A Matter of Perspective: Tama Na, Sobra na!

Romano is the founder and moderator of eLagda, which started as an Internet-based anti-Erap group, gathering over 100,000 Filipino petitioners from all over the world for the ouster of Erap. eLagda has since transformed into an Internet-based good governance advocate. This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad column of BusinessWorld, August 8, 2005 edition, p. S1/5.

Gloria Macapgal Arroyo (GMA) was so right about one thing in her State of the Nation Address (SONA)—that we are a nation divided, especially on the issue of the “Garci tapes” controversy.

I believe a major reason for the divisiveness is caused by the way we view the issue: we are looking for a political solution to a moral crisis. Thus, we tend to ask the wrong questions which lead to faulty conclusions which, in turn, lead to intransigent positions that do not address the core issue.

Many people ask the questions:

  1. What happens if GMA steps down, either by resignation or through impeachment? Who will replace her?
  2. Is Noli de Castro qualified to lead the country? If not Noli, then who?
  3. What alternatives are being offered by those asking GMA to step down?
  4. Will we be better off or worse if GMA steps down?

And this leads to the following conclusions:

  1. Noli is the most probable successor, but he is untested and probably unqualified.
  2. Making GMA step down will only benefit the Erap-led opposition and bring them back to power.
  3. GMA is still the lesser evil.
  4. The constitutional process of succession is deficient; we need something more revolutionary.

Which leads us to take positions to defend our conclusions:

  1. GMA is still our best option; let’s forgive her and give her a chance. This time, she will be more “principled,” knowing that we are watching over her.
  2. All anti-GMA positions are, in effect, pro-Erap; it’s bad for the country.
  3. GMA is not the only one who cheated. Everybody cheats anyway. At least, GMA has good credentials in governance. We’re still better off with her as president.
  4. Let’s stick to the rule of law (and most advocates narrowly limit this to impeachment). If Congress or the Senate exonerates GMA, then it’s a good excuse to continue supporting her. She is, after all, the lesser evil. If she is impeached, then it compels us to swallow the bitter pill of a Noli presidency.
  5. It’s not GMA that’s the problem; it’s the system. Let’s change the form of government.

That’s why charter change is so appealing to some. And that’s why some are willing to let GMA continue with her term even if they believe she cheated.

But let’s look at the issue from another perspective. I believe we should start with a moral question when faced with a moral issue.

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GMA admitted to a lapse in judgment in talking to Virgilio Garcillano. Given the circumstances of her admission, we need to ask: “Was it indeed a mere lapse of judgment, or did she actually cheat?”

Each one of us can and should make a moral judgment based on the information we already know. You start with the tapes. If you have not heard it, or read the transcript, download a copy from http://pcij.org/blog/wp-docs/hellogarci-transcript-final.pdf.

Next, look at the context—the series of developments that led to our present situation and how the GMA administration has handled the whole issue. Ask the following questions:

  1. Why did GMA insist on appointing Garcillano as COMELEC Commissioner even after the Commission on Appointments repeatedly by-passed him because of his reputation as an “operator” (one who engineers massive electoral fraud)?
  2. Why did Bunye preemptively release to media “authentic” and “tampered” versions of the tapes (in effect, admitting the conversations did happen) but only to retract it later?
  3. Why did it take so long for GMA to admit to a lapse in judgment, and only after efforts at downplaying and covering it up had failed?
  4. To this date, why has GMA not categorically denied that it was her voice on the tape, and not exerted any effort at refuting the authenticity of the tape? Is it not in her best interest to clear any cloud of suspicion over her possible cheating?

Even if you consider that the tapes came from the opposition and could have possibly been tampered for their own purpose, I am convinced you will come to the same conclusion that the majority of our people have reached: 59% of the entire population (SWS Survey) and 80% of Metro Manila residents (Pulse Asia Survey) believe GMA cheated.

If you have reached this conclusion, then there is only one appropriate moral response: GMA must leave office. It’s only a question of when and how.

As you now ask “What happens next?” It should necessarily exclude any conclusion or position that will make her stay in power.

Still, there are many who insist that “GMA is the lesser evil.”

GMA effectively used this in her election campaign, sowing fear upon a nation with the prospect of a bumbling FPJ presidency. It made us turn a blind eye to the blatant misuse of government funds for her campaign.

Today, GMA terrorizes us with the same fear—this time of the prospect of a blundering Noli presidency, or worse—the return of Erap and his cabal. She begrudgingly admits that this is all just a lapse in judgment, and tells us “Let’s put this behind us, and let’s move forward. Either that, or face the prospect of economic reversal.”  Sadly, some buy this deceitful lie, and are all too willing to condone such a grievous crime as cheating her way into office, for the sake of the economy… or so they believe.

But if we allow this, where do you draw the line? Next thing we know, she declares martial law, and we begin to cheer her because now she can decisively deal with those trying to destabilize her regime. They would sell this, too, as the lesser evil.

It’s time to say “Tama na. Sobra na.”

The worst kind of evil is one that surreptitiously makes people condone it while making them believe they do so for a higher good. That is the kind of evil that GMA is. No, she is definitely not the lesser evil.

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