Saturday, March 15, 2008

Compared to Arroyo, Spitzer deserves respect for chutzpah

Reacting to the Eliot Spitzer bombshell I have posted the following in mlq3’s blog:
Rising star Eliot Spitzer who could have been Hilary Clinton’s running mate, announced his resignation as governor of New York on allegation of spending thousand of dollars on call girls. Prostitution is basically a victimless crime but Spitzer, way before a “probable cause” has been determined or “legal truth” established, resigned for failing to live up to the standards expected of public officials, he said.

Politically, Spitzer is deemed finished.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has faced a staggering list of corruption charges including the following as compiled by Philippine Daily Inquirer:

“The Impsa deal where high-ranking officials, including then Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, allegedly got $14 million in kickbacks; the P260-million Jose Pidal bank accounts; the P728-million fertilizer scam; the P2.5-billion poll computerization contract which was voided by the Supreme Court but for which no Comelec official has been prosecuted or penalized; the NorthRail and SouthRail projects entailing millions of dollars in kickbacks; and now, the $329-million NBN-ZTE deal where $130 million was reportedly earmarked in kickbacks for a group of officials and private persons.”

Arroyo’s political body language is seen by many as choreographed to prolong her rule beyond constitutional term limit.

Is it us, Filipinos, or Gloria?
And in reply to the comments of rego, a Filipino New Yorker and both a Spitzer fan and a pro-GMA commenter, I posted, “I’m just thinking too that maybe in the deeper recesses of your thoughts, weren’t you wishing na nag-Gloria na sana si Eliot?” (meaning, Eliot should have just done a Gloria, i.e., hold on to power and not resign).

Rego retorted: “I was thinking about this when this Spitzer scandal came out. My instant reaction was Eliot should resign same way with the majority of the people. I have this discussion with my cousin in law (another big fan of Eliot) who feels that Eliot should not resign. The evidences was just soooooo strong that my stand prevails in the house.”

I came back with this rejoinder:
Let me focus on Manolo’s original sin.

During the 2004 presidential election in the US there were charges of electoral fraud or cheating to the effect that about 350,000 mainly Democratic voters in Ohio either were not allowed to vote or their votes were not counted and that thousands more of Kerry votes were shifted to Bush, altogether enough for Kerry to have won Ohio and the presidential election.

If the evidence to prove the allegations of fraud and cheating were a video clip of hundreds of registered Democratic voters waiting outside the voting precincts for 10-12 hours (and many who were frustrated eventually left home without voting), I’d hold my horse to claim those were “solid” evidence of the charges.

However, if you have a wiretap evidence of Bush (or someone uniquely sounding very much like Bush) telling an Ohio election official to prevent 500,000 Democrats from voting and then 10 of Bush’s cabinet members (with whom he had confided as to how to handle the crisis or what to do with the evidence) have resigned out of disgust, would you consider the wiretap evidence “solid” enough to establish “probable cause” not necessarily of fraud or cheating but of “betrayal of public trust” to be worth the consideration of an impeachment court?

In such a situation, would not your “instant reaction” or your cousin-in-law’s, “same way with the majority of the people,” have been for Bush to resign before being impeached as fast as Spitzer having resigned before being indicted?
Let’s look back a bit.

A couple of weeks before the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s “lapse in judgment” admission, sociologist and UP Professor Randy David (applying what he calls in sociology as "ethnomethodology" that goes into “the rational characteristics of conversations”) had come out with the following analysis of the “Hello Garci” tapes in the June 12, 2005 piece for his PDI column “Public Lives”:
The key figure is a male voice variously referred to as "Commissioner" or "Garci." It was obviously his phone that was bugged. By the types of situations brought to him for fixing, by the variety of people desperately seeking his help, and by the frightening ease with which he dispenses solutions-one would know that this man is an old hand in the underworld of electoral fraud.

He knows exactly where to pull additional votes and for how much, and how to deal with recalcitrant election registrars who don't cooperate. Politicians come to him for help like anxious little children. They rely on him to do all the dirty tricks they need to do to win, things they themselves would sanctimoniously decry in public.

This is the political operator that "Ma'am" repeatedly calls as she nervously awaits the results from far-flung towns in Mindanao. Listen to this cryptic exchange: "Hello Ma'am?/ Hello, meron tayong statement of votes, ERs para sa Sulu?/ Saan po Ma'am?/ Sulu, Sulu./ Oo Ma'am meron po./ Nagco-correspond?/ Oo Ma'am./ Kumpleto?/ Oo Ma'am. Lahat ho meron, hindi po namin ika-count kung.... / Ok, ok."

On the surface it does look like an innocent exchange. The key word here is "nagco-correspond" - a gloss that refers to the practice of fixing canvass results at, say, the provincial level so that they are not at variance with precinct election returns or statement of votes for municipalities. The other gloss is the question "Kumpleto?" This is not a harmless inquiry. Given the kind of response it elicits, it is an urgent demand to make sure the doctoring is done with care.

