Claudio graduated magna cum laude and was Ateneo de Manila University’s class 2007 valedictorian. Parmanand, also of class 2007, graduated cum laude. Borromeo, class 2008, graduated summa cum laude. They are members of the Ateneo Debate Society. This article was published in the April 7, 2008 edition of the BusinessWorld, pages S1/4 to S1/5.
In recent months, we have been involved in various anti-administration efforts. In March, our organization came out with a statement entitled, “Why We Should Call for Arroyo’s Resignation” (available at ateneodebatesociety.multiply.com). We are also doing work for the Green Ribbon Project (grnribbon.multiply.com), where we ask graduates to pin green ribbons on their togas as a sign of opposition to GMA.
As expected, we’ve received all sorts of feedback regarding our efforts, both positive and negative. As much as the negative feedback has dismayed us, we’ve also found it instructive. In university message boards and online forums, we’ve received vitriolic responses from people who felt it naïve to call for an Arroyo ouster. We take these responses to reflect the opinions of those among the youth who believe it is futile and unproductive to oppose the administration.
The opinions betray a sense of pessimistic resignation, which we feel is the main barrier towards youth involvement in national politics. In addressing some of the concerns, we hope to encourage other young people to take an active stance against this illegitimate regime.
Here, we address three main issues on the call for GMA’s resignation.
(a) That the call for GMA’s resignation is not founded on accurate information, and that we need to resort to legal means to attain that information.
The ZTE scandal is only the most recent in a string of painful discoveries about the administration. Have we forgotten, for example, the irresponsible manner by which the GMA administration responded to the extrajudicial killings?
A nine-month investigation on the human rights abuses in the Philippines headed by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, confirmed that a significant number of the extrajudicial executions is the result of “deliberate targeting by the military as part of counterinsurgency operations against the communist rebels.” Alston further explained: “The military’s insistence that the ‘purge theory’ is correct can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility.” The Human Rights Watch Report and Amnesty International Reports have echoed Alston’s findings. Even the administration-appointed Melo commission stressed the weaknesses in military investigations. If the military is engaged in deliberate targeting of civilians, its commander-in-chief should, at the very least, be blamed for gross negligence.
How did GMA’s subordinates react?
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said: “The enemies of our people, the enemies of the State have been very successful in showing as if we are the ones doing wrong when we’re offering our lives in the defense of what we know to be the best for our people, our freedom, our democracy…We are accused of extrajudicial killings. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
Basically, Mr. Gonzales is saying that highly respected international organizations do not know how to conduct research.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez called the Special Rapporteur a “muchacho” of the UN, and also accused him of having been “brainwashed” by leftists, while Philippine Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane called Prof. Alston “blind, mute and deaf.”
How about the calls GMA made to a COMELEC official while electoral results were being tabulated and her admitting to this “lapse in judgment?” Listen to the “Hello Garci” tapes and the illegitimacy of this regime becomes undeniable. As Conrado de Quiros always reminds his readers, Gloria doesn’t even have anything to resign from; the presidency was never hers to begin with.
These are not isolated incidents. EO 464, CPR (calibrated preemptive response), the traitorous Spratlys deal, and many other actions of this administration betray a disposition that is hostile to searching for the truth. Hence, the call for resignation is a response to the trends of deliberately silencing the truth.
While some of this information has not been verified beyond reasonable doubt (a legal criterion), we have enough information to warrant the belief that GMA has committed grave lapses as president and is thus unfit to lead. The reason why some evidence (i.e. Romy Neri’s knowledge about the president’s involvement with the ZTE deal) is unavailable is not because it doesn’t exist but because the cover-up has been so massive. Not calling for Gloria’s ouster means letting her get away with this cover-up.
(b) Removing GMA will not result in any tangible benefit because all politicians are corrupt anyway; removing Marcos and Erap did not lead to a better Philippines and therefore, removing GMA will do nothing.
The worst manifestation of the argument is: “mag-aral na lang kayo, kaysa gumawa pa ng gulong wala namang pupuntahan.”
This is, of course, not only illogical, but it is also a dangerous way of thinking. Under this logic, we shouldn’t even work for reform because all politicians are corrupt. It is ironic that, having acknowledged widespread corruption, some simply want to reinforce it by disengaging.
Change occurs through small, gradual steps. Ousting Gloria is obviously not going to solve the problem of corruption; it is simply one of the things we have to do in order to counter it. Nevertheless, letting GMA get away with her crimes strengthens the culture of impunity in Philippine government, which is one of the major roots of corruption.
Unfortunately, a number of educated youths (although, we suspect, not the majority) are blinded by the convenience of simply focusing one’s time on one’s career or studies. As a consequence, they’ve constructed this fiction that the country is hopeless and that nothing can be done. It is this kind of thinking that makes people dismiss idealism as naïveté.
The thesis that corrupt politicians will replace corrupt politicians will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if people like us do not stay vigilant.
(c) We do not have a qualified successor.
It is ironic that the same people who staunchly defend constitutional means shun the idea of Noli, GMA’s constitutional successor, taking over, in the event that GMA is convinced/forced to resign. However, we agree that the issue of a valid replacement is one that needs to be addressed. There are three ways we respond to the “Noli question.”
First, replacing Gloria with Noli provides us with a crucial window of opportunity for genuine reform. Should Noli assume the presidency, he would feel beholden to those who ousted his predecessor. Indeed, Gloria herself felt indebtedness to certain groups for helping her assume the presidency. The folly of civil society then, which we cannot repeat now, was resting on its laurels. Few people were critical of GMA early on. This is something we can change this time around. A Noli presidency can work if we make it work.
Second, genuine efforts at exacting government accountability are virtually impossible at this point. It is not within the interests of Malacañang to fight corruption in government. Serious investigations have been and will be suppressed because these are likely to point to the misdeeds of the president and her cohorts. Noli, although far from perfect, is not covering up as many shenanigans as GMA. A de Castro administration would not have as big a disincentive to run after people like Abalos.
Third, as economic professor Mike Alba notes, corruption has a learning curve. So, assuming that Noli is corrupt like Gloria, it would take some time for him to make the necessary connections, appoint the proper people, and find the loops in the system that would allow him to steal our money. At the very least, an Arroyo ouster reduces the pilferage.
Lastly, and perhaps most fundamentally, Gloria has proven to be such an egregious president that even a mediocre one would be a better option. If there are two evils, we should choose the lesser one and deliver ourselves from the egregious other.