Monday, April 23, 2012

Messages from Mario - Remembering Mario Taguiwalo

The Black & White Movement mourns the passing of our co-convener and Spirit Guide, Mario Taguiwalo. He was husband to illustrator Beulah Pedregosa Taguiwalo, father to Mark, Homer and Mike. He was our friend and mentor. We began to miss him some time ago, when his health issues needed his closer attention. We take comfort in knowing that his loving Beulah and Homer were with him as he joined Mark and Mike in heaven.

Mario served the Philippines as Under Secretary of Health during the Cory Aquino administration. He was a Liberal Party leader, and president of the National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS). Mario was also a convener of pagbabago@pilipinas. He was a popular political consultant and forum facilitator - he was blessed with clear thinking, insightful counsel, and colorful wit.

Mario loved the movies, especially Philippine cinema - he co-wrote Oro, Plata, Mata with Joey Reyes, Peque Gallaga and Conchita Castillo. More movie credits may be found at IMDB. Mario loved good food, good company and cold beer.

To honor his memory, we have compiled some of his writings and email posts that inspired us:

1.  In regard to the CBCP and the Hello, Garci Scandal (co-written with Oscar Lagman):

A Plea for Pastoral Guidance
September 10, 2005

We humbly seek the pastoral guidance of our Bishops in resolving the political crisis facing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo based on the CBCP’s pastoral letter of July 10, 2005, Restoring Trust: A Plea for Moral Values in Philippine Politics”.

Our Bishops pointed out that “At the center of the crisis is the issue of moral value, particularly the issue of trust.” As President Macapagal-Arroyo has recently called for the nation to unite and move on, we ask our Bishops if the issue of moral value, particularly of trust, in the highest office of our government has been adequately addressed in accordance with their moral and religious guidance of our people.

Truth, Justice and The Common Good

Our Bishops said: “a just political and moral order is best promoted under the present circumstances by a clear and courageous preference for constitutional processes that flow from moral values and the natural law. Hence we also appeal to the people, especially their representatives and leaders, to discern their decisions not in terms of political loyalties but in the light of the Gospel values of truth, justice and the common good.”

Truth? Many of us have come to believe in the truth that the Garcillano tapes are authentic; that these tapes contained faithful recordings of actual conversations between President Macapagal-Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Garcillano; and that these conversations can only be understood as involving electoral cheating. These tapes became known to the public in June 6, 2005 when Secretary Bunye presented copies of extracts to the national press. More than three months since these tapes surfaced and despite the harm its contents have caused to the nation’s political stability, no credible, authoritative or serious effort has been mounted officially by government to demonstrate that these tapes were fake, tampered or manipulated. Given the absence of serious effort by government to prove the tapes’ fraudulence despite considerable resources for, and tremendous benefits from, doing so, we can only conclude that this must be because the tapes were indeed authentic. We can only conclude that the voice captured in these tapes is Garcillano’s, because this explains best his disappearance. And if indeed the tapes were authentic and the President and Garcillano indeed talked as recorded, we can only conclude from what we heard that these talks were about electoral cheating.

Justice? Many of us have come to believe it is unjust that no official investigation was ever mounted to ascertain the authenticity of the tapes or to establish the truth behind its contents; that, on the contrary, the powers and resources of government have instead been used to mislead people and prevent the truth from being known; that the impeachment process in the House of Representatives was actively influenced to deny the people’s desire for a factual determination of possible betrayal of public trust by their president. An editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer notes: “The Constitution gives the House all of 60 session days to discuss and decide impeachment complaints. The justice committee finished its work in 14 days, 12 of which were wasted on debating anything and everything but the very serious charges made against the President, including cheating in and stealing the last presidential elections.” Many of us believe that the people’s demand for fair hearing and eventual justice concerning charges of electoral fraud by the highest official of the land was in fact denied by that same official.

The Common Good? Many Filipinos have come to believe that their president cannot be trusted; that she has already been widely unmasked, if as yet not convicted, as an electoral cheat; that she is now using her powers, not to advance the nation’s best interests, but primarily to appease those who can help her remain in office despite the loss of people’s trust. Many of us now believe that her continued stay in power in the face of her unjust avoidance of the truth concerning doubts as to her legitimacy as duly elected president can only be detrimental to the larger common good. Many of us also believe that uniting behind her discredited leadership will ultimately erode our people’s belief in the importance of legitimacy, truth and integrity in our highest national leaders to the grave peril of our future as a civilized and law-abiding society. 

