No “Happily Ever-Aftering”

by Juan L. Mercado

“Once upon a time, I lived happily ever  after.” Movie actor Mickey Rooney offered this one-sentence story of  how  he bolted  to stellar roles alongside  Spencer Tracy and Judy Garland. Then, he  slumped  into drugs, gambling and bankruptcy.

Once upon a time, an-economist-professor, who grew up in Malacanang and graduated from Georgetown University, thought  she’d live happily ever after.

As 14th Philippine president,  the 5-feet tall Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stared down coup plotters and gutted repeated  impeachment bids,  Agence France Presse recalls.  But Friday’s  arrest for electoral sabotage, turned  GMA “from superstar to reviled figure in a spectacular rise and fall through the country’s chaotic  democracy.”

“When quiet, studious Gloria Arroyo became  Philippine president in 2001, she was hailed as the perfect antidote to her loud, hard-drinking predecessor Joseph Estrada”,  BBC noted. “But over her nine-year term, her popularity plummeted as she faced allegations of vote-rigging and corruption.”

Laid at GMA’s doorsteps are scams, from the overpriced  Macapgal Boulevard,  ZTE broadband scam,  “Garci tapes”  etc. etc. She played fast and loose with the truth in claiming life-threatening  ailments that  needed  medical attention only available abroad, Justice Lourdes Serreno wrote in her dissent.  Prognosis by Filipino physicians saw full recovery in less than a year.

“If his mother were really seriously sick, would Ang Galing partylist Rep. Mikey leave for abroad, as he did Nov. 17, to raise money for his political party?, wondered former Senator Rene Saguisag. The Quezon City Regional Trial Court, where  Mikey and wife confront a P73-million tax evasion case, approved his trip.

“The Arroyos seem to keep insulting our little intelligence”.  In a play on Cicero’s 63 B.C. speech, Saguisag asked:  Quo usque tandem abutere, Gloria, patientia nostra?  “How much longer will the Arroyos abuse our patience?”

GMA signed into law, in 2007, the election sabotage bill. Now, a non bailable offense, election sabotage carries a maximum life sentence penalty. Four months after approving the law, did  GMA and cohorts  subvert the 2007 elections, as the 5-2 vote Comelec claims?

Who hit the replay button? Once upon a time, the 13th Philippine president assumed he’d live happily ever after” after  oath-taking at the historical Barosain Church.

Joseph Estrada’s favorite conversation peg then was a unique watch. It counted down the 2,191 days from his first day in Malacanang to repeat oath taking. That’d come when, after a no-sweat re-election campaign, he’d  be sworn in as 14th President. That’s how the script ran.

But Erap’s wristwatch stopped ticking two years after his inaugural “Now Power Is With the People” address at the Luneta. Concubines, a “midnight cabinet” of thieves and Petrus wine uncorked by the case,  blacked out intimations of mortality.  He failed to deliver. People Power 2 yanked him out, as they did his predecessor in People Power 1.

“Once upon a time, the 8th Philippine president assumed he’d live happily ever after in a bizarre Camelot he dubbed as the “New Society”.  But Ferdinand Marcos never dreamed that a walang alam  widow, clad in yellow,  would lead “People Power” and end, without bloodshed, his corrupt 14-year dictatorship.

Hawaiian exile and death from lupus at age 72 scrubbed FM’s scenarios. President Fidel Ramos agreed to an Ilocos Norte burial. The Marcos family backtracked and insisted on Libingnan Ng Mga Bayani funeral. Holding  back decay by protracted embalming, the Marcoses have displayed the body in a Batac mausoleum  for two decades now.

President Benigno Aquino, however, scuppered  a resolution, signed by 214 congressmen for Libingan burial. Not even God can alter the past.  Men can only doctor historical accounts. And the records do show these facts.

US National Archvies records debunked 37 Marcos war medals as bogus. “At no time did the Army recognize that any unit, designating itself as Maharlika, ever existed as a guerrilla force in the years of Japanese occupation 1942 to 1945.”

Three years after Marcos clamped on martial law, Amnesty International reported: “The Philippines has been transformed, from a country with a remarkable constitutional tradition, to a system where star chamber methods have been used, on so wide a scale as to literally torture evidence into existence. Over 1,500 were murdered and thousands arbitrarily detained.”

Marcos tax deficiency added up to P23.2 million. That did not include Ferdinand Jr.’s P18.5 million debt.  In 2003 the Supreme Court forfeited $836 million stashed in shell foundations abroad. For secret accounts, Marcos used the alias of “William Saunders” and Imelda signed as “Jane Ryan.

“Call back yesterday, “  Richard II cried.  “Bid time return.” But these failures are already etched into history.  Ferdinand Marcos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were gifted, by the people, with a rare opportunity to achieve, thru selfless service, greatness. All three blew it.  

Now, it’s too late. “Four things never return,” the old proverb says, “The sped arrow, wasted time, the spoken word  —  and missed opportunity. There will be no Camelot-like “happily ever aftering.”

“Once upon a time”, an itinerant Teacher from Galilee wept over Jerusalem. The city squandered opportunities for grace.  “Because you did not know the time of your visitation,” he warned,  “not a stone will be left upon stone”  in you”.


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