Manuel Buencamino does political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms.This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad column of BusinessWorld, June 27, 2005 edition, p. S1/5 .

The great American writer Jimmy Breslin once wrote an article called “He molests the dead.” It was about George W. Bush using the badge of a Port Authority cop who died in the World Trade Center as a campaign prop.

Not to be outdone by Bush, Mrs. Arroyo compared herself to Benigno Aquino, Jr. She said, “Ninoy paid with his own life. And from undergoing assaults on my character, I feel humbled because they are assassinating my character as they have assassinated Ninoy. And this humbles me, and it should humble us.”

Humbled is the wrong word. Shame is what she should feel for comparing herself to a man who gave up his life fighting for the restoration of democracy in his beloved country when all she is doing is hanging on to dear life to keep a stolen mandate alive. Mrs. Arroyo is molesting a national hero.

But the opposition who is using Fernando Poe’s corpse as a rallying point is just as guilty of molesting the dead. Poe’s widow herself had said her candidate is dead. That was a nice way of telling the Rez Corteses of the world “Let him rest in peace!”

Those who are calling for transition governments and snap elections and whatnot, are guilty of turning their backs on the republican form of government that Ninoy died for, a government of, for and by the people, chosen through elections. Not one of those who are now advocating a junta has ever come to within arm’s length of being elected president of our country. And now they want to lead?

Fortunato Abat wasted his youth serving a dictator instead of the people he had sworn to protect, and now he wants to head a junta. He was a brave soldier who never had the courage to stand for election. Ping Lacson ran and lost. Kit Tatad couldn’t even get himself reelected as senator. All these types want to short-circuit the Constitution to open the door for their ascension to power.

There are only two options available in consonance with the spirit of Ninoy. Impeach Mrs. Arroyo or force her to resign, then let Noli de Castro take over. Granted there’s an election protest against him, both him and Loren Legarda have said they will abide by the PET’s (Presidential Electoral Tribunal) decision. So what’s the problem?

Until proven otherwise, Noli is the people’s choice to succeed Mrs. Arroyo. I am sure those who voted for him took his qualifications into account. The elite may not agree with those people’s criteria for choosing Noli as Vice-President, but we all know what happens when the elite tries to correct a people’s “mistake,” don’t we?

Noli is an unproven factor. But I would rather go with him than the proven failures and election losers who are now presenting themselves as alternatives to Mrs. Arroyo. Noli has had one big test in public life and he passed it with flying colors. Mrs. Arroyo promised him the DWSD (Department of Social Work and Development) post, but she reneged under pressure from Dinky Soliman and her civil society group. Noli bowed out gracefully, even if he had the right to collect on a political commitment. That shows character. It shows a man who can keep his ambitions in check. It reveals the ability to sacrifice the immediate and the expedient for long-term goals. That’s foresight, something that this struggle among the power hungry sorely lacks.

If I were Mrs. Arroyo, I would choose to resign. She can do it at the State of the Nation Address. She can use the same line she used in her famous “I will not run” speech and add “although it cannot be proven that I did anything illegal and I would have won even without cheating, I will resign because my speaking to an election commissioner at the time that I did, I realize now, was immoral and improper. For a President, propriety and morality must take precedence over legal technicalities.”

Noli or Loren will then become President and the dead can have the peace they deserve.