Thursday, July 21, 2005

The bigger truth

I was away the first two weeks of July for a yearly break which is compulsory for Inquirer employees but I did catch up on the goings-on as soon as I got back. The wonder of it is that Pres. Arroyo is still in Malacanang. I thought I’d find a new scenario on the streets, no longer the ``GMA resign’’ kind, but political and ideological groups at cross purposes tearing one another down and racing for the nearest entrance to Malacanang. I was disappointed.

To the humorless who might think I want anarchy, I say that with tongue in cheek.

I was not exactly out of touch out there in the Mediterranean because the Filipinos (40 percent of the 800-strong international crew) on the cruise ship I was on had a daily news bulletin, Philippines Today, culled from the news wires. The July 9 banner story headline read, ``Arroyo names new ministers, refuses to step down.’’

Although on holiday mode as a paying guest, I did some journalistic work and interviewed (quite clandestinely at first) a good number of Filipinos, among them, engineers, waiters, singers, a wine master, a photographer, a spa attendant, a classic violinist, a pianist, band players, name it. They were concerned about what was happening back home. What is the truth? they asked.

There was really no need for me to be under cover after all and I got to interview the Greek ship captain and the energetic American cruise master who had nothing but high praises for the Filipinos in the crew. In the belly of the ship to which I was allowed to descend, in posh bars and restaurants, on pool sides, on stage and on deck of this floating getaway, the working OFWs were at their best. More on them in a separate feature story.

I am writing this while criticism from some quarters are being hurled at the so-called truth commission which Pres. Arroyo, upon the urging of the Catholic bishops, wants set up to dig into the issues against her.

Truth/fact-finding commission, impeachment process, outright resignation? I am for all three.

If Pres. Arroyo decides to resign now or tomorrow, so be it. That means we will not be able to get at the bigger truth. Only part of it. Only that she was the voice on the ``Hello, Garci’’ tape, as she had admitted. That she was talking to Comelec commissioner Garcillano, that she, as she had admitted, had committed an indiscretion, blah, blah, blah.

That she, without an iota of doubt, had truly cheated or influenced the results of last year’s elections in order to win or increase her edge over the late FPJ, that she had actually lost to FPJ by either a small or large margin—these we will never know if a fact-finding body does not arrive at the bigger truth or if an impeachment process never takes place.

Who’s afraid of a truth commission? Who’s afraid of an impeachment process? A lie not easy to spin or spawn. The truth is not easy to find.

The wiretapped conversation, even if technologically proven to be authentic, and with all its semantic and linguistic undertones and overtones, unspoken between-the-lines suggestions, as well as clear intelligible statements which could be interpreted at face value, do not have the entire truth, if you ask me, only part of it.

As a citizen, I want more. If not the entire truth, at least the bigger truth.

I want more than just the President stepping down if she is found guilty of cheating and the other offenses she is being accused of. I want more. I am not inclined to give her a quick exit, be it graceful, disgraceful or inglorious. That would be too convenient for both her and those who accuse her. As a citizen I want a deliberate, even if slow and arduous process at arriving at the bigger truth.

I want more. If not the entire truth, at least the bigger truth.

I don’t want fast-food to-go. I don’t want a quick fix, not because I am afraid of Vice President Noli de Castro. If the President resigns or is bodily dragged out of Malacanang, by all means, de Castro should take over. He should not be bullied into stepping down if he has not been proven to be involved in something disgraceful or criminal while he was vice president.

I want more. I want to know the what, where, when, why, how.

For me, here is the small place to start. Where did the tape come from? Who authorized the illegal wiretapping of the conversation between the President and Garcillano?

Why was it done? Were there intelligence reports that cheating might be committed that the wiretappers decided to break the law in order to uphold the law (against electoral fraud)?

I want to know more about the etymiology and epidemiology—to use tongue-twisting metaphors—of these evidences. In other words, the fuller tale of the tape so suddenly sprung by persons so suddenly out of sight.

Who were the persons involved in this activity? Sure, they’ll be damned, but so surely too would the President be damned. Where, when, how was the wiretapping done? Who else were wiretapped? (Any squealers?)

The old question I will keep on asking: Why was the tape released only now? FPJ died six months after the elections, or six months ago. Why was the tape—illegally acquired though it was--not presented when FPJ was alive, when it could have meant electoral victory for him?

This is not to deflect the focus on the culpability of the President. If she is found guilty, she should be bodily brought to the exit door.

Those who dismiss the questions as old hat or as small are not after the bigger truth. These are not just about whether Pres. Arroyo cheated or not. These could lead to bigger questions and answers. Questions like, how have we come to this?

The truth is bigger than the sum of its small parts.