Wednesday, October 10, 2007


“Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal is urging the Senate to stop its probe on the cancelled national broadband network deal with ZTE Corp. of China and focus instead on addressing the basic needs of the masses... 'The investigation is becoming personal, which should not be. When you become personal, you will tend to say a lot of things about the person, which have nothing to do with the contract,' he said... 'When you tell the truth, see to it that there is no damage done on the person told to or about.'” -- The Philippine Star, October 7, 2007

Let's say you're a teacher and you chance upon two kids slugging it out in the schoolyard. One accuses the other of stealing his baon, the other hotly denies it. What do you do? Do you try to find out the truth, to see which party is at fault so you can render a fair judgment and teach the children a lesson on honesty? Or do you shush the two kids, berate them for disturbing the peace, and ask them to forget their quarrel in the name of school camaraderie?

The second option is a stupid choice, of course--a monumental case of seeing the trees but not the forest. Common sense demands that a possible case of theft should require greater redress than the far simpler matter of equanimity on campus. To paper over this quarrel in the name of some smarmy sense of “Kumbaya” comity among schoolchildren is to teach those kids the most wrong-headed value, which is peace at any price, peace built on injustice, deceit and the absence of fair play.

That's what Cardinal Vidal is saying by complaining that the noisy probe on the latest scandal to hit the Arroyo administration has got to stop because “it is becoming personal.” Here we are in the middle of yet another mind-boggling case of corruption, bribery and sleaze that points all the way to the highest reaches of government. A government, by the way, that has yet to account for its right to exist given its obstinate refusal to explain the “Hello, Garci” controversy. Not content with stealing the vote, it appears to be stealing us blind this time with the grossly overpriced broadband network deal. Once more we're getting royally screwed, and what does the Cardinal have to say about it?

Only that we should stop asking any more questions because it's “becoming personal.” In other words, to get outraged over this colossal iniquity is not being helpful, because it only makes everyone, beginning with him presumably, uncomfortable.

Well, what of it? So what if the revelations made at the Senate have hurt Benjamin Abalos, Mike Arroyo and GMA? So what if the probe has dredged up ugly stories, uncovered icky details, and along the way also showed how uncouth some senators could be? Why, in the face of evidence of overwhelming corruption and governmental rot that demands thunderous denunciation from our so-called moral elders, is the Cardinal obsessing over social niceties, over the inability of people to get along?

If it's parliamentary boorishness that bothers him, the solution is simple: Scold the senators for their lack of decorum and manners, and tell them to stick to the issues. But to call for scrapping the hearings altogether when the need for answers cries out to high heavens?

What is there to feel hunky-dory about, anyway? Why are we being asked to make peace with and be more forgiving of people who have a lot to answer for? Why are we supposed to worry about how grievously offended Abalos et al feel when each new detail that has emerged about this deal implicates them more fully in its criminal onerousness? Why should we care about their fragile emotional states when they have yet to account for their respective roles in turning this country into one big psychological basketcase, where wrong is now right and right wrong?

Consider just Abalos' case: This is the guy responsible for a botched poll computerization program that cost us taxpayers hundreds of millions of pesos. This is the guy who presided over elections marred by unprecedented (because caught on tape) and yet-unresolved charges of presidential cheating, the poisonous legacy of which we will carry for generations. This is the guy who, as Comelec chair, had no business brokering for the broadband deal, yet repeatedly went on lavish junkets to China to cozy up to ZTE Corp. officials. And this is the guy whom Romulo Neri accused of attempted bribery to the tune of P200 million--an unbelievably large sum meant for only one man; imagine the amounts that would have gone to Neri's superiors, not to mention to the broker himself.

And this is the guy we're supposed to feel sorry for because things became too “personal” for him at the Senate?

This is one big heaping pile of dung. When no less than one of the country's highest church leaders sees fit to avert his eyes from wrongdoing out of some petty, fastidious sense of propriety and instead urges the country to just move on, then we're in deep, deep trouble. What a life this is, when every institution of the country is tried by the times and found woefully wanting. At the very least, if it wants to remain neutral on this issue (though you wonder why in hell it would), where is the simple call for truth from the Church? What we get, instead, is head-scratching, meaningless tripe like “When you tell the truth, see to it that there is no damage done on the person told to or about.” Huh?

Tellingly, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has the time and energy to condemn the news of some legislators' plan to buy condoms for the country's population control program, but it has none for the far more egregious matter of bribery and thuggery in the heart of Malacanang.

