View from Malcolm
By Atty. Harry Roque Jr.
Manila Standard Today
The coming of a new year gives us the chance to review the year that is soon to end. Here is my list of the best and the worst of 2010:
1. Gloria Arroyo ceased to the President. What good news for those who could not last another day of an Arroyo presidency! While all the malaise of Philippine society persists, it is still a relief that Mrs. Arroyo ceased to be the most powerful official in our land. There were of course last-minute concerns associated with the failure of automated elections and an attempt at a Charter Change that many suspected would morph her into a prime minister. But all these did not happen- not for lack of trying, but simply because the Filipinos would have none of it.
2. Noynoy Aquino became President. Yup, he only comes in as the second-best for 2010. Why? Well, it’s because people hated Arroyo more than they actually liked Aquino. The elections, after the compact flash cards of the precinct count optical scan machines were changed at the absolute last minute, was simply a referendum: Arroyo if you’re a masochist, or Aquino if you want change — full stop. As a last minute and as a reluctant candidate, P-Noy simply stood on a platform of honesty in government. Perhaps, when we find the time and energy to criticize him for anything and everything he has or has not been doing, we should remind ourselves that his only promise was to be an honest President. Let’s judge him on this basis.
3. The 2011 budget was enacted in December 2010. We have forgotten that the primary task of our congressmen is not to make 20 percent from their pork barrel, but primarily to ensure that no public funds is spent without consent of the people. “No taxation without representation” was the battle cry of the English revolution that ushered in modern day representative democracy. And yet, in the nine years of our recent dark ages, an Arroyo-controlled Congress was absolutely remiss in its single most important function. Arroyo liked it when her Congress was remiss because a reenacted budget meant that she had trillions of pesos to spend as she wished.
4. Leila de Lima became Justice Secretary. Who would have thought that this humble, unassuming and quiet election lawyer would be the best Cabinet secretary of the current administration? In her six months in office, she has managed to redeem at least the image of the Justice Department that I knew as a child, having been raised by a State Prosecutor myself. Yes, she has not improved the conviction rate of our National Prosecution Service but she has at least redeemed some of our trust in the department that is synonymous with the rule of law.
1. Arroyo is still powerful. She may no longer be the single most powerful official of the land, but she has made sure that she would remain ever powerful. No, I’m not just talking about her new role as a member of Congress with the most pork. I’m referring to the fact that through a midnight judicial appointment and an ever-loyal Ombudsman, she has granted herself absolute impunity despite a change in administration. Arroyo has refused to quietly vanish into the night. On the contrary, people expect her to make a comeback courtesy of a House of Representatives that she, through her loyal allies, still control. It is a question of when and not if Congress will ram down our throats a constitutional amendment that would make her Prime Minister.
2) Then-Justice Secretary Alberto Agra absolved Zaldy Ampatuan and cousin from culpability in the November 23 Ampatuan massacre. What gall and what nerve this Agra had in attempting to clear the smartest of the Ampatuan clan from the world’s single deadliest attack on journalists. Nena Santos, lawyer for the Mangundadatus, declared on national radio that it was literally because of millions and millions of reasons. For whatever reasons he had, that single decision rightfully made Agra the second most hated person in government, next only to his appointing power.
3) My friend and co-convenor of the Concerned Citizens Movement, Josie Lichauco, died. Lest I forget, 2010 marked the year that one of my closest friends and co-activists moved on to the next life. Pity that Josie never saw P-Noy as President. Yes, she will turn in her grave if she knew who it was that P-Noy brought with him to Malacañang.
Happy New Year, Philippines!