Don’t cry for her Guatemala. Salute her.


Guatemala, you see, has something priceless to teach us – (1) a contemporary and stirring example of how impunity in government wrongdoing can be stopped, and (2) an instructive precedent of how the immunity of a president can be legally removed.

This should lift up the spirits of those among us who feel that we Filipinos have been tied up in a straitjacket by the Aquino administration.

This should inject new life into the National Transformation Council — the bishops, jurists, journalists, citizen activists, business leaders and technocrats constituting it — which of late seems gravely in need of transformation itself.

And this should serve notice on President Aquino and his administration who think they enjoy both impunity and immunity while in office.

While our attention was fixated on the traffic at EDSA and the five-day rally of Iglesia ni Cristo members there; while Europe was reeling from the flood of migrants from the Middle East; while all this was taking place and at virtually the same time, seismic change was taking place in Guatemala, the second largest country in Central America, after Mexico. The event flew under the radar, local media failed to report it.

Reports from the New York Times
I would have missed the story, too, if I did not come across the reports in the international New York Times. In two enlightening stories, reporters Azam Ahmed and Elizabeth Malkin reported the following from Guatemala City:

On Thursday, August 27, President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala was sent to jail just hours after tendering his resignation as president on August 26.

The decision to jail Mr. Pérez Molina highlights the seismic change that has been sweeping through Guatemala after corruption accusations were first made in April. It is dramatic validation of a growing street demonstration movement demanding Molina’s ouster and prosecution.

You would think that Molina’s jailing after resigning was already spectacular, but what happened next was just as stunning.

On Tuesday, September 1, Guatemala’s Congress voted to strip President Molina of his immunity from prosecution, a decision that acknowledged the outpouring of citizen demands for an end to entrenched impunity. The vote was 132-0.

NYT reported: “The 132-0 vote was the culmination of a tumultuous five months since prosecutors revealed the existence of a customs fraud ring in April, describing how officials received bribes in exchange for discounted tariffs, a scheme that effectively stole millions from the treasury.

“As rain fell over Guatemala City, jubilant crowds outside Congress after the vote shouted, “Yes, we could!”

We can understand their elation. For much of Guatemala’s violent history, marked by dictatorship, coups, military repression and civil war, these scenes of power being held accountable have been unimaginable: a president forced to resign, forced to sit in open court to hear charges leveled against him and ultimately spend the night in a prison, and then being stripped of his immunity.

The stunning changes in Guatemala happened in the span of just five months and were brought to a climax over a period of five days this August and September.

Guatemalan transition process
Until things unraveled, said NYT, “Mr. Pérez Molina had given no indication that he would go gently. Over months, street protests grew to include tens of thousands of citizens demanding that he step down over accusations that he played a major role in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme. But still, the president — who was the military’s negotiator during talks to end the nation’s bloody 36-year civil war — denied wrongdoing and refused to leave office. But just before midnight on Wednesday, August 26, Mr. Pérez Molina filed his resignation, saying he would “face justice and resolve my personal situation.”

His vice president, Alejandro Maldonado, was sworn in as president on August 27, after Congress voted to accept the resignation. Mr. Maldonado demanded the resignations of top government officials. His term will end in January 2016, with the inauguration of the winner of elections scheduled this September.

NYT concluded its report, saying; “The congressional vote does not remove the president from office, and several steps remain before Mr. Pérez Molina would face trial. First, a criminal court judge must rule that he is not fit for office and that a trial should proceed.

“But removing the president’s immunity has enormous symbolism in a country long divided by class and race and where impunity for the powerful was the rule in a system fueled by corruption.”

Significantly, the case against Pérez Molina was brought by a United Nations-backed commission of independent prosecutors that has been working alongside the Guatemalan attorney general’s office for almost a decade.

We can also end impunity and immunity

At this point, readers are surely wondering what relevance these events in Guatemala have to the Philippines.

I can think of the following:
First, we are in a similar situation where an incompetent and lawless government needs to be held to account. Despite rulings by our Supreme Court and formal hearings that have found President Aquino accountable, we can’t move forward in forcing his resignation. He is even plotting to have his clone elected next year.

