A lesson not learned
BARRING super typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and similar acts of God, the second impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be dead by tomorrow. It’s an outcome that doesn’t surprise anyone because as everyone knows, this was already a foregone conclusion right from the very start. But because no one in this country likes to lose an argument, there is always something to be agitated about, and this time, it is the cause of death. The killing of the impeachment complaint is either a case of premeditated murder or a judicious death sentence, depending of course on one’s political affiliations.
The macabre metaphors being used to describe the whole political process is telling. A killing. Rigor mortis. Dead on arrival. A cadaver of a complaint. The last nail on the coffin. A funeral. A corpse that was buried by Congress. The fact that these morbid terms are being bandied about by both proadministration and opposition figures indicate just how gruesome the whole spectacle has become. And it continues to be so.
I have refused to comment on the impeachment proceedings before because of one and only one reason: I believed then and more strongly now, that given the current situation, the impeachment process offers no real solutions. While I would not go as far as to say that it was an utter waste of time because some battles do need to be fought, I still think that there are better and more strategic ways to solve our national problems.
We can all argue until we are all blue in the face about the morality and the righteousness, or conversely, of the hypocrisy and the duplicity of the impeachment complaint. We can bicker about how the impeachment rules should have been interpreted. Along the way, we can throw mud at each other, call each other all kinds of unsavory names and blame everyone else for the failure of the process. The fact will still remain— impeachment is a political exercise. It is a numbers game. And most of our representatives have already spoken. They refuse to transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate. They did not do so last year, and they refuse to do so this year.
As a logical consequence, the screaming contest will reach higher decibels this week as the so-called representatives of the people wash their hands in public or point fingers at each other. But as in the past, something more sordid, interesting or exciting will eventually crop up, another controversy will be unearthed, and the whole imbroglio will be eclipsed by yet another scandal. And that is how we do things in our country.
This is something that has happened many times in the past. And we still have to learn from the experience.
Whether we like it or not, impeaching a President cannot happen without the support of the people. And although the proponents of the impeachment complaint would like us to believe that they were pursuing the complaint for, on behalf of, and with the full blessing and support of the people, the generally lukewarm response of the general public sends a completely different message. Many, if not most Filipinos just did not, and do not care enough.
I have said this before, and I will say it again here. Many among us Filipinos may not like the President; many among us may believe that the President cheated in the last elections, we may agree that she has to go. Surveys validate these, but there is a world of difference between belief and action.
The stark, naked truth is that civil society and the opposition have once again failed to galvanize people into action. Not last year, not early this year during those fateful days in February, and not during the very recent impeachment process. And if they persist with their holier-than-thou attitude and their shortsightedness, it looks like they never will.
Civil society and the opposition have gone through loops and hoops to try the impeachment case in media. They have even tried to rekindle our collective memory with tricks that hew closely to and even exaggerate those that have worked so well in the past—all in a futile effort to provoke collective rage. They conjured the Martial Law bogey, trundled not just envelopes but boxes as supposed smoking guns, and even resurrected the protest anthems of a bygone era. All of these have been met by indifference.
Why? The answer is something that everyone else has been saying since last year and which civil society and the opposition refuse to listen to. First, people are tired of this kind of politics. And second, people are deeply cynical of everyone, including civil society and most particularly, of the opposition. I repeat, many among us are simply tired of the whole thing; been there, done that and we’re still stuck in the same rut. We don’t like the President, but we don’t like everyone else either, especially the opposition.
So what has civil society and the opposition done about this? They ridicule us for supposedly having low morals; they insist that we have no right to be tired. They call us weak and unpatriotic. They assert their moral superiority. In other words, they make us their enemies. It’s the Darth Vader principle at work: If you are not for us, you are not our friend.
To aggravate matters, civil society and the opposition refuse to make the heroic act of breaking away from the political factions that have been the object of contempt in the past and who now bask in the reflected glow of the morality of the current protest movement. I think that many among us have simply not forgiven certain people and their minions for the grievous sins of the past, and rightfully so. The fact that they have not apologized for these sins and even remain defiant up to this day is insulting. And these people and their sins taint the purity of the current movement.
It is truly difficult to assert moral superiority while linking arms with the Marcoses and the Estradas and their minions (I am tempted to include leftists, but that is not a fair generalization). It is truly difficult to convince people to rage against current injustices while at the same time implicitly forgive previous injustices. It is simply difficult to care enough for causes, no matter how righteous, when you know these are led by the very people you feel like strangling with your bare hands.
The message is clear and unequivocal: There are no winners in this contest, only losers. There is no cause for jubilation, only temporary respite. Yes, something died and it wasn’t just the impeachment complaint.