Thursday, September 01, 2005

Snap Election

There's The Rub : What is to be done?

Conrado de Quiros
Inquirer News Service

THERE was something a little heroic in the desperation with which the pro-impeachment representatives looked at their project. Gathered at Albergus last Monday night for a dinner Susan Roces threw in their honor, they took turns talking not only about the seeming hopelessness of their fight -- money from Malacañang was flowing, each congressman who would vote to quash the impeachment stood to gain P25 million, they said -- but also about the glowing resplendence of it. They looked headed to lose the battle, they said to a woman, or man, but they were destined to win the war.

For a minute there, I remembered Katsimoto (Ken Watanabe) asking Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) in "The Last Samurai," while they huddled in the trenches, their enemies pounding them with cannons, what happened to the 300 Spartans. Algren had earlier told him the story of 300 warriors that held off an invader's horde in a pass called Thermopylae. Algren answers: "Dead to the last man." Katsimuto smiles, enthused by the answer. And they rush their enemies on horseback, their banners flailing in the wind, their swords glinting in the sun.

Some defeats are glorious victories.

Detractors, of course, will say that the walkout the other day at Congress was rehearsed. I don't know, maybe it was. But who cares? It was still the proper reaction to a disgusting display of lack of moral scruple, of people in power using the law to thwart justice, the favorite pastime of Ferdinand Marcos then, and the favorite pastime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now. Well, they share more than height.

I can't say I'm greatly dismayed at what happened last Tuesday. It's not just that I expected the impeachment to be killed -- there was little doubt of it, even if the pro-impeachment representatives also expressed the slim hope the last-minute converts might help turn the tide -- it's also that I've always been two minds about impeaching Ms Arroyo.

On the plus side, impeaching Ms Arroyo stood to remind the world she was guilty of humongous wrongdoing, something Cory's and Dinky et al.'s call for her to resign failed to mention -- they merely said the people had lost faith in her. On the downside, it stood to assert she was a president who, like Joseph Estrada, betrayed the public trust when her public apology for the "Hello Garci" tape clearly voided the premise of her being President at all. You do not impeach a non-president, you simply remove her.

I can only hope Malacañang sets off more fireworks and Jose de Venecia gloats some more, if only to rile the public sufficiently and rouse it from its stupor. But I'm not unhappy that De Venecia's horde in Congress killed the move to impeach Ms Arroyo because, quite apart from showing what "representative" really represents, it thrusts the issue back to its rightful forum. That is not the parliament of the Batasan [Legislature] complex -- reclaimed from a place once overrun by weeds only to be given back to the weeds -- but the parliament of the streets. There is no need to convoke that parliament, it has already been convoked. By Ms Arroyo herself: The day she appeared on TV apologizing for her "lapse in judgment" -- she forgot that the voters, and not Virgilio Garcillano, or Ronaldo Puno, put presidents in Malacañang -- was the day she resurrected it. The force that brings this country's parliament of the streets back to life has always been the death of the presidency.

What is to be done now?

I've always thought the answer to that question was fairly simple. The problem is that we do not have a president that was voted by the voters. The solution is to have a president that has been voted by the voters.

If Ms Arroyo has no legal claim to being the president -- and she voided that claim the moment she said "Hello Garci" -- then she has to be made to step down. That is a not just a moral imperative, it is a legal one. It is not a conditional demand, it is a categorical one. The task of ousting someone who has not been voted by the voters is not premised on finding a "suitable replacement," it is its own compulsion. No mandate, no rule. I don't know what methods others have in mind for ungluing Ate Glue from Malacañang. Like I said, mine is civil disobedience. I refuse to be a dutiful citizen to a dutiless ruler. A threatened country has the right to self-defense.

To this day, of course, I still keep hearing people say, "But who do you want in her place? Vice President Noli de Castro? Estrada? Senator Panfilo Lacson? A transitional revolutionary government? A council of elders?" Well, the answer is not who I want in her place. The answer is not who you want in her place. The answer is not who the opposition and the various groups fighting Ms Arroyo want in her place. The answer is who the people want, period. It's not her place, to begin with. Who the people want we can know only in and through elections. If the problem is that we do not have an elected president, then by all means let us elect one. Let us have snap elections for president.

I may not like it if Estrada or De Castro wins the elections, but I must respect it. That is the people's will; that is what we have elections for. No individual or group may presume to know what's best for the people, only the people may presume to know what's best for them. The question is not who or what, it is how. It is the people themselves answering the question of who and what, through their vote. Snap elections are the only thing that can guarantee a new government that the citizens can at least uphold, if not admire. Snap elections are the only thing that can unite rather than divide all those who want an end to the current travesty. All other solutions will always suffer from questions of legitimacy and self-interest. The various groups and individuals fighting Ms Arroyo cannot grasp this, they won't just lose the battle, they'll lose the war.

As will the rest of the country.