Analysis : A judgment of guilt based on perception
Inquirer News Service
THE DISMISSAL of the three impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by the House committee on justice has rekindled the dying embers of the street-driven movement demanding her resignation.
Following the junking of the complaints, a broad coalition, calling itself Bukluran para sa Katotohanan, or Coalition for Truth, intensified street marches in an attempt to put pressure on the plenary of the House of Representatives that was in the midst of deciding what to do with the quashed complaints and whether to endorse any one of the complaints or a consolidated version to the Senate.
In a march to the Batasan [Legislature complex] yesterday, the coalition, led by former President Corazon Aquino, among others, tried to show it was not a spent force and was now gaining adherents among a wide assortment of organizations, with disparate political and ideological tendencies to back their move to oust Ms Arroyo, either through impeachment or other means, not excluding extra-constitutional means, such as another people power.
Aquino took pains to explain that the march of several thousands was "to show support" for the congressmen signing the complaint. The intensified street action appeared to have been intended to give heart to other congressmen to join the pro-impeachment movement whose fast track had been blocked by the numbers of the administration majority in the House.
Since the filing of the complaints in June and July, the opposition had encountered difficulty in winning the critical support that would bring the number of signatories to the 79 needed to send the case to the Senate. While the proponents of impeachment in the House have failed to collect the 79 signatures, they have succeeded in getting crowds out in the street, where the battle over the ouster of Ms Arroyo has now shifted. One possible explanation for their failure to secure the required number of signatures is that for two months and until yesterday, it was not clear what complaint would be endorsed to the Senate, considering that each of the three complaints contained different sets of charges.
As legal authorities have pointed out, the first complaint filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano alleged, among other things, that the President had been silent about the wiretapped conversations with Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and such silence amounted to "a betrayal of public trust"; and that she lied when she confessed to "a lapse in judgment" when she talked over the telephone with Garcillano about election results.
Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. cited an attempt by the opposition to reinforce and amend the Lozano complaint with accusations of impeding the administration of justice, of concealing ownership of property contrary to law, of tax evasion, of acquiescing in the killing of political dissenters, of approving contracts "disadvantageous to the Republic." This shotgun blast led to the blurring of the focus of the complaint. The omnibus nature of the complaints undermined the main issue raised by the Coalition for Truth seeking the President's ouster for allegedly "stealing" the 2004 elections.
Those driving the movement to oust Ms Arroyo are not clear about what wrong she had committed to warrant her dismissal, either through an impeachment trial or through people power.
Before the people power advocates can win wider public support for their oust-Arroyo movement, they have to stop insulting the intelligence of the public with their ambiguous definition of truth. For example, a group belonging to the Coalition of Truth, the Black and White Movement, said, "We have to make a judgment (on election cheating) on the information available to us -- the transcript of the Garci tapes, the testimony, the maneuverings of both the opposition and the administration, and the political developments as these unfold before us."
This statement was made before any complaint, with a bill of particulars and articles of impeachment, has been sent to the Senate. In other words, judgment on cheating has already been made on the basis of perception rather than on verified evidence reached through a methodical and rigorous process that is provided by an impeachment trial. It is this perception that is fueling the movement to shift the resolution of the crisis to the streets.
It is very dangerous for the members of the Black and White Movement to declare that they "believe the issues surrounding the presidency and the impeachment complaint are as clear as Black and White. There are no shades of gray when it comes to the Truth."
Truth has as many sides as there are to a controversy. This movement imposes its own version of truth arrived at arbitrarily without scrutinizing allegations and controverting them with other facts. This notion of making judgment on right or wrong based on unverified facts, which those sitting in judgment would like to believe, has a notorious history. It has been the foundation of obscurantism and the cradle of the most cruel and deplorable witch-hunts in history, including the Holy Inquisition, the Salem witch trials and the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era.
Maybe it might be a good idea for those trying to incite another people to pause and ask why the accusations against the regime have not provoked the outrage they seek to bring down an intensely reviled regime. Maybe their unilateral version of the truth is not shared by a large enough segment of the public, which has reacted tepidly to calls for mass mobilization.