Reactions to ‘Most corrupt’

MANILA, Philippines–“You should have asked for her ouster,” bemoaned my guru, former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga, upon reading my column last Sunday, titled “Most corrupt.”

Does Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo heed public opinion? “She will not heed your advice to take the high road and lead by example in fighting corruption. Besides, it is too late. Her regime is too deeply enmeshed in graft. Nothing can redeem it now,” opined our country’s oldest living statesman who marked his 88th birthday last June 22 with an “open house” at his residence.

I replied that ousting Arroyo is not feasible now. She had already emphatically rejected former President Cory Aquino’s demand for her resignation. Moreover, as discussed in my March 2 column, the other legal ways to remove her, like impeachment, people power and snap elections, are not viable either. And as a former chief justice, I am not minded to propose or support unconstitutional methods of changing leaders. Like many well-meaning citizens, I am willing to wait for the end of her term while denouncing wrongdoing and making constructive suggestions to improve governance.

I added that, in any event, readers would surely come up with novel reactions to my piece. And true enough, Msgr. Gerardo O. Santos, National Capital Region director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, texted me that the CEAP will convene a regional assembly on July 15-19, 2008 to tackle the “most corrupt” perception vis-a-vis the Filipino social conscience.

To the question “How can we get rid of the most corrupt tag?” asked during a seminar by a retired Armed Forces general, Filemon Berba Jr. (my Mapa High School chum) replied that “you (the officer) and other PMA’ers should push for the PMA Code of Honor” as the ethical standard in government service.

In his e-mail, Jerry A. Quibilan pleaded for prayers because Arroyo “hears only herself and adheres to the mistaken belief that God placed her where she is.” Sylvia Sangco wrote that she would just be honest, even if others were not.

Some want my column re-circulated more widely so that more people could read it. Thus, Gloria Ramos of Cebu asked Inquirer.net Email Service to send it to her many friends, while Ruben Cortes requested permission to reprint it in his local paper, Kanyon, that reaches “the far-flung barangays of Masbate.” These desires jibe with P. Quintero’s e-mail from Lansing, Illinois, wishing more Filipinos to continue resisting Arroyo’s alleged excesses.

George Daverveldt rues that corruption has seeped into local communities where “strongmen and their dynasties decide how people must live, who gets what, when and where.” Juniper Dominguez doubts Arroyo’s New York vow to “fix corruption.” He laments that the President, the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman have done nothing to his exposé of alleged graft in the P620-million development projects in the Mountain Province.

Catherine Go proposed “shaming people who live off stolen wealth.” Many, many other readers similarly warned that Arroyo had grown “callous” to media and public opinion. “She will not hear your plea. Don’t speak with her anymore. Let us isolate her, shun her,” they chorused.

Arroyo has heeded some suggestions. To be fair, however, Arroyo has acted–even if belatedly–on some of my suggestions. For instance, she asked Mayor Jerry Pelayo, one of her most ardent supporters, to inform me that she would overhaul the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in response to my three columns (on Jan. 6, 12 and 20, 2008) denouncing the shabby treatment of OFWs.

Also, she has directed a Cabinet member to implement my proposal to activate the Legal Education Board. (See “How Arroyo can help produce better lawyers,” April 13, 2007.) However, up to now, the official has ignored (or defied?) her instructions.

Furthermore, Arroyo moved Romulo Neri from the Commission on Higher Education and, I understand, she is poised to appoint a permanent CHEd chair to build her legacy in higher education, as I suggested last June 2. “Please don’t despair. She listens to your good suggestions,” assured Dr. Emmanuel Angeles, chancellor of Angeles University Foundation whose Evangelina M. Macapagal Medical Tower was inaugurated by Arroyo last July 9. “I hope she appoints a qualified and visionary chair,” I sighed in reply.

Incidentally, may I say that I try to respond even briefly to some 100 e-mail I receive daily. However, I regret I cannot accommodate queries not directly related to my columns. I ignore junk mail, solicitations, business proposals and pen pal offers. To avoid computer viruses, I do not download attachments from unknown sources.

Finally, Senate President Salonga asked me, “Don’t you think it is pointless to urge Arroyo to work on her legacy? Don’t you think she will cling to power even after her term ends on June 30, 2010?”

I will discuss this next Sunday.

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NUSP at 50. “Ugnayan ng mga NUSP Alumni” or UNA has postponed the 50th anniversary celebration of the National Union of Students of the Philippines from Aug. 8 to Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008 from 12 to 5 p.m. at the Far Eastern University Mini Auditorium. The alumni core group felt that too many other functions had already been scheduled on 08-08-08. Besides, the NUSP was founded in September, not August.

All those who have attended any NUSP activity during their school days are welcome to join. For details, please write the NUSP secretariat at una_nusp@yahoo.com or Mely Nicolas at IMN103@aol.com. Or call Art Cariaga at 750-5667 or 497-1450.

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