MALAYBALAY CITY (20 July) — With actor Fernando Poe Jr. gone and the term of office of the previous president having ended, it appears useless to pursue the lingering question of who really won as president in 2004. Many Filipinos may no longer care even if former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol eventually comes out with hard evidence against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The only practical issue that his evidence may resolve is the electoral contest between Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri and lawyer Aquilino Pimentel III because the term of the position they are disputing ends in 2013 yet.
But people who want the 2004 presidential election treated as a closed book based on legal grounds are entirely missing the point. Like souls that find no peace, incidents like the “Hello, Garci” scandal will forever haunt the abode of the nation’s consciousness – history, a being that feeds on shame and honor, defeats and triumphs, and the acts of leaders both legitimate and illegitimate. The law sets a prescription for cases, but history does not act – and it should not act – in the same way.
Hence knowing the real winner in 2004 should not be viewed as a purely legal undertaking. Greater issues are at stake chief among them rectifying a probable error that has found its way into history books. If Poe had won, then so be it, and start purging the records that she had blemished with her illegal stay in Malacanang. Delete Arroyo’s name and insert a footnote explaining that she cheated. Remove her photo in the Palace. And print in full the “Hello, Garci” conversations as an appendix to the narrative of a most shameful chapter of our history.
The problem with many Filipinos however is their short memory compounded by a forgiving attitude that borders on condoning the criminal acts of their leaders. Only a few understand the connection between “Hello, Garci” and the subsequent attempts by Arroyo to silence her opponents through such measures as the Calibrated Preemptive Response. Only a few realize that her desire to cling to a dubious mandate made the likes of General Jovito Palparan a necessary evil. Never mind Jonas Burgos and other persons who “disappeared” while in military custody. Never mind the hundreds of activists who had literally gone underground to give momentary peace to Arroyo.
No one seems to remember too that Arroyo sought to legitimize herself by corrupting no less than the Catholic bishops, a fact made clear as daylight by Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos’ request for a birthday gift in exchange for “continued political support”.
It is this short memory syndrome that has enabled the Marcoses to return to positions of power and privilege, and emboldened them to demand time and again a hero’s burial for their disgraced patriarch. It is the same syndrome that led the courts to think the family’s wealth is everything but ill-gotten, although there could be other reasons why the judges thought so.
Compare this trait with that of the Chinese. Two or three years ago, in an Asian basketball tournament held in China, the Philippines played against Japan. Chinese fans rooted for the Filipinos. The reason: the Chinese haven’t forgotten Japanese atrocities in their country during World War II.
Someday Arroyo’s descendants may also have the temerity to demand for GMA the same honor the Marcoses have always wanted for the dictator. This is why the whole country needs to know the truth in 2004 to guide its judgment when the time comes for Arroyo to claim her place in history. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])