And so we wait.
But for what really? For a decision from a Court that has allowed Danding Cojuangco to sell P6 billion worth of San Miguel Shares purchased with coco levy funds rightfully belonging to Filipino farmers? A Court that has exculpated Imelda Marcos and her cohorts from one malversation charge after another? A Court that has failed to act with decisiveness and dispatch on hundreds of cases pending before it?
* * *
Guilty, the verdict read. Guilty for plunder. I wish we could feel happy about this and heave a collective sigh of relief. We have, after all, secured the conviction of a former President for plunder charges — unprecedented in Philippine history. Given the level of corruption in this country, it would seem to be no mean feat to pull.
It is hard, however, to view the Sandiganbayan decision without looking at the political backdrop that provides it context. Over the past years, there has been decline in the credibility of the Sandiganbayan and its capacity to make decisions without kowtowing to whoever is in power. It is difficult, if not altogether impossible, to imagine that the Sandigan decision was reached without some sort of collusion with the administration and her cohorts.
Moreover, the long drawn-out saga of Erap only serves to reveal the weaknesses of our systems and the inability of our democratic infrastructure to hold its own amidst shifting and fluctuating political interests. We have seen how GMA has given Erap one concession after the other, threatened still by his popularity and afraid of what his supporters are capable of. Candidates paid him courtesy calls, hoping to court his favor and his support. And he brandished his power, never losing his macho swagger, smug in the continued adulation of his fans.
Sadly, even civil society organizations fell into the trap of buying into political fluctuations. Driven by hatred at GMA, they saw in Erap a strategic ally. Was it Plunder Watch — founded in 2001 during the impeachment trial — that was quoted in the papers a few months ago as having said that they would not be pushing for a guilty verdict for Erap anymore because GMA is more “guilty”?
Sad that that pushing for accountability and transparency in governance has ceased to be a moral imperative, and has been reduced simply to a political strategy.
* * *
My nine-year-old inaanak asked her mother what exactly happened today. Her mother replied, “The judge ruled that Erap is guilty for stealing money that belongs to the people.”
The bright child asked again, “Did GMA win?”
What is the correct answer to this question, when asked by a nine-year-old? I’ve thought about it and I have decided that the correct answer is this:
No, she did not win and she should not be happy. Because the court that went after Erap will eventually go after her too. We do not like thieves and cheats in this country.
And then we keep on with the struggle, we continue working very very hard, so that there will come a time — if not in our lifetime, then in theirs — when that statement will sound less hollow and empty to our ears.