, OCTOBER 22, 2007 (STAR) A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) By Jose C. Sison - Despite vehement denials and explanations, the alleged briberies in the ZTE broadband deal and the recent distribution of P200,000 to P500,000 “cash gifts” right inside the Palace cannot be said to be pure fabrications hatched by people with motives to destabilize this regime. The disclosures and declarations are detailed enough to inspire belief and elicit certain admissions from those implicated. If these are made in a legal proceeding, it can be said that “probable cause” already exists. This means that unless they are satisfactorily rebutted and plausibly explained, there are already sufficient grounds to engender a well founded belief that something wrong or illegal happened here.

It is definitely wrong for the Chairman of the Comelec that has no say or connection at all with the NBN project to be meeting and playing golf several times with the officials of the project proponents whether in Wack-Wack or in China. More suspiciously wrong is the presence of the President’s husband in one of those meetings, accidentally or not. To the great majority of Filipinos, these meetings are nothing more or nothing less than backroom negotiations to corner the multi-million dollar deal. Hence the claim that they were purely socials, looks so absurd, ridiculous and an insult to the intelligence of the Filipinos, more so because the threat to test its truthfulness in court has not materialized up to now.

More illicit is the distribution of those scandalously big amounts of cash inside the palace of a country where 70 percent of the people still live below poverty level. The revelation is so shocking as to leave Malacañang people running like headless chicken initially denying that there was such dole outs only to admit it later on but disclaim any knowledge or participation in it or any idea of where the funds came from. No one from the palace was allegedly even around when the bags of money were handed out. A lot of finger-pointing was simply going on. The worst part is that when the denials and finger-pointing do not seem to work, some palace lackeys and cabinet members have the gull to tell us that such cash distribution has been the practice for several years and are considered normal. With such kind of officials running our country, our politics has indeed become morally bankrupt.

But why is there no public outrage of EDSA proportions to these discouraging, revolting and nauseating wrongdoings and flimsy official justifications or explanations?

First and foremost because the opposition and those salivating for power immediately gives people the creeps that they are birds of the same feather, vultures of the same kind and politicians of the same breed that would just perpetuate the vicious cycle of bad governance we have been suffering for a long time now. Just glancing at them is enough to send a chilling effect. They “have been there and done that”, relished what they did, and thus would do it again and again. Removing those in power now through another people power revolution will just repeat the vicious cycle. People power fatigue has caught up on us.

Second and more important, Filipinos as Christians still believe in the inherent goodness of every human being. Many people, including myself still hang on to that thin thread of belief that the president is innately not that kind of person who would tolerate or actively participate in the perpetration of those reprehensible acts; that somehow she is over and above those crooked and dishonest practices happening around her except that with the tremendous burdens and overwhelming problems of the presidency, she could not really keep track of and preempt the moves and actions of her over eager lieutenants who see “destabilization” in every turn of events.

Unfortunately that thin thread of faith and trust is getting thinner and is about to reach the breaking point because of the President’s own acts or omissions. They indicate subtle attempts to suppress the truth or failure to take steps for the truth to come out.

The last minute cancellation of the ZTE contract apparently to forestall further inquiry into the anomalies surrounding it and the subsequent resort to the use of executive privilege when the inquiry remains unabated, have not strengthened that trust at all. On the contrary these moves further eroded the people’s faith in the president as they impliedly confirm the rottenness of the transaction and the president’s possible involvement in it. Invoking executive privilege to prevent Neri from elaborating on his testimony that he informed her of Abalos bribe offer and her reaction or inaction to it, speak volumes about her role in the deal.

The same is true of the recent cash giveaways at the palace. Initially, there was outright denial of the incident; that it never happened. When Congressman Cuenco confirmed it, the palace remained in a denial mode and told the people that Cuenco was merely joking. But when Pampanga Governor Panlilio showed media the P500,000 bundle of cash he received at the Malacañang meeting and Bulacan Governor Mendoza corroborated him, the palace minions like Bunye and Puno sang an entirely different tune. Bunye confirmed that some gift giving occurred but as early as the day after it happened, the President already asked PAGC to investigate them. Puno on the other hand pointed to Congress as the source of funds. Certainly this chain of events does not paint a good picture of the president.

The ball is now entirely in the President’s hands. If she does not want to resign and I agree with her that she should not resign for the sake of the presidency and our democratic institutions. But she should first, refrain from using the executive privilege and allow Neri to finish his testimony on the ZTE controversy before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee; or second, asks her allies in the Lower House not to kill the impeachment complaint filed based on technicalities and sheer numerical superiority so that truth will come out as San Luis wants it; third create an independent panel composed of well respected and highly credible individuals from the private sector to investigate the Malacañang early Christmas gift-giving.

If the President heeds these friendly suggestions she will certainly restore the people’s faith and trust in the government and enable her to move on smoothly up to the end of her term leaving a brighter and lasting legacy. Otherwise, the horizon really looks bleak.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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