Saturday, March 1, 2008

Should we ask our president to resign?

Yesterday, I bumped into an old friend in the lobby of the Makati Stock Exchange. This was at 1:00 in the afternoon, a few hours before a much ballyhooed "interfaith" rally was to take place at the street corner, just a few steps away. Inevitably, our conversation drifted towards that imminent event.

I'd like to share what I said to my friend. Essentially, how I wish people would wake up.

I thought it was a mistake to unseat Erap from Malacanang. Just as I also think it is a mistake to remove GMA now.

I thought Erap was a disaster for our country, but we must live with the reality that we elected him president. We should have let him finish his term. Perhaps GMA is guilty of even more than she is being accused of at the senate. But more than anything else, the media attention that this issue is receiving and the resulting awareness that people are having of the terrible impact on the country as a result of the corruption of a few, is the one great value that we can draw here.

Is the solution to get rid of her? Will whoever takes over as our new president be pristine pure and finish his term untainted by corruption?

I think Erap sincerely meant what he said at his inaugural address, when he proclaimed, "walang kama-kamaganak, walang kai-kaibigan," or words to that effect. History will not be kind to him, though, because of what he did very soon after he took office.

GMA, at her own inauguration, even appealed to the Divine for guidance and help. But look at where she is now.

Whoever becomes our next president will not fare any better.


As early as the first one hundred days when the media usually declares a unilateral "honeymoon" period, forces to corrupt the new person in power will already be busy. It is not fair to expect the president to remain "incorruptible" when everyone around him is, in fact, jockeying and maneuvering for a "piece of the action."At the level of the presidency, those are huge pieces indeed.

Willie Nepomuceno said it well. In one of his acts, while impersonating then presidential candidate Fernando Poe jr., he was asked by the audience, "What guarantee can you give that you will not be a corrupt president, like those that came before you?" Willie's reply, "E, kung ikaw kaya ang maupo sa Malacanang, hindi ka kaya maging corrupt?"

Friends of mine who have contracts with government, local and national, do not even hide the fact that they are regularly asked to set aside 20% "para kay mayor." The sad thing is, this practice does not even raise eyebrows. It is accepted as "this is the way things are done around here."

Perhaps, GMA is guilty. But really, I wonder who in our government is not? GMA may have the misfortune perhaps of being caught with her hands in the cookie jar. Is getting caught then, the unpardonable sin in our government? How many of those who are happily investigating her in the senate are in fact themselves guilty, but just have not been caught? Are they perhaps, salivating at the prospect that the time is coming near when, it will be their turn to make those millions of dollars in corrupt money?

Getting rid of GMA will only bring us through another cycle of sincere efforts, insidious corruption, and again , cries to oust the sitting president.

This deserves the cry, "Tama na, Sobra na."

This is not about removing GMA. It is about removing corruption from every part of government.

What should be done, then? I commend the CBCP for not allowing the catholic church to be embroiled in a political game. The church, and any other religious organization, should be our guardians and mentors for a clean, honest government. Note: it is not just a clean and honest Malacanang that we need. We ought to have a clean and honest government - from the barangay kagawads, barangay chairmen, the mayors, governors, congressmen and senators, and of course, the president.

We, the people, have allowed our government to be corrupt.

We, the people, are the solution to this problem. Let us start with ourselves. How many of us are active in our barangays? If you can't even correct the corruption that is going on in your barangay, what right do you have to try to correct corruption in Malacanang?

Consider this: you probably know almost every sordid detail about the ongoing senate inquiry. How much do you know about your own barangay? Do you even know who your barangay officials are? Have you attended at least one townhall meeting with your barangay? Do you know if your barangay holds townhall meetings? Did you know you are supposed to attend those meetings? Do you know the IRA of your barangay? Do you know what it was spent on last year? Have you or anyone in your barangay asked your barangay chairman to make an accounting of the barangay funds?

If you are appalled at the corruption that the senators are so desperately revealing, shouldn't you be appalled at what is going on right in your backyards? If you are able to correct problems at your barangay, you stand to gain directly. It is after all, your neighborhood. If this cry to get GMA out of Malacanang succeeds, what would you have gained? Another president who will start out with good intentions, and then be corrupted in a short while.

This is an excellent opportunity for the catholic church to become truly relevant. The church has the reach, the influence, the credibility and even the duty to bring people to a realization about how we are corrupting our government, and what we can all do about it.

There are organizations that should also come in and get involved. The political party, Kapatiran, is one of them. They stood for clean government. Perhaps, this is their golden moment.

A very senior politician whose career dates back to martial law years, is credited to have said, "winnability is the main thing," when they were choosing their party's presidential candidate. This is not surprising. Politicians will always be looking for the winning formula, the winning candidate, the winning anything. Anything, that is, to get into power. Once in power, they can then ask themselves, "What are we in power for?"

Come to think of it, I voted for the Kapatiran candidates, knowing they did not have a ghost of a chance to win, then.

If enough of us will do the right thing, we can help our politicians discover that the right thing is the "winning formula."