The peace and goodwill that the archbishop of Cebu wants to believe will reign over the land if all of us just stop asking questions and conveniently tuck away our outrage is not the peace of the just, but the peace of the cowed, the co-opted and the maimed. What a wimp. And what wimps we are for letting him think this is what we deserve.


mitsuru said...

what do you expect? .

justice is never the strongest suit of this country and yes it always takes a back seat in the name of “peace & reconciliation.”

yes we are a nation of wimps. we elect and continue to elect people whom we know will only stab us in the back; people who will just corrupt and steal everything ala pacman.

The adage of Santayana about mistakes/ history is so very true in the Philippines.

Kurt said...

each time some stupid controversy like this comes up (also see: DepEd Textbook Scandal, DepEd Satellite Thing, JocJoc Bolante Fertilizer Scam, NAIA 3 Project, China Northrail Thing, etc) I feel so smug that not a cent of what I earn goes to taxes.

Sana wala kang reader na taga-BIR :P

Seriously, wala naman tayong maaasahan sa mga "so-called religious leaders" ng bansa natin. I am not surprised that is the only reaction he could come up with.

CokskiBlue said...

The first paragraph just made me lose it. How stupid can these people get?

"When you tell the truth, see to it that there is no damage done on the person told to or about."

That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard since they called out to "stop praying for rain."

Geez. I'm having a headache.

aryo said...

No further questions, Your Honor. Well said. And coming from a former seminarian, I wish there are those who think like you left in our formation schools. If their minds now function like that of the cardinal's, then we're really headed to the pits.

Anonymous said...


beektur said...
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beektur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beektur said...

I think the analogy of public government and the schoolyard is theoretical reductionism. There are more complex factors involved here than meet the eye. What if the child crying theft is himself a thief? Or a friend of another bully who wants the thief to be thrown out of the playground so he can reclaim his rule? The cardinal has a point, turning personal muddles the situation and redirects the attention from the real issues on trial than clarifies it. But we thrive in a culture of personal attacks – from school elections to neighborhood gossips to entertainment shows to public governance; because it is easier to heap dirt on the person than to untangle a system and structure that have become accustomed – even contented -- with deceit and corruption. In the end, this may be a case of replacing a playground thief/bully with another one. I guess, what the bishop, as a religious leader, is trying to say is, he who has no sin (have a broad)cast (of) the first public statement. :)

snglguy said...

This is clearly a case of a squealing brat whose candy was taken away from him by the school bully...

Hay nako, doesn't the good cardinal have better things to do that to meddle in a senate investigation?

Tony said...

'When you tell the truth, see to it that there is no damage done on the person told to or about.'

This statement made my headspin. So go ahead and tell the truth but just conveniently don't mention the whole truth if it will damage another person? Isn't that how some people spin lying?

It's sad really....he is probably tired like most of us from all the craziness but as a public figure, he should really refrain from making such ill thought out comments. He should have known better.

Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

i think that's an unfortunate wording and phrasing. i think what he meant was when you investigate or attempt to feret out the truth, see to it that no reputations are unduly damaged. once someone's name is tarnished, it's almost impossible to repair it. i mean, what if what you said is false and it killed the wrongfully accused and everyone who believed the falsehood? i think that was bishop vidal's point, correct me if im wrong.

Rody Vera said...

But truth DOES damage reputations. that's what it means to do since it's not interested in anything else but! it destroys families, breaks up friendships, crushes alliances. isn't that what the good Lord did when he came down as christ? he drew a sword that cut all ties because the truth simply does that. it killed him by the way.

that's why I can't buy vidal sassoon's pleas. but why am i not surprised? it's because he has always been like that right from the start. dilawan talaga ang obispong iyan. kahit pa noong panahon ni marcos. ewan ko ba.

and so what if the thief told the truth in order to destroy another thief. Isn't that what chavit singson did to Erap? and didn't his spilling out the truth make some small step toward something we have always aspired for? not that i condone him for what' he's doing now. one step forward, two steps back. aaargh.

can't you see? we actually see sharks lunging at each other on national tv and there's our chance right there to witness them kill each other off and somehow clean the legislative and executive of these monstrous dregs-- there's our chance right there for a clean slate. abalos down, more to go-- and then here's vidal sassoon telling them to stop it in the interest of peace and moving on? there was that chance where we may not even have had to resort to people power for the nth time because for a moment there it may seem that they'll literally self-destruct all in one scandal! Sayang.

beektur said...

i don't mind watching shark gobbling sharks, or dogs eating dogs or crocodiles munching crocodiles. but that is precisely my point. it all boils down to a show, a passing entertainment. after the entertainers are bitten and bruised and munched, the watchers retreat back to their sorry lives, not less hungry, no wisdom gained. this was what happened when erap was beaten to a pulp and replaced by gloria.

i side with the cardinal that human dignity should be maintained at any cost. by not distinguishing the person from the act, we can only have an ever-rotating objects of contempt.

