Mr. Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the Yellow Pad column of BusinessWorld, April 25, 2005 edition, p. S1/5 .

“A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over,
their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight,
restore their
government to its true principles. …for this is a
game where principles are at stake.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1798

Even under the spell of witches, one can still spot those with little
regard for what is right. They use the law as a weapon or a shield,
wielding or hiding behind off the-rack phrases like “proper venue”,
“respect for the rule of law” and “it’s not illegal,” whenever their
actions fly in the face of decency. Here’s what I ‘m talking about.

Mrs. Arroyo captured the presidency through her allies in
Congress.  Although there were strong indications that the
Certificates of Canvass (COCs) were dubious, the canvass committee
insisted that the law did not allow them to look deeper, which wasn’t
true. This, even when public interest demanded it.

The canvass committee could have looked at other documents and compared
them to the COCs but it chose not to. It could have spent its time
looking for the truth rather than arguing over interpretations of the
law but it didn’t. Instead, it peddled the line that the “proper venue”
for seeking the truth was the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET),
not the canvass committee whose job (so they interpreted) was limited
to proclaiming a winner, questionable documents nothwithstanding.
“Proper venue” became the coven’s incantation.

Fernando Poe Jr. took his protest to the “proper venue” but he died
before the search for truth could begin. His widow stepped in as his
substitute. She told the PET that all she wanted was to find out who
really won the last election. The PET threw her out and told her not to
come back.

The widow was questioning the credibility of the election, and the PET responded by questioning her credentials.

“Your honors I’d like to know who won the last election,” the widow said.
They asked, “Who are you to ask?”  “I am the dead candidate’s wife,” she replied.
They said, “In that case you are not the “real party in interest” and
we don’t have to answer your question.” “Rules Rule,” chanted the

The honorable justices wielded and at the same time hid behind PET Rule
Number something or other because their decision had no moral or
ethical leg to stand on. Fernando Poe’s father died of rabies from his
pet. Philippine democracy may have caught something worse from this PET.

Those Supreme Court Justices could have heard Mrs. Poe’s case if they
wanted to.  They had no problem cooking up a new definition of
presidential resignation for Estrada. They had no qualms about
reversing their own recently penned decision on mining to accommodate
what they claimed was a matter of pressing national interest, Mrs.
Arroyo’s need to pay off her sovereign debts. What was the reason for
not wanting to determine the winner of last year’s election, an equally
pressing matter of national
interest? Was PET Rule Number something more important than maintaining
the credibility of the electoral process? It sure looks that way.

The spell cast by legal magicians is so powerful even Mike Arroyo
cannot resist.  He now chants, “Never mind if it’s wrong, you can
do it as long as it’s legal.”

Recently, Mr. Arroyo found himself in the middle of a controversy over
a complimentary room in a Las Vegas hotel.  Mr. Arroyo immediately
proclaimed he had done nothing illegal. He said he was a private
citizen and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public
Officials and Employees did not apply to him. He had the gall to
contextualize his behavior with questions like—”Is getting something
for free bad?”  Or: “What person will say ‘No, I will pay’ if it’s
free? ” And: “It was an accommodation fitting a dignitary, my stature
as husband of a President. I don’t know, what’s the fuss all about?
Masama ba yung libre?” He was neither embarrassed nor apologetic.

Mr. Arroyo may not have stepped on the law but he certainly trampled on
delicadeza. Furthermore, he became a confirmed aprovechado when he
accepted a freebie because of his stature as husband of a
President.  Sponging is not illegal so there’s nothing wrong with
the first gentleman sponging because his wife is president, right?

People are tired of “legal spells.” Mrs. Arroyo must face the fact that
no amount of legal hocus pocus will cloak her with the legitimacy she
desperately needs. The Merlins of the Supreme Court and Congress can’t
do it. Mrs. Arroyo must realize that all she got from those two covens
was a broomstick to fly around on.

She should think about calling a snap election, break the evil spells
and restore the country to its true principles.  She might also
consider using her broom to sweep out the witches instead of flying
around on it. Just kidding.