POSTSCRIPT / November 12, 2000 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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And God said: ‘Ang gugulo naman ninyo!’

ISN’T God, some readers ask, confused over the conflicting prayers of clashing political camps in this the only Christian country in Asia? Another question: Who’s more influential with God — Cardinal Sin or Mike Velarde?

Let’s hope that in His supposed confusion, God does not desert us and leave us to sort out our own foolishness.

* * *

LET’S suppress the urge to compare the sizes and the composition of the crowds at the Luneta yesterday and that on EDSA last Saturday. Let’s set aside, even just for a moment, our prejudices and partisan passions when looking at the two events.

For our own sake as a nation in the pits, let us grant the good faith of the organizers and the participants in yesterday’s prayer rally at the Luneta. Pretend you did not see and hear the politicians.

Instead, let us give its message of love and unity a chance to touch our hearts and our minds.

We also ask the group and the sympathizers of Jaime Cardinal Sin and former President Cory Aquino to bless the ecumenical crowd that flocked to the Luneta yesterday to pray for peace and unity — as we ask those who were in that rally to bless likewise the EDSA followers of the cardinal.

Shorn of their political innuendoes, the two rallies marked by some intense praying can complement each other in bringing this nation closer to God.

* * *

DESPITE insinuations in church teachings that God sometimes takes sides in a dispute depending on the faith, merit and prayers of either side, let us tell ourselves again and again that God is neither pro or anti anybody. He is for all of us his creatures.

Let us stop investing God with the same human qualities of hate and vengeance – and of partisanship — that we are often prone to display when our baser instincts are provoked.

In short, brothers and sisters, mahiya naman tayo! Let’s be ashamed to drag God into our petty disputes. Let’s resolve our differences like the rational beings that God had intended us to be. Let’s not use God as a prop for our frailties.

* * *

LET’S not only be rational, but also constitutional in our approach to gripping national problems, including the crisis over the Estrada presidency.

But it’s indeed unfortunate that President Estrada and his propagandists are spreading the lie that impeachment is the only constitutional exit route open to a President who had violated his oath.

The way Erap has been admonishing us to hew to constitutional processes by allowing the impeachment process to proceed, he seems to want us to believe that other options such as (his) resignation are unconstitutional.

* * *

SWORN to defend the Constitution, Erap must stop foisting the big lie that impeachment is the only constitutional option.

The same section (Section 8, Article VII) that cites removal from office or impeachment as one of the scenarios for changing a president outside the regular electoral process, also mentions death, permanent disability and resignation as the bases for the Vice President becoming the President.

Note that Section 8 says the Vice President “becomes the President.” It does not say she becomes “Acting President,” the other term used in Section 11 that implies a temporary situation such as the President going on a leave of absence or sick leave.

* * *

VICE President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was right in declining the hypocritical offer of President Estrada for her to be a “caretaker” President when he flies to Brunei shortly to participate in the meeting of APEC leaders.

Nowhere does the Constitution speak of a creature called “caretaker” President. Such an odd title might unofficially apply only if, by mutual consent of the two top officials of the land, the Vice President agrees to be a “caretaker” or a baby-sitting executive.

We cannot have two Presidents. When the President goes abroad to attend an official function, he remains President. We cannot simultaneously have another President (even if given a “caretaker” label) sitting in Malacañang.

* * *

BESIDES, giving a lollipop to the Vice President (especially one belonging to another party) and asking her to spend some time in Malacañang as a “caretaker” President is nothing but bullshit and smokescreen, both of which are noxious pollutants.

When the Vice President sat with the caretaker executive committee running errands here for the traveling President, she was doing that as Vice President, not as Acting President.

The truth is that Arroyo never exercised any real presidential power during those times that she humored Estrada (and herself) by helping give a semblance of stability, unity and political maturity by holding kunwari  the reins of government in the President’s absence.

Even the term “absence” is misleading since the President is never “absent” when he travels on official business. He is very much “present” both in the legal sense and the technical sense of being able to generally run the government by remote control through the wonders of technology.

* * *

AS in the suspended poll proclamation in Florida, we do not know if God has set aside the prayers of Cardinal Sin’s legions of last week and listened instead to the more recent prayers wafted to heaven by the throng gathered yesterday at the Luneta.

We don’t know if God would deign to save Erap from impeachment and the slings and arrows of political combat – or listen to one of the princes of the Church asking for the President’s outright ouster by resignation.

But with Erap’s supposed “slip of the tongue,” most people expressed the belief that he may have unwittingly sealed his own conviction by the Senate on impeachment charges.

In recent radio interviews and in his last press conference with the foreign press, Erap admitted receipt of the P200 million that Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson had tagged as jueteng  collections for the President.

* * *

MEDIA comments we’ve read described Erap’s disclosure as a legal blunder. Almost all email on the subject that we’ve received also called it a damning “slip of the tongue.”

We see it differently. His expensive lawyers led by no less than a former Chief Justice are not that stupid to allow their client to go around town blabbering incriminating statements and ruining their case.

We think that that was a calculated “slip.” Questions about the P200-million bribe were bound to crop up at the impeachment trial anyway. One question would be why the President was disclosing it only at that belated date.

* * *

ADMITTING it (knowledge of the P200 million) this week is late as it is, but it is better than saying the same thing only during the trial late this year or even next year. Besides, bank records will confirm it anyway.

His legal counsel may have concluded that disclosing it now may not be the best timing, but it is better than having Erap admitting it much later and finding himself in knots explaining the big delay.

The lawyers’ readiness to admit such a vital piece in the jueteng payola jigsaw puzzle also means that the President’s men have completed the “straightening out” of the bank and other records to conform to the script that Erap would recite during the Senate trial.

* * *

WE’RE talking of the Senate trial, remember, which is still several light years away, considering the dilatory tactics being employed by Erap’s minions in the House of Representatives and elsewhere.

It cannot be that the President and his boys do not talk and coordinate moves on such a critical issue that could mean his expulsion and their being suddenly out of power.

The delaying maneuvers of Erap’s lieutenants in the House simply means that Erap is not being honest when he claims to want the impeachment process sped up so the nation could move forward.

* * *

WATCH tomorrow’s opening of the plenary session in the House. Another delay may just ensue if the pro-Erap members move for the immediate reorganization of the chamber before the body receives the justice committee recommendation for the filing of the impeachment charges.

While a move to reorganize can be initiated anytime, anti-Erap congressmen want the impeachment charges sent first to the Senate under the present leadership and the reorganization question resolved afterwards.

But, precisely, the pro-Erap elements want to throw the reorganization bombshell right in the middle of the floor and sow confusion that could further delay action on the impeachment charges.

For us to understand this rigmarole, all we have to do is keep in mind that Erap’s claim that he wants the impeachment trial to begin right way is not true.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 12, 2000)

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