Moral Accountability

Our Bishops said: “Political authority is accountable to the people. Those who govern have an obligation to answer to the governed.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 408) President Macapagal Arroyo has admitted and apologized for a “lapse in judgment” for calling a Comelec official. The admission further eroded the people’s trust on the already suspected electoral system and raised serious questions on the integrity of the elections. Beyond apology is accountability, indeed with forgiveness is justice. To restore trust would require a thorough, credible and independent process to examine the authenticity of the so-called Garcillano tapes, verify any possible betrayal of public trust and mete out due punishment on all those found guilty. Punishment should also be imposed on all those found guilty of corruption and illegal acts, such as jueteng and wire tapping. Moral accountability calls for radical reforms in various agencies of government to make them more responsive to the requirements of integrity as well as to the needs of the poor.”

Given the absence of a “thorough, credible and independent” investigation of the tapes and in the light of the House of Representatives’ refusal to provide a constitutional process “to verify any possible betrayal of public trust”, how can our president be made accountable to our people for a lapse she has publicly apologized for making and how might we grant the forgiveness that she had sought based on justice? How can we even move ahead with punishing the guilty and undertaking reforms when the president, chief executive and commander-in-chief has not been held accountable for her own transgressions?

Effective Governance

Our Bishops said: “Public authority, in order to promote the common good, requires also the authority to be effective in attaining that end.” (Pacem in Terris, ch IV). Together with competence, personal integrity is one of the most necessary requirements of a leader… we would ask the President to discern deeply to what extent she might have contributed to the erosion of effective governance and whether the erosion is so severe as to be irreversible. In her heart, she has to make the necessary decision for the sake of the country.”

Two months have passed since our Bishops issued this pastoral letter and the President publicly welcomed its guidance saying she would study it closely and adhere to its advice. Within that period, she has indicated that the economy is more important than the just and truthful resolution of this crisis. Within that period, no Truth Commission was organized.  Within that period, Garcillano disappeared. Within that period, the House of Representative stopped the impeachment charges from being heard and tried.  Within that period, we see no effort to establish the truth, to refute the charges of cheating contained in the tapes based on their merits. How should the people now regard the effectiveness of our nation’s governance under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Should we then unite behind such a president and move on as she asks?

Two months of words, actions and events offer abundant evidence for our Bishops to determine if their plea for moral values in Philippine politics has indeed been heard by those in power and if our highest leaders are now worthy of the trust we all seek to be restored. We thus seek their moral guidance for our future actions as Filipino citizens.

2. On the Black & White Movement:

Principles of Common Action for Truth, Accountability, and Reforms

WHEN we take a stand on moral grounds, we stand for ourselves on the basis of our deepest beliefs and highest values.  We have no control over the motives of those who choose to stand by us. We hope that all those who stand with us share our moral purpose. Our only assurance of this is when individuals formed together as a moral community take a stand as one.

We have stood for the Truth; we have fought for the Light. We do so for principle, for country, as our conscience and faith require us to do.  We respect all those who take a stand with us at such a vital time. Yet we acknowledge we cannot be certain that they all share our moral purpose.

This uncertainty increases the risks of obscuring the clarity of our moral vision as we seek the Truth by raising the Light to dispel the darkness of official obstruction and lies. Thus, we must set the principles that guide common action with others willing to work with us on various issues.          

This is not a numbers game. This is not a power game. This is not a game, period. This is about fighting lies with the truth; sweeping aside the reign of greed with an upsurge of idealism; discarding self-serving use of power that define traditional politics to be replaced by a reformed political culture that serves the nation’s common interests first.