The clear constitutional remedy – impeachment – has been closed to us by Congress because of the shameless leadership of Speaker Felicano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Second, a system of selective justice reigns in the country under Aquino. A political justice department works only to indict the president’s political opponents. His allies and cronies are exempted from being held accountable for their misdeeds.

Third, Guatemala’s example shows that the system of impunity for administration officials and politicians can be broken, when the people agitate for it.

Fourth, the immunity of President Aquino from prosecution is not sacrosanct. It can be challenged. In fact, there is no provision for presidential immunity in the 1987 constitution.

The Guatemalan congress removed immunity for its president. Not a single legislator sided with Mr. Perez Molina. Why not here too?

Our Congress is clearly the key to shedding the straitjacket we are caught in. the people must start demanding that Belmonte and Drilon rise to their responsibilities. Or else we will hound them during their reelection bids in 2016.

Guatemala has two Nobel laureates
The final lesson from Guatemala is a humbling one.

At this point, Guatemala already has two Nobel laureates under its belt: (1) Nobel literature prizewinner Miguel Angel Asturias, who addressed the place of the Indian in national life; and (2) Nobel Peace Prizewinner Rigoberta Menchú, who was awarded the prize in 1992 for her efforts to bring international attention to the government-sponsored, US-backed genocide against the indigenous Guatemalan population.

All we have is an aspiring Nobel laureate in President Aquino, and a failed bid by his mother Cory.

Guatemala may be a small country compared to the Philippines. Its land area is 108,000 sq. km, compared to our 300,000 sq. km. It has a population of 15 million compared to our 102 million.

Guatemalan history is majestic. It originally formed part of the Mayan civilization that flourished until the 10th century, and was brought to ruin in the 16th century when Spain embarked on her conquest of the Americas. It was also at about the same time that Spain discovered and then took possession of the Philippines.

As it happens, Argentina the country in the famous song is currently on the ropes because of its failing economy.

In contrast, Guatemala’s prospects are bright today because Guatemalans have found the courage and the imagination to change their present and their future.

So let us salute Guatemala.


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  1. kudos to guatemalans, you were able to achieved a real sense of independence and victory for your people. you can start now enjoying the real and true good governance without the influence of foreign influence . we Pilipinos have an envious heart for your just achieved freedom. freedom from injustice and oppressive dictatorship of the few. Mabuhay kayo. Kudos to the author Sir Macabenta for the hardest effort to research looking for the important news that can inspire our people. Kudos to the readers of the Manila Times where their comments and reactions are leveled high ends and intellectual.

  2. The people will consent to another EDSA type upheaval only if who or what will replace the toppled regime is clear and most of all, acceptable. Been there, done that. Twice burned, forever shy.

  3. mr makabenta, hope you have heard of the column of dick pascual of the philstar a few days ago that the immunity of the president is just a marcosian myth perpetuated by whol else, makoy sr. according to pascual, there is nothing in the constitution that the president is immune from prosecution of crimes committed while in office. so siguro some bright lawyer or law students maybe of atty saguisag and fr. ranhillo aquino in san beda can research on this matter and then if positive test in the supreme court by filing a case against boy sisi now and not on july 1, 2016

  4. We have checked our Constitutional Law (Political Law) and it is true that presidential immunity is not a right of an incumbent president. It is only a PRIVILEGE. In fact, Isagani Cruz, in his book “Philippine Political Law”: writes that “In fact, present jurisprudence reveals a ‘judicial disinclination to expand the privilege, especially when it impedes the search for truth or impedes the vindication of a right’ ” (Rodriguez vs. Macapagal Arroyo, GR No. 191805, Nov. 15, 2011).

    This means that the coast is clear to move for the removal of this presidential immunity in the light of the traumatic experience we have with this worst ever corrupt and incompetent fake president ever to sit in Malacanang.

  5. Thanks for showing us the way, Mr. Makabenta. Now that you mentioned that the immunity of the president is not even in the 1987 Constitution, I don’t see how we may not tear off the immunity claimed by this worst and fake president right now.

  6. Sir,
    Reality check.
    Well, the continuing dumbing down of the filipinos with due respect to those who are engaged in the entertainment industry wherein the masses are as if straightlyjacketed to yayadub, not hopeless as may be how we can liberate our fellow citizens from being so dumb, let us not go weary of doing what is right and just.
    Keeping the faith…This Nation shall be great again!