One knows this from examining other conversations: "Hello/ Hello, Ma'am, good morning. Ok Ma'am, mas mataas ho siya pero mag-compensate po sa Lanao yan./ So will I still lead by more than 1 M overall?/ More or less, but it is still an advantage, Ma'am. Parang ganun din ang lalabas./ Oo, pero it will not be less than 1M?/ Pipilitin ho natin yan. Pero, as of the other day, 982./ Kaya nga eh./ And then, if we can get more in Lanao./ Hindi pa ba tapos?/ Hindi pa ho. Meron pa hong darating na 7 municipalities./ Ah, ok, ok./ Sige po./ Ok, ok, ok..."
The Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) has contended the contents of the conversations in the "Hello Garci" tapes are crimes in themselves:

CODAL arguments as summed up by PCIJ in the following abbreviated version are equally compelling:
- Pres. Arroyo’s implied request for Garcillano to deny any petition from Sen. Biazon to open election documents in Tawi-Tawi ‘at baka matalo ako dun’ is a crime. Influencing an official to decide one way or the other in a case to be filed or pending before him violates Section 261 of the Election Code.

- Garcillano admitted to electoral fraud when he told Pres. Arroyo: "kinausap ko na yung chairman of the Board ng Sulu, yung sa akin. Pataguin ko muna ang EO ng Paguntaran para hindi sila makatestigo ho." A COMELEC official is not supposed to ‘hide’ an election officer or any member of the electoral board to prevent said official from testifying as this is obstruction of justice under Sec. 1 (a) of PD 1829. If the hiding was not ‘voluntary’, Garcillano may even be liable for kidnapping.

- From various conversations in the Garci tapes Pres. Arroyo and Garcillano may be held criminally liable for discussing the commission of electoral fraud. Alleged statements like ,‘ganito ang pagpataas ng iyong boto, eh malinis naman ang pagkagawa’; or "will I still lead by 1 M’ followed by a reply of ‘pipilitin natin’; or ‘Doon naman sa Basilan at Lanao del Sur ito ho yung ginawa nilang magpataas sa inyo, maayos naman ang paggawa eh" followed by a reply from Pres. Arroyo saying "so nagma-match?" all point to a conspiracy to manipulate election results.

- The fact that Garcillano and Pres. Arroyo uses the words ‘atin’ referring to themselves and ‘kanila’ or ‘kabila’ when referring to her opponents, already shows the bias of a supposedly independent constitutional official. All these makes both of them liable under Section 261 (z) (21) of the Omnibus Election Code for violating the integrity of election returns and other election documents and other electoral fraud.

- Should Pres. Arroyo claim ignorance to electoral fraud, the fact that she failed to report Garcillano to the proper authorities or filed a complaint against him, despite his frank admission to committing election offenses and by reappointing him to the Comelec, makes her liable under Art. 208 of the Revised Penal Code which provides for a penalty of prision correccional upon a public official who in dereliction of his duties, shall maliciously refrain from instituting prosecution or the punishment of violators of the law or shall tolerate the commission of offenses.
Now, the wiretap conversation where Arroyo appeared to desire for a million-vote margin over the votes of opposition candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. sparked calls for Arroyo to resign. On June 27, 2005, she went on television and apologized for a “lapse in judgment.” While admitting that it was her voice in the recordings she however insisted she did not “influenced the outcome of the election “ as it has “already been decided and the votes counted.”

Here’s the pertinent portion of GMA’s “lapse in judgment” speech on charges of electoral prostitution:

“I recognize that making any such call was a lapse in judgment. I am sorry. I also regret taking so long to speak before you on this matter. I take full responsibility for my actions and to you and to all those good citizens who may have had their faith shaken by these events. I want to assure you that I have redoubled my efforts to serve the nation and earn your trust.

“Nagagambala ako. Maliwanag na may kakulangan sa wastong pagpapasya ang nangyaring pagtawag sa telepono. Pinagsisisihan ko ito nang lubos. Pinananagutan ko nang lubusan ang aking ginawa, at humihingi ako ng tawad sa inyo, sa lahat ng mga butihing mamamayan na nabawasan ng tiwala dahil sa mga pangyayaring ito. Ibig kong tiyakin sa inyo na lalo pa akong magsisikap upang maglingkod sa bayan at matamo inyong tiwala.”

New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s “private failings” speech on allegation of sexual prostitution seems of similar vein:

“I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.

“I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been, but I also know that as a public servant I, and the remarkable people with whom I worked, have accomplished a great deal. There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor. . . .

“I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings, our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family. Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children.”

What’s obviously missing from GMA’s speech is this:

“For this reason, I am resigning from the office of president.”


Blogger annjam said...

Spitzer left the office with dignity and with a lot of respect to his constituents.However he faulted by using government money to pay the prostitute.I wont call it "victimless" although it is not really harmful because it has not encouraged terrorism or had inflicted pain on the people except his family. Arroyo is a criminal but she doesnt look at it that way. In Japan, faulted leaders do hara kiri. Enron officials committed suicide. Gloria is encouraged by her followers.She is just like an Emperor with no clothes, parading and believing she hasnt deceived her own people.MIddle class rich couldnt care less. I see them in the US and going back to PI with large shopping bags.They just work and do their own thing(doctors, lawyers, businessmen) and wont even discuss situation in the Philippines.They claim no ownership to the disgrace of our country.

I like your blog. I just found it today. I will be a regular visitor to this.

June 15, 2008 12:43 AM  
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