Back in July I wrote about the Philippine Government’s state of denial regarding human rights abuses (see July 4 article here). However, it seems that denial is not limited to human rights abuses, but extends beyond to two of the most explosive and critical events in Philippine history.
Yesterday, August 21, 2007, marked the 24th anniversary of the murder of Benigno Ninoy Aquino. To this day, the small-time soldiers who physically committed the murders are serving life sentences, but the mastermind behind the plot has never been officially identified let alone stood trial.
On Monday, retired Justice Andres Narvasa, a member of the team appointed by Marcos to investigate Ninoy’s murder, stated that the Philippines should “close the book” on the Aquino assassination. He stated that the investigative team completed its work and issued its report. There was no evidence implicating Ferdinand or Imelda Marcos or Fabian Ver. Narvasa went on to state that it was pointless to continue questioning Ninoy’s murder because if any evidence existed, the team would have found it. The best thing the country should do is stop wondering who killed him and simply honor Ninoy. “The case is finished, functius oficio.”
As the nation has been haunted by the unresolved death of Ninoy, so we continue to be haunted by the 2004 “Hello Garci” scandal, which insulted the principles of election and democracy. Like Ninoy’s murder, official charges have never been brought against anyone involved, Garcilliano ran (and lost) for Congress in the May 2007 elections and GMA remains in power.
Since 2004, the Arroyo administration has survived several coup and impeachment attempts and unending challenges to its legitimacy. Upon the termination of the May 2007 elections, several lawmakers as well as COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento expressed interest in reopening investigations into the “Hello Garci” scandal. The aministration’s reply was “Let’s just let this go. It’s a dead issue and the Filipino people are tired of hearing about it.”
Yesterday, former Army sergeant, Vidal Doble, Jr., came forward to say he was a member of the military operation organized for the 2004 electoral cheating and that he, himself, recorded the now infamous “Hello Garci” tapes. Doble’s testimony came complete with an technical explanation of how the wiretapping was conducted and names of other personnel involved. Doble claimed it took him over two years to break his silence because he and his family were held by the military in order to induce their silence. Earlier this morning, GMA responded by saying “I have a country to run. I have terrorists to fight. I have peace to win and a bright future to secure for these children…I embrace work and will just leave … to the pythons of hate to have a monopoly on the politics of destruction.” Notice how this “response” conspicuously lacks a clear acknowledgment of the charges as GMA once again sweeps the real issue under the rug.
Two of the most important issues in Philippine history remain unresolved. Let us first put aside the overwhelmingly obvious clues as to how these cases should be decided. What is more concerning to me is the attitude with which they are handled. Instead of urgency, frustration or passion to address these issues, officials say “Hey, it’s over. Let’s forget it.” Instead of doing actual investigative work and building cases despite the (alleged) lack of blinking red arrows, officials are content to say “Well, it seems they’re guilty, but there’s no evidence and so there’s nothing we can do.” In any other context, this attitude would be deemed laziness. Here in the world of Philippine politics, it is probably more accurately deemed corruption.
Is this the state of our government? Is this the quality of our investigative and regulatory officials? And finally, is this the fate we are doomed to; that instead of striving to resolve important issues we say “Gee, this is difficult. Let’s just forget it and move on.” 24 years after the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino, 21 years after EDSA I inspired the world, the Philippines has languished in its own filth, as aspirations of development, growth, and an actual, tangible improvement in the quality of life have remained unfulfilled. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. In the case of the Philippines, we do not even recognize the need to acknowledge the past. And so what can we possibly learn? And more importantly, if this trend continues, what will be our fate?