A Diminished Figure

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.    

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