The Best and the Worse

The coming of a new year gives us the chance to review the year that is soon to end. Here is my list of the best and the worse of the year 2010:

The Best:

1. GMA ceased to the President- What good news for those who could not last another day of an Arroyo presidency! While all the malaise of Philippine society persists, it is still a relief that the little nasty one ceased to be the most powerful official in our land. There were of course last minute scares associated with automated failure of elections and a an attempt at a Charter Change that many suspected would morph her into a prime minister. But all these did not happen- not for lack of trying, but simply because the Filipinos would have none of it.

2. Noynoy is President- Yup; he only comes in as the second best for 2010. Why? Well, it’s because people hated GMA more than they actually liked him. The elections, after the cf cards of the PCOS machines were changed at the absolute last minute, was simply a referendum: GMA if you’re a masochist, or Noynoy if you want change- full stop. As a last minute and as a reluctant candidate, P Noy simply stood on a platform of honesty in government. Perhaps, when we find the time and energy to criticize him for anything and everything he has or has not been doing, we should remind ourselves that his only promise was to be an honest President. Let’s judge him on this basis.

3. An enacted 2011 budget in December of 2010- We have forgotten that the primary task of our congressmen is not to make 20% from their pork barrel, but primarily to ensure that no public funds is spent without consent of the people. “ No taxation without representation” was the battle cry of the English revolution that ushered in modern day representative democracy. And yet, in the nine years of our recent dark ages, an Arroyo controlled Congress was absolutely remiss in its single most important function. GMA liked it when her Congress was remiss because a reenacted budget meant that she had trillions of pesos to spend as she wished.

4. Leila De Lima is DOJ Secretary- Who would have thought that this humble, unassuming and quiet election lawyer would be the best Cabinet Secretary of the current administration? In her six months in office, she has managed to redeem at least the image of the DOJ that I knew as a child, having been raised by a State Prosecutor myself. Yes, she has not improved the conviction rate of our National Prosecution Service but she has at least redeemed some of our trust in the department that is synonymous with the rule of law.

The Worse:

a) GMA is still powerful- she may no longer be the single most powerful official of the land, but she made sure that she would remain ever powerful. No, I’m not just talking about her new role as a member of Congress with the most pork. I’m referring to the fact that through a midnight judicial appointment and an ever-loyal Ombudsman, she has granted herself absolute impunity despite a change in administration. Nope, GMA has refused to quietly vanish into the night. On the contrary, people expect her to make a comeback courtesy of a House of Representatives that she, through her loyal allies, still control. It is a question of when and not if Congress will ram down out throats a constitutional amendment that would make her Prime Minister.

b) Then Justice Secretary Alberto Agra absolves Zaldy Ampatuan and cousin from culpability in the November 23 Ampatuan massacre- What gall and what nerve this Agra had in attempting to clear the smartest of the Ampatuan clan from the world’s single most deadliest attack on journalists. Nena Santos, lawyer for the Mangundadatus, declared on national radio that it was literally because of millions and millions of reasons. For whatever reasons he had, that single decision rightfully made Agra the second most hated person in government, next only to his appointing power.

c) The demise of my friend and co-convenor of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), “Josie” Lichauco- Lest I forget, 2010 marked the year that one of my closest friends and co-activists moved on to the next life. Pity that Josie never saw P Noy as President but yes, she will turn in her grave if she knew who it was that P Noy brought with him to Malacanang.

Happy New Year Philippine

A Christmas tribute to Trillanes

I was ambivalent when I first saw Antonio Trillanes IV on television. But there he was, a very young man, taking a clear and unequivocal stand against evil in government. My ambivalence may have something to do with four years of brainwashing called law school. Like military cadets, we were brainwashed to think that the Constitution was supreme and that change had to be through constitutional means. Never mind that as a freshman at the UP College of Law in 1986, we had no Constitution to study but for a two-page document known as the freedom constitution. Never mind too that we started our law studies with a brand new extra-constitutional regime that was the regime of Corazon Cojuanco-Aquino.
Perhaps, the ambivalence may have been due to the many coups staged against Mrs. Aquino, a regime that I was willing to die for. There too is the fact that as a high school activist, I once told a group of PMAers who hitched a ride with my family in Baguio that I hoped that they would not end up being fascists.

Law thrives though on stability. Law exists, among others, to achieve predictability. This is why an activist lawyer, which is how I would like to think of myself, appears to be a contradiction in terms. Activists seek to change. Lawyers seek to preserve the status quo through the legal fiat that the Constitution is supreme.

But there was excitement when I first saw him on television. Part of it was that he and his men were doing what I myself would want but could not do myself: to bear arms against an evil regime. But amazed as I was with the picture of more than 300 men offering their lives to rid the country of corruption, the lawyer in me could not initially fully appreciate their heroism. This explains why as I annotated one State-of-the-Nation Address immediately after the Oakwood incident with no less than Korina Sanchez, I could not articulate even a token of appreciation for what Trillanes and his men did. It took many years of my own struggle against the cheating, lying, stealing and murderous evil regime before I could fully appreciate their heroism. In fact, it was not only after I saw a video of him walking out of his detention before I could fully appreciate the heroism of Trillanes and his men.

Whenever I feel tired of standing up against evil in government and have the occasional urge to retire into the stereotype of an upwardly mobile lawyer, I think of Sonny Trillanes and the many years that he spent behind bars fighting a regime and a system that is rotten and evil to the core. Whenever I feel that this nation deserves to continue to wallow in poverty because despite a change in government, corruption remains endemic; I ask myself: what have you actually done for this country? Certainly, nothing can compared to what Trillanes and his men did: like Ninoy, they were willing to die for this country. And unlike me and others who have only raised their voice against evil in government, Sonny gave up seven long years of his youth for this country.

Sonny’s and our fight, though, is far from over. We had high hopes that President Aquino, if only because of his pedigree alone, will usher in the winds of change and actually rid this place of both poverty and corruption. We had high hopes that after nine years of unabated killings and enforced disappearances, that P-Noy, himself a victim of these killings, would put an end to impunity at last. But no, almost six months into his administration, all we see are landmines laid by the previous regime both in the Ombudsman and in court. It also does not help that there is much squabbling within Team P-Noy. And yes, in this team itself, you have recycled personalities from the evil regime, some of whom with prior record for kleptocracy parading as members of civil society. There too are virtual unknowns whom we did not see nor hear from in the struggle against the evil one. Some did nothing but claimed credit for rallies that we organized and paid for ourselves.

Sure, the fight against corruption is far from over. Sure, we continue to wallow in poverty. Sure, the killings are continuing. But for as long as we have young Filipinos willing to die for this country, there will always be hope for this country. That is the true legacy of Sonny Trillanes and his men.

But lest we forget, hero as he is, he too is human. I can only imagine Sonny’s happiness as he celebrates his first Christmas with his very young children as a free man. To Sonny, and the many heroes like him, Merry, Merry Christmas and may P Noy make do with his promises in the coming new years.

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