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There’s The Rub

Original sin

ALAN PETER Cayetano’s objections to Sixto Brillantes as Comelec chief have turned out to be warranted. At the time Cayetano raised them, Brillantes had just been saying that investigating “Hello, Garci” was not his priority, he was more concerned with the future than with the past. Neither was doing anything about the “Garci boys” in the Comelec. He couldn’t very well just fire people on the assumption they were “Garci boys,” could he?

It was a startling comment coming from one who was supposed to help P-Noy fight corruption in the one institution steeped in it. As I said in a column some weeks ago, if he simply made “Hello, Garci” a priority, then he wouldn’t be firing the “Garci boys” on the basis of a mere assumption, he would be firing them on the basis of a reasonable certainty.

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But there’s more. As Cayetano points out now, the Comelec chief ought to inhibit himself from any investigation of cheating in the 2004 elections because he has a conflict of interest. Roque Bello was Brillantes’ law partner and nephew. Bello is the Comelec official Rafael Santiago tagged as one of the plotters behind the Batasan break-in.

There is of course a far better alternative to Brillantes inhibiting himself from any investigation of the 2004 elections. That is Malacañang replacing him with someone less compromised. One wonders how the Palace could have contemplated putting someone like him in charge of so sensitive an office to begin with, but that is not beyond repair. The real alternative is not Brillantes inhibiting himself from ferreting out the ungodly in his office before or during his time, it is another Comelec head actively, or indeed arduously, leading the charge there. About time the Comelec became what it was created for, which is the one office the voters trust to enforce their will. About time we got a Comelec head who lashes out at those who turn a house of prayer into a den of thieves.

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I’m glad in this respect that the Senate has moved to open an inquiry into “Hello, Garci.” Cayetano has proposed it, Ping Lacson has proposed it, other senators are proposing it. Of course you are going to hear the usual croaks from the usual suspects that the Senate is not there to investigate, it is there to legislate. Well, there is no bigger aid to legislation than ferreting out corruption, and there is no more life-sucking corruption than the one that has to do with stealing the vote. What’s the point in making laws if people are not going to obey them anyway? You cannot grow law from the soil of lawlessness. You cannot raise loftiness from a foundation of madness.

“Hello, Garci” is the original sin, the others merely flow from it. “Hello, Garci” is the original crime, the others merely amplify it and corroborate it. “Hello, Garci” is the original “poisoned tree,” all the fruits that spring from it kill.

As I write this, Virgilio Garcillano has denied ever sending feelers to Malacañang about revealing what he knows about the tape that bears his name. He says he has no intention of saying anything, he knows nothing about the tape that bears his name.

If so, well and good—that simplifies things. It spares the folk of this country, particularly the hardworking ones who have to kill themselves to live while he lives gloriously off the fat of Gloria, the problem of what to do with him if he talks. How many years to cut off from his prison term, if not indeed to free him entirely, merely for confirming what we already know, which is that he helped Arroyo mount the crime of the century, even if that century has barely begun.

His recalcitrance simplifies things. It sets forth like the Ten Commandments what needs to be done: Arrest him and jail him. And trot him out as a hostile witness when the hearing, or trial, starts, whichever comes first.

I am glad too that Bayan Muna is filing charges against him. “Hello, Garci” isn’t just the original sin, the sin that taints everything, it is also Cain’s sin, a sin of violence, a sin of murder. For all the barbarity that attended the Maguindanao massacre, it is not the most horrific thing to visit this land since the turn of the century. The massacre of the Filipino electorate is. The blood may not be visible but the victims are there, the corpses are there, the pile of dead is there. But while at that, talk of original sin, that was the sin that made the very literal massacre of political activists possible, that was the sin that made the very literal rivers of blood tumble into the veins of the land.

The original sin took a serpent and the residents of Eden to commit. “Hello, Garci” took a serpent and a resident of the Comelec to commit. Garci was a partner there. Forget Purgatory, or the travails of earth, send him directly to hell.

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While at this, have him accompanied in that destination by his fellows, or superiors, who have turned the one institution that should be as pure as Caesar’s wife into one that is as soiled as a congressman’s mistress. Garcillano is by no means the worst of them, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the right place at the right time, depending on how you look at it. He was in charge of the one place that offered the biggest opportunity for cheating. But the Comelec would not have been a pit where a Garcillano could thrive if it did not have a Benjamin Abalos as chief pit-keeper, if it did not have the kind of commissioners it had during Arroyo’s time—with a few sterling exceptions. I wouldn’t mind seeing “Hello, Garci” extend to “Hello, Borjer” or whatever others hello’s are there, and bring justice to the Comelec, bring law to the land, and bring the culprits to jail.

We won’t have enough jails to hold all of them if we did? No problem.

We’ll build more.

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TAGS: `hello garci’ scandal, Comelec, conflict of interest, featured columns, opinion, politics, Sixto Brillantes
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