At the National Transformation Council assembly in Lipa last Thursday, representatives of organized labor, farmers, fisherfolk, and urban poor called on President B. S. Aquino 3rd and his administration to step down. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa reiterated his well-known position, and Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao reconfirmed the moral validity of the mounting call.
The same day, at a press conference hosted by Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4S) at Club Filipino in Greenhills, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz made the same pitch, suggesting that future presidents go through a thorough psychological test to qualify for the office, while a retired military officer called on the military and the police to withdraw their support for their president and commander-in-chief.
The next day students in several Manila universities walked out of their classes to press for the same thing. They were stopped by Aquino’s troops.
Does all this presage a replay of the famous First Quarter Storm and everything else that followed it? It may be too early to say. But whatever it is, our nation has been deeply wounded by the Mamasapano carnage, and we need the nation to be healed. How do we bring this about? This is the question for us now.
Feeding the nation on a cornucopia of lies, as the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano police operation called Oplan Exodus has done, will not do it.
Staging a palace coup or emergency rule to shore up PNoy’s hold on Malacanang, as some Palace advisers seem to advocate, will not do it.
Trying to bamboozle everyone with the prospect of yet another fraudulent presidential election, where Vice President Jejomar Binay, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and who knows who else, could burn their billions and put us once more at the mercy of Smartmatic’s precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, will not do it.
Treating the Filipino masses to an “E.R.” movie on the fallen Special Action Force 44 commandos, which my daughter Gabbie Tatad writes about in last Saturday’s issue of Philippine Star SUPREME, will not do it.
The only thing that can do it is an immediate reprieve from Aquino and his regime. We need a break, some breathing space from the lunacy of it all. This is what everyone is asking for.
The people did not ask for it when Aquino corrupted the members of Congress by bribing them with the people’s money in order to put the State in control of the reproductive lives of Filipinos, and to impeach and remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in order to remove a judicial obstacle to his planned dictatorship.
The people did not ask for it when Aquino used Corona’s impeachment to intimidate and shake up the judiciary and take effective control of Congress, notably its power of the purse, its exclusive power to impeach, and every major legislation that called for a division of the House.
The people did not ask for it when Aquino siphoned off hundreds of billions of pesos from projects authorized by Congress in the General Appropriations Act and transferred them to his own projects under his so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program, without the approval of Congress.
The people did not ask for it, even after the Supreme Court declared the DAP and the earlier Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional and directed the Executive Department to prosecute with reasonable dispatch all those who were involved in their manipulation and misuse.
The people did not ask for it when Congress enacted the 2015 P2.6 trillion budget, and restored and legalized all the discretionary lump-sum items previously voided by the Court, and redefined “savings” in order to circumvent the ruling of the Court and allow Aquino to declare as “savings” any amount in the budget anytime he wants to.
That is how patient (let us not say, undiscerning) our people have been with respect to the Aquino regime.
Since August of last year, when the NTC first called on Aquino to step down because of his numerous unpunished crimes against the Constitution, it seemed so “unmusical” to be making that call. No one else seemed to care.
To the rank and file, the rabble in the street, these crimes did not seem to matter. The intellectual community (assuming we have one) remained unheard. The opposition did not exist, not even as a joke. The highest deliberative body called the Senate lay dead as a doornail. And outside of those involved in the NTC, our moral and spiritual leaders could not see the full extent of the devastation of the Constitution, which was a clear symptom of the grave moral disorder that afflicted the Church and the nation.
The NTC seemed to stand alone.
And then Mamasapano happened. The death of 44 police commandos in the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with whom Aquino had a peace agreement and a standing ceasefire, while on a lawful mission to extract two international terrorists from the area, roused the nation from its deep slumber.
Aquino was in Zamboanga City monitoring the entire operation when the SAF 44 were killed, after having been denied reinforcement. He could have ordered the reinforcement, but didn’t. To the contrary, the undenied report, totally undiscussed at the Senate hearings but repeated many times in this space, was that Aquino himself ordered the reinforcement to stand down.
Many from the ranks of the families of the fallen 44 have denounced this as treason.
Suddenly it became clear to all and sundry that Aquino had become a grave danger to the nation, and that we must immediately be rid of him for our own survival. Various groups have since come out from across the broad political spectrum calling for the same thing. They want the entire Aquino administration out, and they want a multisectoral council, rather than a single political leader, to run a caretaker government, whose primary task will not be to succeed Aquino, but rather to fix the broken constitutional system, notably the thoroughly corrupted electoral system, in order to normalize the political order.
This was the original NTC formulation, endorsed and adopted by the various groups in support of regime and system change.
Malacanang’s reaction was to suppress all street marches, including those in celebration of the 29th anniversary of EDSA-I, and to threaten members of the NTC with criminal prosecution for airing their demand. This was reminiscent of Himmler, Hitler’s defense minister, instinctively drawing his revolver every time somebody tried to reason with him.
Some attack dogs have been unleashed in the commercial and social media in an attempt to discredit the NTC by subjecting to all sorts of argumentum ad hominem some of its known members whose views about the human person, society, government, God and morality, etc. they cannot live with. Aquino’s Dobermans attack them not by accusing them of any specific crimes, but by branding them with certain ideological labels that appeal to certain long discredited prejudices. It is a most disingenuous way of avoiding an honest and principled debate on transformational change.
What the NTC is offering is an idea of change, apparently beyond the grasp of most. It is based on a worldview that places God at the center of the universe and all human exertions and activities, without however advocating a confessional state. The NTC believes with Aquinas and the other esteemed Christian philosophers that civil government is but a human participation in the divine governance of the universe. Thus, government must first be accountable to God before it could exercise genuine authority over the polis.
This is not to slide into theocracy, for we remain a secular state. But it serves to reaffirm that we stand as a Republic under God, according to the moral law and the first words of all our Constitutions, from 1935 to the present.
A colleague on this page seems to worry about the competence of the bishops to run the transitional government. That worry is misplaced. The Catholic and Protestant bishops and pastors and the Muslim ulama, who form the moral and spiritual leadership of the NTC, will not participate in government, except to provide moral and spiritual guidance to those who will exercise specific technical duties.
Why can’t we elect them now? Because we have not fixed the electoral system, which has been thoroughly corrupted. Why can’t we follow the constitutional succession process instead of improvising with a caretaker government? Because the 2010 and 2013 elections were both illegitimate and fraudulent, and could not have produced legitimate de jure governments. The line of constitutional succession has been effectively disabled.
Why should we listen at all to the NTC? Because although its members may not be the wisest of men or the most worthy, what they are saying is the only thing that makes sense. And their proposal may be the only one that will work. For it is based on love rather than hate, which is the first and last thing we need to bring about the healing process.