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.