  7. Cheers for Guatemalans! For Filipinos who continue propagating the flimsy slogan “daang matuwid”, Christ is still looking down from the cross, lovingly saying: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Our freedom and greatness as Filipino people are our birthrights and destiny but we always do miss and mess up every chances we have to make it big by allowing ourselves to be duped by self-proclaimed messianic yet enormously incompetent and misguided leaders.

  8. We did it twice already – first in 1986 when we ousted Marcos and in 2001 against Estrada . In both cases , we replaced them with presidents who miserably failed in reforming the Philippines thereby plunging the country and her people to deeper poverty and hopelessness. It has been established that Philippine democracy is a corrupt farce, amounting to manipulation , with the electorates objects of propaganda in a controlled and trivialized electoral process. Therefore it is an illusion to expect change can ever come from electing somebody who comes from the same corrupt and manipulative class.

    What transformation can Juan de la Cruz expect from presidentiables who are either corrupt, competence- challenged or qualification- questionable and who are all opportunists and have perverted the idea of hope by welding it to the politics of compromise, concession and cunning? All of them have promoted the politics of compromise that is dominantly an act for craven self interest.

    In short, Guatemala reminds us that if we once did it twice, we can do it again for the third or fourth or nth time.

  9. Belmonte, Drillon, and all of the yellow gang are doomed to defeat in the next election. In a civilized country that is how we make sure the crooks are defeated.

    • Leodegardo Pruna on

      That is only true if the hocus-PCOS machines will not vote for Drilon and Belmonte and company? It is the hocus-PCOS machine, run by the alalays of P-Noy that is electing the public officials. Look now at the OMR tag as Operation Mar Roxas. If his name in encoded to replace any other name, the machine will do. Let us, people of the Philippines, wake up! God bless the Philippines.

    • unfortunately vg, tho we pretend to be civilized but we do not act like one. how can all the people agree to the rigging of elections by the same agency , comelec, that is supposed to safeguard the integrity of the elections. despite protests by some groups, the comelec insists on using the smartmatic magical hocus pcos machines. the filipinos are turning a blind eye to this criminal act by the comelec. now we come to know that the ppcrv, supposed to be a citizen and church election watchdog, is in cahoots with the comelec and congress oversight committe in hiding the 12MILLION votes which were not counted by the hocus pcos machines. this magnitude of unaccounted votes would definitely alter the composition of principally the senate. now tanda exposed this anomaly. siguro tanda’s bail will be cancelled and he thrown back in jail for bringing this fact.

  10. Can’t happen in RP. Our politicians are too self-serving selfish. The non-interest and non-passage of the anti-dynasty and the FOI laws are good examples of this selfishness.

  11. Nice one….but I doubt it can be done in the Philippines knowing that our congress is as corrupt as the president.

    • Who said that an EDSA Aggrupation can never happen under a dictatorship? If people can be mobilized at an era where there are no cellphones and microcomputers, how much more now?


      Bakit pasista? Tulad ng paagpaparatang na si Marcos ang lahat ng may sala sa abuso ng militar nuong batas militar, si simyon din ang dahilan ng mga pagpatay sa mga Lumad at lahat ng nakikipaglaban sa mga pagyurak ng militar sa mga karapatang pangtao.

      Bakit diktador? Nakontrol na nya ang lahat ng sangay ng pamahalaan tulad ng kongreso at pati ang sangay ng hustisya.

  12. Who cares about what’s happening in the country, only the poor are suffering, anyway! After all, the rich are looking after their own kind already. They may be taking care of each other already and let the poor people take care of each other., too. Perhaps, Filipino leaders may not have the memory of elephants; they forget what history is telling them. I’m sure many, if not all of them, have heard about, read the book, or have watched the stage play or movie, “Les Miserables”.

    Perhaps, the continuous ‘utilization’ of the poor Filipinos is not yet enough; the poor might have to ‘bite the bullet’ to give a hint of how they are feeling for so long. I hope that day won’t come.

  13. Hindi mangyayari ngayon yan sa pinas!
    Bingi at bulag Ang malalaking media atang mga elitista na nakikinabang kay Aquino!
    At hero ang tingin ng katoliko kay Aquino sa pagpapahiya nila sa INC!