Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The observations in the three major points raised by Fr. Manoling Francisco in his February 17, 2008 sermon in La Salle Greenhills Gymnasium are all agreeable, since all three were argued critically and well-informed. The statements made on major point no. 1, Ascertaining Credibility, were correct in consideration of small-time people ready to risk their lives in trying to expose the truth that will put their big-time enemies in trouble. It is not as if Jun Lozada had nothing to lose, but it is indeed difficult to expose one’s family to harassment, to get constant death threats, to try to crumble a formidable wall, among others, just so one heeds one’s conscience’ call to reveal the truth. Meanwhile, those made on major point no. 2, Rediscovering Our Humanity, were truthful since it is when Lozada opened his life to scrutiny and threats that he found himself. He has realized that whatever one has or is is not more important than what one can do to expose the truth. One’s life is worth risking if it is for the sake of the country one belongs to. In the process of one’s readiness to give up one’s life for truth, one shows how one values a life of substance rather than a life lacking in risk but full on distortions and lies. Finally, those made on point no. 3, Witnessing to the Truth, has validated Lozada’s exposure of his life to threats. He is willing to surrender this for truth, and which risk is more worth taking than offering one’s life to one’s country? This is all in the name of truth, for one’s courage is too convincing to dismiss it as just meant to fabricate falsehoods against a government gone rotten.
However, on the other side of the fence, the revelations of Rodolfo Lozada Jr. about the ZTE broadband deal mark a terribly challenging task of the Arroyo administration to survive the likely ruinous domino effect of this drama through the art of political spinning. How does the government ascertain its own credibility, reclaim its own humanity and witness to the truth if its is being unmasked as the enemy of the people? I believe that Gloria Arroyo employs the political spinning tactic in order to slant or interpret these news-hugging events to her favor. Indeed, her use of this strategy shows the shrewd politician that Arroyo is since she seems able to manipulate to her advantage this new spate of scandals being regurgitated from her embattled immediate presidential past. It is easy to see because despite the massive support for Lozada by different communities, Gloria can still proclaim that she sleeps seven hours every night and is not fidgety whenever she states that she will finish her presidential term.
In instances like this when Arroyo’s enemies are being sympathized by the public, it is important to perform damage control. She has produced an effective official party line in the guise of her watchdog cabinet members who concocted the spin and defended—and still defending—it by virtue of their personal knowledge about the matter. I already see the likes of Senator Joker Arroyo, a critic of the President, being recruited while not a political ally. Why not? Even he believes that the President shall survive her latest ordeal and finish her term. Meanwhile, the ones singing a different tune are neutralized, if not presented as a person unworthy of media attention. This I see in the guise of the latest news that Lozada being discredited of his whistleblowing because he, according to news reports, lived a king’s life when he went to Hong Kong for a gargantuan shopping splurge. How should the public see that except the implication that the revelation is supposedly about a conspirator not getting his just piece of the pie. Hence, the offer of P50,000 refused by Lozada is one form of damage control being enacted in Arroyo’s quest to appeal to the whistleblower’s naked interest. Some of her cohorts are bribing profit, security and safety so she herself may profit from a dying scandal, may get secured and may feel safe until the national elections of 2010. The truth and public sympathy may be on Jun’s side, but Arroyo wields sufficient power to get her by.
I see that there is some sort of triumph on the part of the administration when the Senate failed to get conclusive proofs to justify corruption on the ZTE broadband expose. The testimonies of some cabinet members bungled before the Senate alright, yet the ruinous admissions and contradicting versions of events (kidnapping or invitation, depending on whose side one is on) so far yields a one-night-only massive rally lacking EDSA proportions. It is a telling point that the people have grown tired and have gone fed up with perpetual versions of People Power Revolutions. Could the masses and for a being held in Lozada’s favor be enough to launch another EDSA? I doubt, for enough time has passed and terrible rotten beans had already been spilled and yet, Gloria’s head remains intact, the people seemed to have fallen silent like the rest of the key people mentioned by the priest who were all zapped to silence by Arroyo in her attempt to suppress the truth.
As for Lozada, he was asked to sign some affidavits that he later disproved. Arroyo had no choice but to discredit him like others before him. While I believe that Lozada’s exposes are credible what with the threats he dragged his whole clan into, these may not be sufficient corroboration and vindication to dislodge Gloria. This corruption tale is actually stranger than fiction. Why not stranger, when I analyze that the tear-smeared Lozada is just making a show at, befittingly enough, the Senate Blue Ribbon Theater? It was a theatrical piece that could give Clarissa Ocampo’s expose a pun-intended run for the money. It engaged me, entertained me, it amused be screamingly and parts of it seem spun out of tremendously hilarious comedies. I do not find the performance even relevant after the ZTE had been cancelled, dead as a dodo if the administration is made to speak alluding to this. From my viewpoint, what the courageous Lozada told the Blue Ribbon committee is not anything that he can prove in any court. The tales are fantastic, deep and totally related but the people do not seem angry enough to march down the streets and boot Arroyo out of office. They appear to be content in making pasa-Diyos na lang ng lahat (leaving everything to God’s will), for not even the truth can save the calamitous distress the country has fallen in.
Hence, I consider the priest’s sermon not only an exercise in futility in the context of Arroyo’s tyrannical government, but also, to an extent, a violation of the separation of the Church and State provision in the Constitution. As always, the Church becomes embedded in a moral dilemma whenever it reacts to political issues like this one. The prying eyes of the public have been glued on the Catholic Church once again in the light of Lozada’s exposé on the controvery-ridden ZTE-NBN deal that has gone dead after Malacanang has been dragged into the scandal. The restless issue about the separation of Church and State has been brought in the open with the participation of some of the personalities from the Catholic Church, notably the Greenhills’ mass’ officiating priest. There have been different opinions on the church’s participation in the political exercises not just among the people but strangely even within the Catholic hierarchy itself as the country experiences yet another excruciating process of division.
However, what does the doctrine on the “Separation of Church and State” as enshrined in our Constitution really mean according to the framers of the Law? It is rather ironic that even in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the one Arroyo and her allies have been trying to amend, neither “church” nor “state” is defined explicitly. Article II, Section 6 of the Constitution states a brief one-liner provision which reads thus: The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable. What does the Constitution seek to separate between the church and the state? To separate oneself means to inhibit from, to be neutral or not get involved. Simplifying understanding of this means that the Church should inhibit from, be neutral, or not get involved with the State. Nevertheless, the ambiguity persists because first, the people who belong to different churches are also the same people running the affairs of the state. Also, what is there that the church should be neutral about or not get involved with the state?
What is manifested in the masses being officiated for Lozada’s quest for truth is that the Catholics cannot just kneel in prayer the whole day when they see the public resources being ravaged by greed of the very people who were tasked to look after it. They want to do something about it, especially with people becoming tired of holding people power revolutions that do not create long-term social developments anyway. If they simply surrender their rights and allow others to rob them of their dignity without putting up a fight, then they are equally guilty of being negligent in their duty as Christians. Might as well that they hold masses for truth to reign eventually than do nothing at all while the Philippine funds are being transferred to private bank accounts.
Being the so-called men of God does not strip people of the cloth of their citizenship or lose partly their Constitutional rights such as freedom of expression. They are also residents of this democratic society and each citizen has a claim to the basic rights as a person and one of which is the freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution: liberty to air one’s opinion without fear of reprisal, freedom to assembly to gather together and discuss the issues of the day, political or otherwise, and if need be, let voices be heard in a collective manner. The priest may be violating the separation of the Church and the State, but it must be noted that he was born a Filipino first before becoming a priest.