We, therefore, adopt these principles as our guide to common actions with others at this time:
  • We are bound by our common quest for truth, accountability, and reforms. There are those among us who call for the resignation, impeachment or even ouster of GMA. We respect the right of individuals or groups to make such calls. However, no one individual or group can speak for the whole or claim all of us pursuing the common quest as supporting any specific action on GMA.
  • We have no intention, pretension or ambition to build a united front embracing all political and ideological positions for either tactical or strategic purposes. We encourage groups to organize their own activities that they believe will contribute to our common quest. And we encourage them to join others in common activities that do not compromise their own principles.
  • We will not stop other groups and individuals, including even those who do not share our principles, from attending our assemblies. We will, however, regulate the people who speak in our gatherings, to ensure that no speaker will violate the principles defined here.
  • We do not advocate, and in fact disapprove of, the violent overthrow of government, or the use of unlawful means to pursue our goals, or support of a military take-over in any form. We will not allow any one to use our activities as a forum for making public calls we do not advocate, and in fact, disapprove.
  • We regard the use of our activities for personal political ambitions or advancement of hidden political agenda as among the self-serving practices of traditional politics that we reject. We will thus refuse any group and individual to use our gatherings for such opportunistic ends. Prominence in our activities will highlight attention on the religious, the youth, and other sectors whose voices have not yet been heard.
  • We do not control when and how GMA will go or who and what will replace her if and when she does go. It is the people who will decide. Any statement on our part about post-GMA scenarios can easily be twisted as proof of a conspiracy to subvert the people’s will. In fighting a regime that has imposed itself against the democratic will of the people, we shall not make a similar imposition. Thus, we shall decline to comment on any post-GMA scenario as such comments do not serve the people’s demands for truth, accountability and reforms.
The scandals that outrage us are perpetrated by a government that has been captured by the greedy and corrupt in our political system, exemplified by a President who is evil. As we seek the truth about these scandals and demand accountability for crimes, we shall exercise our democratic rights and engage our democratic institutions. We refuse to sweep away the democratic order we so painfully won from a dictator in our effort against another President who hides the truth to avoid its righteous consequences.

From this outrage against scandals will emerge the power of a united people reclaiming national redemption. This power will energize our democratic institutions anew and re-dedicate them to the service of the truth, accountability and reforms. This power is emerging, growing and becoming compelling because individuals and groups are reacting in disgust to the greed of the powerful, to the cowardice of the well-connected, and the smugness of the comfortable. And as they reject what they see around them as unfaithful of their essential decency and fairness, they assert their common ideals and aspirations.

This is not a time for compromise. This is a time to stake out and build on what is right. We will embrace those who publicly repent past transgressions against the people, who surrender their personal ambitions in favor of serving our people, who will learn from the citizenry instead of pandering to their weaknesses. But this will not be an act of accommodation but a process of conversion. We do not lessen our commitment to our principles by accepting the less than fully righteous, rather we affirm those principles by our common effort to continuously work for righteousness.

 We are the youth.

 We are the educators.

 We are the religious.

We are business, big and small.

We are professionals.

We are workers.

We are the poor.

We are civil society.

We are of Metro-Manila, rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

We are Filipinos committed to genuine change, not only of leaders and our institutions, but, most of all, to change in all of us as individuals and citizens.

And it begins, with each of us committing to this stand.

Fight for the truth! Use the light to fight the darkness! Do not depend on more lies to fight other lies! Lies are innumerable but the truth is only one! Principle is fought for with the power of one! The struggle for the truth sets us free, one individual at a time.

3. On the Dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, and Martial Law:

Opening spiel for "1081 - Rakrakan Para sa Kalayaan", 21 September 2003

"Good evening, you lucky Filipinos, living in freedom and democracy today, free to do great things or stupid things of your choice, enjoying democracy even for the desperate. We are indeed lucky Filipinos.

We live in terrible times. Life is hard and it hardly seems to get better. Money is short and hope is even more scarce.

Yet it might be raining troubles today, but there was a time when we were in the midst of a flood of problems. It might seem like nothing works for us these days, but there was a time when everything worked against us. It might seem that our government cannot be trusted these days, but there was a time when our government was really out to get us. It might seem that our police and military cannot seem to do right these days, but there was a time when they were terribly efficient in doing wrong.

Yes, my dear lucky Filipinos, there was a time, more than thirty years ago, when we were not so lucky, when a shitload of really heavy, bad things descended upon our beautiful country. There was a time when our government did not only fail us, but really oppressed, attacked, and hounded us.

So let me ask all of us here today to shout with me - Never Again! Let us shout really loud so that those intending to be future dictators can hear us - Never Again!

There was a time when we were a nation of 80 million cowards and one son-of-a-bitch dictator. But, mga pare at mare, Never Again!

There was a time when a Japanese tourist told us that we are a" rucky" people because we have a President who robs us and a First Lady who robs us even more. But, my friends, Never Again!

There was a time when our sisters were raped, our brothers murdered, our fathers imprisoned, our mothers did not stop crying, and we ourselves were paralyzed by fear. But mga kababayan ko, Never Again!

There was time when soldiers cut the the long hair of young men against their will. But for those among us who love their hair long, we say, Never Again!

