SAN FRANCISCO — Filipino-Americans fret over a stark irony. Martial law fears have resurged precisely when Corazon Aquino, who sparked “People Power” into smashing Marcos dictatorship, battles cancer.
This irony will dog President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she meets President Barrack Obama on July 30. So will Fil-American activist Melissa Roxas’ abduction. Under Leila de Lima, the once-flabby Commission on Human Rights pieced together the six-day snatch and torture of Roxas. The evidence confirms State Department’s annual human rights reports of impunity that cloaks abductors and torturers, both military and insurgents.
Majority ( 58%) of Fil-Americans voted for Obama. The 2007 census tallied 3.1 million Filipinos in the US. They’re the second largest Asian American group. Almost half of Filipino immigrants cluster in this state. Hawaii, New York, Illinois and New Jersey account for smaller numbers.
“We fought the Marcos Conjugal Dictatorship,” three women leaders said over dinner. What makes the Arroyo Conjugal Autocracy think it can undo what Cory stands for?”
They oppose scrubbing 2010 elections, martial law or panicky charter change. They scoffed at the idea of installing Ms Arroyo as caudillo in a “transition revolutionary government”.
Security Advisor Norberto Gonzales peddled the transitory junta idea to the Supreme Court chief justice. But Justice Reynato Puno rebuffed him and, by implication, Gonzales’ shadowy principal — the President.
How deeply do Fil-Americans feel about these issues? Scientific studies are few and far between . Kids here are like youngsters back home. They have no memories of martial law. Their world is of anchored freedoms. A desaparecido, like Jonas Burgos, is beyond them.
Ranks of those who fought Marcos are thinning. Those who sign up with the Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat are few but articulate. Ex-defense secretary Avelino Cruz’s July 22 warning, before the Integrated Bar, however stoked concerns of many.
Leading presidential aspirants vow “to prosecute President Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo after she steps down,” Cruz noted. A president, who stays too long, is tempted to resist leaving. She fearslosing constitutional immunity. What about the First Gentleman’s de-facto immunity? Cruz didn’t delve into that.
Will the President snip terms for today’s heads of key Armed Forces services?, Cruz asked. That’d “pave the way for the rise of PMA Class of 1978” They could “run the security apparatus tasked to secure the 2010 elections?”
Armed Forces leaders assure us PMA class 1978 will be spit n’ polish professionals. Did they forget the “Rolex 12”? Or Military Commission No 1? It sentenced Benigno Aquino to “death by musketry.
PMA Class 71 became the “mailed fist” of the dictatorship, notes Yale University study: “Closer Than Brothers.” Five among 85 graduates were torturers. Six were murdered. Others were coup plotters. Look at Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan. And Jose San Martin’s words ring in your ears: “How poor the country that must suffer gloriously triumphant generals.”
Retirements whittled down the Supreme Court majority who thrashed Arroyo’s “People’s Initiative”, Cruz notes.” The Court will soon have all its justices appointed by one President.
Recall the Chief Justice who’d trot after Imelda Marcos holding her parasol. Among other things, that Court then surrendered the power to rule on habeas corpus petitions. Benigno Aquino’s airport tarmac speech challenged that capitulation. But an assassin’s bullet beat him to it.
“The martial law bogey is being used to turn people against the government”, screamed everybody the Palace press-ganged into service: from Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, to Secretary Ronaldo Puno and presidential adviser Gabriel Claudio. “That was cheap of Cruz.”
Hypocrisy is unlike bread. There is never a short supply.” Thus, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro purrs: “President Arroyo would not use her power for her own political gains. Take it from the “Brat Pack” bouncer for Eduardo Cojunagco’s coconut levy. Juan Ponce Enrile spark-plugged the “God Save the Queen” coups against President Aquino. He now cites the Constitution, he tried to scrap, on limits of presidential terms.
President Aquino came to the US and addressed a joint session of the US Congress. She led Asia’s first non-violent revolution, since Mahatma Gandhi’s march against the Salt Tax. That example spiraled into Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolt” and Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, among others. With integrity unquestioned, she ensured peaceful transition of power.
President Arroyo comes as a diminished figure. She’ll posture as “leader”. Indeed, US and Philippine interests coincide in areas like terror’s protracted conflict. But like Marcos and Estrada before her, she is necklaced by sleaze. There is a Faustian desperation for a little more time.
But this Oval Office doesn’t work by the old “she-is-our-sob” rule. “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers,” President Obama told Ghana’s Parliament.
“No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy that is tyranny. And now is the time for it to end.”
If the hat fits, wear it.