There can be no valid protest to the aspiration for an honest and a righteous government. Ironically, that seems to be the reason that parties and personalities markedly opposed to the present administration seem to be gaining ground steadily and almost unstoppably. This, despite the fact that the Yellow Party has vowed to pursue the program of Daang Matuwid. Some analysts rightly see that as a liability. It is precisely a radical departure from the style, posturing, mismanagement and misrepresentation of the last six years that is propelling a popular drive for more “unorthodox” options! So, where did Daang Matuwid go wrong?
First, it is good to aspire after righteousness. But it is wrong and pretentious to make claims at being in possession of the exclusive recipe of virtue and to characterize all others—who may not be in agreement—as thieving, cheating, dishonorable and deceitful.
Masyadong bilib sa sarili…that would be the most popular way to put this principal affliction of the present administration. It is this posturing that led Malacañang to its first missteps. Its supposed zeal for integrity reduced itself to implacable hatred for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the overpowering obsession with shaming and jailing her. The first two executive orders were both negative in tenor and vengeful in intent: recalling the appointments of thousands of employees labelled as “midnight appointees,” and creating a Truth Commission. The latter, the Supreme Court saw through, correctly finding that it was, by intent, a “vengeance commission” that in fact violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The issue of midnight appointees lay languishing in the Court of Appeals for the longest time possible and has only recently been finally laid to rest by the Supreme Court. This was one among several other reasons—possibly including the thorny Hacienda Luisita dispute —that brought about the downfall of Chief Justice Renato Corona, eventually sending him to an early death.
Second, there was no real check on presidential discretion and its abuse. Congress was compliant and servile, and only a few hardy souls dared speak against the meandering ways of Daang Matuwid. The Lower House was easily prevailed upon to dangle the Damocles sword of impeachment over Merceditas Gutierrez, then Ombudsman, if she would not resign. She preferred to resign—an option Renato Corona would not take. It also haled the bishops before a congressional investigation, once more instigated by the Palace lackeys, on the so-called “Pajero Scandal”. It took the forthright testimonies of the bishops—and the stinging rebuke of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo—to unmask the hypocrisy of Daang Matuwid. In the first place, there was no Pajero involved—an embarrassed Margarita Juico had to admit—and more importantly, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo and the bishops pointed out: the vehicles were used to deliver services to the hinterlands that politicians would never visit!
Third, it soon became apparent that the government in power was not only a caboodle of neophytes but worse, a bunch of novices who listened to no counsel and sought none, believing themselves, delusional, to be in possession of insight supreme! The Rizal Park hostage crisis that embarrassed the nation was principally this: executive incompetence. Mamasapano and the bloodied remains of SAF 44 would later confirm, at the expense of grieving widows and fatherless orphans, that a student government was not equal to the tasks of governing a nation. But never did Edwin Lacierda, Abigail Valte and Sonny Coloma ever apologize. Were they a choir, Misererere…have mercy was not on their repertoire. It was one, continuous, annoying “noyzart” —singing the praises of Him Who Could Do No Wrong! There was, however, the embarrassing disclosure by the Supreme Court itself, through two judgments, that Palace practice of juggling funds around and awarding largesse was not only unconstitutional but potentially criminal! The nation had attestation from the highest court of the land that the dishonesty that the Administration repeatedly boasted it was absolutely free from had corrupted its very core!
Finally, it went irremediably wrong when it virtually swept aside the Rule of Law. Rebuffed by the Supreme Court on his first four executive orders, the President’s ire raged uncontrollably against Renato Corona, and then nationally televised trial of the Chief Justice —followed by the disclosures of the senators he later on caused to be jailed that they had been bribed to vote for conviction—struck fear in the hearts of many: If a Chief Justice could be at the receiving end of the calculated and deliberate miscarriage (abortion, better) of justice, who would be spared? And when Leila de Lima thumbed her nose at the Supreme Court orders, virtually countermanding them and refusing to abide even when ordered by the highest court of the land, it was clear to all that this was a government that heeded none, feared none, respected none!
This is the reason that the second half of the CBCP’s latest pastoral letter on the elections is of eminent significance. No, Mr. Aquino should not be imprisoned after his term. No, we should not go after those he kept in his stables to prosecute them. Let them recede into obscurity. Let the nation rise from the kind of vengefulness that has sent us all careening into the precipice of policy incoherence and governmental ineptitude. Let the new government be the diametrical opposite of what these past six years of a dud have been. Above all, let the incoming government desist from any claims that it has the master strategy, the key word, the coveted formula to righteousness. On that, we must all be thoughtful, listening and participative. All that we can have isphronesis, the halting, tentative steps that searchers take, ever wary of the possibility of missteps, ever prepared to concede that we have been in error, ever prepared to accord to all the fundamental human right to be heard!