Rody Vera said...

ahm.. with all due respect... human dignity wasn't there to begin with: i mean with all the participants of zte scandal? vidal sassoon is trying to protect their human dignity? do we sincerely believe that the purveyors of corruption have an iota of human dignity?

it was our human dignity that's trampled; us, the "watchers", who may never have known about all this were it not for a thief's (the son of another thief) whistle-blowing. and it continues to be trampled while the truth is still kept from us.

you may be right. the majority of filipinos slide back and retreat after an upheaval. but no wisdom gained? i should not be so pessimistic. there were some things gained by those two upheavals (PP1 and PP2). it's just that crooks get wiser, too.

vidal's plea is for preserving human dignity at the expense of truth. Christ himself never did that. all the heroes of the bible-- if that should be the cardinal's benchmark-- have done the exact opposite. i maintain that this is what truth does. It exposes. Old or New Testament.

vidal should direct his plea rather to the dignity this nation will need to preserve precisely because the truth is never revealed. right from the beginning: 1) ninoy's assassin's, 2) hello garci 3) jocjoc bolante's scandal -- the list is almost endless. In all previous scandals, it is the "dignity" of the criminals that has been preserved -- all at the expense of truth AND our own human dignity as citizens.

if you should side for the preservation of human dignity, the question , in short , therefore is whose?


Cardinal Sin must be rolling at his grave.

stevie said...

Let's just get back to talking and writing about art and culture and movies and theater. Leave all the frustrations of political and moral debates behind and move on to things that uplift humanity. Ano na bang nangyari kay Ruffa at Ylmaz? Will Wowowee ever be taken off the air?

yvarra17 said...

very very interesting ... coming from the point of view of a filipino Catholic priest in the States ... but a deep sigh and sadness over this mess. alas, the next big thing to explode in church scandals [after sexual abuses] is on the side of FINANCES. is the philippine church ever ready for this, or are the laity too too 'afraid' of 'gaba' not to focus on the clergy/bishops, amassing wealth even on behalf of the poor getting fundings from abroad? aaawwww, the truth hurts! and that's truly personal. woe to you levites and pharisees ... whitened sepulchers. does your local church or your diocese have proper acountability? come on, i see Jesus writing on the sand ... and the filipino faithful dumbstruck with the truth about themselves. dumbstruck, dumb, amen.

Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

to mr. rody: hi, this is not to defend the bishop or anything. what i mean is, is it fair to just release statements left and right without proper evidence? pano pag ikaw ang falsely accused? di ba sobra namang bad yun? Yun yung nakikita kong sinasabi nya

Rody Vera said...

to mr hatipoglu: kaya nga nag-iimbestiga para malaman kung ang mga statement na ito ay tutoo o hindi. at kung sino ang nagsasabi ng tutoo. Natural sa anumang kaso, maraming magsisinungaling. kahit ano'ng rape case, murder case, etc etc, -- maraming magbibigay ng mga false statements ayon sa interes ng nagsalita. ito ba ay sapat na dahilan para itigil ang imbestigasyon? Hindi nga ba't lalong dapat pang alamin hanggang lumabas ang tutoo?

at isa pa, hindi ang paglulustay ng mga salita ang naging malaking porblema ng zte scandal investigation kundi ang kabaligtaran: nakatikom ang bibig ng mga dapat magsalita dahil hindi dignidad ang gusto nilang ipagtanggol kundi reputasyon, pagkakadawit, at posibilidad ng impeachment.

Human dignity is deserving only for those who pursue the truth, no matter whether it brings the pursuer down with it.

gibbs cadiz said...

hi FRIENDS, thanks a lot for all your comments. even the ones who disagree--i welcome them, because i think discussing these things is always better than being apathetic to them. my position, if i may again, is simple: the cardinal is looking at matters of vastly less significant import considering the gravity of the issues involved. just think if the late cardinal sin were alive today--not that every pronouncement of his was good, or that his loquaciousness was always a blessing. but in a time when nothing less than plain moral clarity is needed, cardinal vidal chooses to fudge, dodge and obfuscate by concentrating on trifles. he's partly to blame for the cynicism that's gripping the nation today. but that's just me. :)

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