There was time when the brains of a Science High student got scattered on the streets by an exploding pillbox. Those of us who still have our brains, we cry, Never Again!

There was time when we were immobilized by threat, when we did not know what to believe, when we thought that fear, ignorance and intimidation would never end. But now we know, Never Again!

Finally, there was a time we could hardly muster the courage to protest, when we could hardly find the strength to be outraged, when we thought each of us were alone against the terrible machinery of oppression. But now we are sure, Never Again!

Thank you.

4. On Gloria Macapagal Arroyo:

The Roots of An Immoral Presidency

I have been trying to understand what moral compass this woman used to get to the Presidency as it is crucial to understand what guide she applies in her political decisions. Here is my rough and dirty reconstruction of the immoral foundations of this never elected president.
  1. Fact in the real world: GMA becomes successor president because ERAP's corruption creates a public outrage strong enough to force his resignation. Private moral lesson to GMA: It was not ERAP's corruption that was wrong. It was not even the public outrage to corruption. It was only the strength of the public demonstration of this outrage. GMA's application of the lesson is therefore to manage corruption as a communications matter not a key foundation of substantive governance practice. Corruption is fine as long as one can get away with it.
  2. Fact in the real world: GMA gets declared winner of 2004 elections despite having cheated. Private moral lesson to GMA: People afraid of an FPJ win will accept even a flawed GMA win. Cheating is fine as long as it is not so blatant to be found out and it prevents an outcome that many powerful people did not really like.
  3. Fact in the real world: GMA continues as president despite credible evidence shown to the public of her cheating in the last elections. Private moral lesson for GMA: Truth does not matter. Public outrage is unimportant if they do not march in the streets. Anyway, what's their alternative? Legitimacy is being in position. Only strength counts and as long as those wanting her out are not strong enough, life will go on for most people. Why change?
We have here an intelligent woman who has learned from her rise to and continued stay in power that:
  1. It is not personal honesty that is important; it is only public perceptions that matter and these can be manufactured.
  2.  It is not the authentic will of the electorate that matters; it is only the manufactured appearance of an electoral victory that is acceptable to powerful people.
  3.  It is not the truth about a president's legitimacy to govern that matters; it is only the strength or force behind such truth that counts.
How long do you think our government and nation can last with a president, commander-in-chief, and top executive who does not care about personal honesty, only about the dangers of being found out; does not respect the true will of the people and ignores the truth, only bows to the force or strength behind that will and the truth? How long can we survive as a peaceful and civilized nation with our highest official that is immune to basic standards of honesty, respect for the people's authentic will and, most of all, adherence to the truth? The longer GMA stays in power after her illegitimacy to govern had been unmasked, the weaker is the case for her to even change or improve the way she governs. Why be honest when you can get away with corruption? Why follow the people's will when you can just cheat them? Why respect the truth when you can get away with ignoring it? It is clear that GMA is conscience-proof and only understands the force of numbers on the streets or in Congress or the firepower threatening her. As long as these superior arguments are not arrayed against her, she will continue and she may soon add another lesson into her personal manual of immorality: Filipinos do not have any moral backbone so why should their President have one? It would be great if enough Filipinos can teach this woman something new.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Black & White Movement Statement on the Resignation of COMELEC Commissioner Augusto Lagman

The Black and White Movement is saddened by the sudden and unexpected resignation of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman.

At a time when the COMELEC should be diligently preparing for, and making crucial decisions on, the automation of the 2013 Mid-Term elections, the resignation of Commissioner Lagman puts not just the automation but the credibility of the 2013 Mid-Term elections in jeopardy.

Commissioner Lagman has extensive experience and inarguable competence in both electoral processes and Information Technology - a rare combination, with more than enough expertise to guarantee the success of an automated election.

We lament the circumstances that surround his resignation. It is bad enough that the mere threat of rejection by the Commission on Appointments can compel a Presidential appointee to resign. It is worse when the Commission on Appointments would consider rejecting a highly competent man with unquestionable integrity. It is a sad reflection of our kind of politics.

We salute Gus for his uncompromising stand on crucial issues and decisions related to election automation. He may have been outvoted by his erstwhile colleagues, but his dissenting voice at least restrained the COMELEC from blindly adopting the previous technology used and has forced it to scrutinize the financial package and technical deficiencies.

The Black and White Movement stands by its former convener. Gus Lagman - we are proud of you.