New Year Resolve

by Juan L. Mercado

At a 2006 press conference, then President Gloria  Macapagal Arroyo unveiled her New Year’s resolution.  She’d leash her  temper.  The pledge renewed her 2005 undertaking not to blow a gasket too often.

“Can one make resolutions when over 40?,” the 1947 Nobel literature laureate Andre Gide wondered. “I live according to 20-year old habits.”

Then 58, GMA was at the zenith of political dominance. This is a critical landmark. Power can corrupt most then. Thus, slaves in ancient Rome would trot behind chariots of triumphant rulers, burning straw and chanting: “These too shall pass away.”

The stamp-pad Supreme Court of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship mirrored this moral corrosion. Marcos justices abjectly surrendered their exclusive right over the writ of habeas corpus.

Shortly, thereafter, returning exile Benigno Aquino Jr. was gunned down at the airport Ninoy’s undelivered arrival statement skewered  the court’s capitulation on this key safeguard.

Macapagal-Arroyo “habitually refuses to go  ballistic at piranhas swirling about her” Viewpoint pointed out (PDI/Jan 3, 2006.). This column pinpointed, among others,  Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and Presidential Commission on Good Government chair Camilo Sabio.

Today, GMA is 65, going on 66 — and under hospital arrest for electoral sabotage. Plunder charges have been lodged against her. “Ambition has but one reward for all,  A little power, a little transient fame / A grave to rest in, and a fading name!”

Arroyo kept her 2012 New Year’s resolution private. So did the former First Gentleman.  If the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is right, Mike Arroyo is up to his neck in dumping of overpriced secondhand helicopters on the National Police.  Who prayed “may all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions?”!

Did Garcillano and Sabio draw up New Year resolutions?  A key figure in the “Hello Garci” scandal, Garcillano stews in the electoral fraud scandal., Given half a chance, “Garci”  may scram,  many people fret. The Ombudsman filed criminal charges against Sabio for allegedly misappropriating about P12 million in PCGG funds.

The courts will determine whether the former President and  associates are innocent or guilty. But for New Year 2012, the question is simpler: What is the worth of a New Year’s resolution?

Are they “simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account?”, as Oscar Wilde cynically insists. “No,” counters the widely-admired TV host Ophra Winfrey. “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has not made public his New Year’s resolution, if any. He pledged, however, to preside over the impeachment of Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona with fairness. That is about as good as New  Year resolutions   come. People still rankle from the “Craven 11” senators who spiked the second envelop in Joseph Estrada’s aborted impeachment.

In 2012, will Supreme Court justices resolve to stop somersaults over final decisions?,They flipped-flopped repeatedly  over 16 towns masquerading as cities or the PAL flight attendants cases?  ”The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year”  G.K Chesterton wrote. “It is that we should have a new soul… a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”

How about a blanket “Zaccheaus Resolution” for 2012?

“Restore what you stole,“ then Catholic Bishops Conference president  Angel Lagdameo proposed in 2007. ”Then, give restitution to the poor”. That’s what the tax collector Zacchaeus did.

“Being of short-stature”, the despised taxman couldn’t glimpse Christ because of the crowds, Luke wrote. He scrambled a sycamore tree when Jesus looked up and said: “Come down Zaccheaus”, then dined in his house. Why should the Master break bread with sinners?, Pharisees snarled.

The tax collector’s defense is known as the “Zacchaeus Precedent” today. “I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Indeed, restitution is required of those who fracture the Seventh Commandment: “Thou shall not steal”. That is true whether for coconut levies, broadband scams or skimming Armed Forces budgets.

In May 2004, the Anti-Graft court ruled that 27 percent of San Miguel shares, bought by coco levy funds, be surrendered to government.  “Shares owned by 14 companies are declared owned  by government in  trust for all coconut farmers”, Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro and associates ruled.

They were “ordered reconveyed.” That reinforced a  Davide Supreme Court finding that coconutlevies were “prima facie” government funds.

Tycoon Eduardo “Cojuangco will fight to retain control,” a Cebu Daily News editorial foresaw  then. ‘I don’t have to be president’, Cojunagco says. ‘I don’t need the job.’    Yes, yes. But does he agree to restituting what was ripped off?. Here,  the writ of reimbursement ends where the money bags aristorcracy begins. The elite tolerate anything — except hurting their wallets.

Seven years later, the  Arroyo Supreme Court blinked at Eduardo Cojuangco, pocketing 16.2 million San Miguel Corporation shares. He dippied into levies squeezed from indigent coconut farmers. Then Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales whacked that as “the biggest joke to hit the century”.

Was Mark Twain right  after all?  “New Year’s Day is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

(Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)

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