Pursue the Truth

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Before the Constitution was the Truth, and from the Truth comes a Constitution.

It is important to know which comes first, in time and in value. Truth, by far, is more important than any Constitution. A Constitution without the Truth is meaningless and without value. Truth is the spirit, and a Constitution is the form that seeks to express the Truth.

When the Supreme Court called the Truth Commission unconstitutional, it declared the form more important than the spirit that is the source of its life. It may be true that the words of the Executive Order did not live up to the purpose for which they were written. If so, then the Executive Order should be rewritten. The purpose for which it is intended cannot be sidelined by the Supreme Court for shortcomings of the words that attempted to describe the spirit. Truth cannot simply be set aside because lawyers serving the President were not the wordsmiths they should have been.

How objective is a Supreme Court whose Chief Justice is a midnight appointment of the primary target of the proposed Truth Commission? All other members, except the newest one, were appointed by the same president whose leadership of government had been marked with the fall of the Philippines to being the most corrupt in the region. It is no surprise that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became the most unpopular and the most distrusted president in the history of the Philippines. It should not surprise the Supreme Court that it is suspect because the integrity, honesty and credibility of the president who appointed all of its members by the time she exited had been even more suspect.

I do not believe that the idea of a Truth Commission would ever have found interest in a new administration confronted with such massive poverty and a persistent hunger incidence the level of which had never been experienced in Philippine history. A young presidency would have been more eager to address the needs of the poor with fresh concepts and programs, and then lead the non-poor of the population to new heights of entrepreneurship, technology and creativity. Yet, this same young presidency has to devote enough effort to unearth the buried decay of corruption in order to return trust to government and not only to the person of Noynoy Aquino.

The proposed formation of the Truth Commission is an indictment of the major bodies tasked by the Constitution to be the first defender of the Truth, and its most trusted warrior at any time, especially when lies and corruption threaten to be the accepted bar of public service. A political body like the presidency would not dare to go through the eye of a needle when easier paths could gain it more cooperation from equal branches of government. But the presidency of Noynoy Aquino dared because it had no choice but to do so. Truth and the rule of law are the foundation of meritocracy, and meritocracy is the only system that can sustain democracy.

It is a New Year. It is logical that President Noy, buoyed by popularity and trust ratings that would swell an ego, would choose to prioritize the positive to spur his young presidency. But logic follows soundness and stability; logic that would not know how to perform and achieve is a context where Truth is absent. Many Filipinos believe that the trail of lies and thievery of the last nine years cannot be left an unanswered question or it would become the weak foundation of a national character and value system. In an effort to right the wrongs, to shed light in the darkness, and to infuse honesty in a world of lies and corruption, President Noy had no choice but to propose the Truth Commission.

Filipinos who believe in the Truth and also believe that the Truth cannot be revealed with powerful people and corrupted institutions trying to keep it buried forever must pursue Truth with or without the Truth Commission. People Power is not a spent force; it brought Noynoy Aquino to the presidency against all odds, armed only with the death of his mother and a burning desire for decency and honesty to return to governance. People Power must be a live option as a direct exercise of the principles of democracy – of the people, for the people, by the people.

The spirit of revolution can be translated in many ways. The equivalent of Truth Commission can be established literally everywhere, informal but real and effective. Filipinos of different age range, from different territories, from schools and universities, from civic organizations and political organizations, and in every town and barangay if so needed, can form localized Truth Commissions which will ask citizens with information related to corruption to share what they know, openly or in secret. The gathering of the Truth can become a national movement, the most effective way to show especially the younger generations that honesty is, indeed, a most revered Filipino value.

I do not propose a bypassing of laws. Laws made and observed create the fundamentals of a society. But the letter of the law must adhere strictly to the spirit that gave it life or it has no force, moral or legal. People Power is extraordinary and has twice been used to reverse extraordinary abuse of the letter of the law. Two People Power Revolutions in twenty-five years ar5e lessons so fresh that they cannot be forgotten. Until integrity and honesty again be virtues that laws serve, People Power must remain a first option.

It is a most historic moment in the evolution of the Filipino nation. It is a revolution not any radical than its most violent expression if President Noy and his administration, with the support and cooperation of the people, can pursue Truth in any manner that does not defile its virtue. It is the invitation of destiny, for President Noy and for the Filipino people, to erase the shame of corruption, to recover the honor of our race

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