Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Mixed feelings

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

I have misgivings about how Americans jumped up and down with glee, gave each other high fives, toasted each other and their president with champagne, and generally went into a celebratory mode over the death of Osama bin Laden.

I am no big fan of bin Laden and like many others, there’s a huge part of me that is relieved that his reign of terror has come to an end.

However, I still don’t think it is appropriate to celebrate the tragic demise of another man. I know that for the longest time bin Laden was considered the most wanted criminal in the world. The collapse of the World Trade Center and along with it the death of thousands of people were crimes that deserve retribution. Justice had to be rendered for the various bombings around the world that were attributed to the Al Qaida which killed thousands of people and destroyed properties.

I will still draw the line at organizing street parties and throwing confetti into the air because someone died.

But at least the Americans knew how to react to the news of bin Laden’s death.

I wish that we knew what the proper reaction should be to the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

It seems even our leaders are confused and don’t quite know whether to laugh or cry, rejoice or grieve, congratulate the woman or mock her, be grateful or be angry, heave a deep sigh of relief or feel regret over the absence of a proper closure to the whole controversy.

I honestly don’t know how and what we’re supposed to feel. It’s not just because her resignation came at the most unexpected time when so many things were happening one after the other. Our minds have been pretty much preoccupied with various earthshaking events, from the royal wedding, to the beatification of Pope John Paul II, to the run-up to the 2011 Labor Day celebrations and the labor sector’s demand for yet another mandated wage increases, to the roller-coaster movement of the prices of oil.

And it’s not really just because most of us have already been resigned to the fact we’re in a country where leaders don’t make extra effort to get along and are often, in fact, spoiling for a fight. We’re almost immune to high-level squabbles and bitter infighting. We are on first-name basis with discord and enmity.

We’re supposed to be grateful that the country has been spared an impeachment trial, something that’s supposedly potentially disastrous to the image of the country.

I can empathize with the fear; just picturing certain senators in black robes sitting as judges already makes me cringe in embarrassment although that’s one role our senators are supposed to perform, something they willingly signed up and claimed they were qualified for when they ran for office.

Quite a number of pundits have expressed the view that an impeachment trial would have highlighted and validated just how unprepared and unqualified we truly are in terms of managing the challenges that are supposed to test the maturity of our democracy. They are probably correct but it is also entirely possible that they underestimate our capabilities; we don’t know. What is certain at this point is that we missed out on an opportunity; we’ve chickened out from a learning experience that could have yielded valuable lessons. So I am not really sure what we are supposed to be grateful for.

There are those who insist that Gutierrez’s resignation, which aborted the impeachment trial, denied Filipinos the chance of finally being able to pin down the previous administration for various shenanigans and wrongdoings. The impeachment trial was supposed to have been the venue to expose former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s dirty secrets and many of our leaders were already salivating at the prospect while sharpening their knives in public. Hijacking Gutierrez’ impeachment trial to shoot another person is precisely why we can’t make things work in this country.

But wait, the previous administration has not exactly been a pushover in terms of political maneuvering and would have fought with everything it had. Gutierrez is not exactly a dimwit and although the prime movers of the impeachment in the House of Representatives have made it appear that some officials of the Office of the Ombudsman are itching to start squealing on Gutierrez, the undeniable truth is that majority of the employees in that office are four squares behind Gutierrez – how else do you think Gutierrez has been able to dig in for so long if she didn’t have the support of the whole office? So I am sure that she had her own ammunition against her detractors.

It would have been bloody and messy and yes, entertaining in a sordid way.

But it would have brought us a little closer to the truth and gotten us some form of closure. But now we don’t know for sure; so I am not sure we should be grateful.

We’re supposed to feel relief over the fact that the high-level skirmish is now seemingly a thing of the past. Anyone who believes this is terminally na├»ve. As already openly admitted by many officials of the present administration, the Gutierrez hullabaloo was a pseudo match. The real war has not started yet, so don’t bet that we’ll start having some peace and quiet from hereon.

This is the calm before the storm.



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