a capacity for honesty. To graduate from school, you have to display not just a capacity for knowledge but a capacity for loftiness.

You do not bargain when you catch a student cheating, you do not compromise when you catch a student cheating, you do not hesitate when you catch a student cheating. You flunk, you reject, you expel.

That is just school, this is the presidency. This is the highest position in the land, a position kids are taught to see as a great goal in life, a position kids are led to believe can be occupied only by the best Filipino there is, or can be. That is just the final exams, this is the presidency. This is the grandest position in the land, a position fit only for people who can show not the lowest common denominator, which is the presumption of innocence, but the highest uncommon nominator, which is the assumption of transcendence. That is just graduation, this is the presidency. This is the most sacred position in the land, an office that may not be tarnished by the slightest blot of wrongdoing, that may not be sullied by the barest whiff of scandal.

And you say, “Let’s just ignore ‘Hello, Garci’ and look at the votes?”


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TAGS: Chiz Escudero, Fernando Poe Jr., Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Hello Garci scandal, Lintang Bedol, Maguindanao, poll fraud, Sen. Francis Escudero, Susan Roces, Zaldy Ampatuan
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