Flaws of that 'Open Letter to our Leaders'
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2006-04-03
BONG Austero posted 'Open letter to our Leaders' in his blog which somehow went around and got posted here on INQ7,net. Latest that I am aware of, Bong Austero’s open letter earned him a guesting at Ricky Carandang’s “The Big Picture” program over cable channel ANC.
On the plus side, the open letter somehow stimulated discussion and debate. It should worry us if our people have become jaded to the repression and all the many unsettled issues of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

Luckily for us also, the Pulse Asia and SWS surveys indicate that people are not exactly unmindful of what have been going on in the country—the largely suspected stealing of the 2004 presidential elections, the Garci tapes controversy, the February 24 aborted soldiers march and withdrawal of support, PP 1017 and its continuing repression of basic civil liberties and the coercion of media.

Frankly, the first time I came across Bong Austero’s open letter in our Ateneo Alumni egroup—I had the impression that it was one of Malacanang’s propaganda materials for the internet. For one, that particular “open letter” did not have an author—something I now think may have been inadvertently omitted by the alumnus who posted it.

Then again, the underlying message of the open letter was to ‘move on’ which dovetailed with the regime’s marching hymn ever since the Garci tapes issue came to fore. The open letter was practically addressed to everyone who opposed Gloria M. Arroyo. It ended with the assertion that if there is anyone that the author (and those who share his opinion) should be protected from—it should be from all those who now oppose the regime.

I have always tried to propagate truth and lift the veil of calibrated lies, obfuscations and half truths that cloud the issues surrounding the Arroyo regime. In the pursuit of my mission, I was sued for libel by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, was about to be arrested last March 28 and had to post bail. No sweat—it’s all part of the territory if I am to champion the truth. This is why I also feel obliged to react to a number of unfounded assertions of Bong Austero.

Bong Austero had lumped Tita Cory, Senators, Congressmen, Businessmen, Media people, Leftists, and all Bleeding Hearts in a single category. That totally discredited his proposition. I do not have any love lost with the opposition groups that make up the ragtag political remnants of the Marcos and Estrada regimes, but I will be lying if I said they are all bad.

As an opposition group, the PMP-LDP-PDP-Laban coalition may have a serious credibility problem but people like Senators Serge Osmena and Nene Pimentel, for instance, are exceptions. There are also many others who do not belong to the PMP-LDP-PDP-Laban coalition who oppose Gloria M. Arroyo and are respectable public servants with untainted public service track records like Sen. Jun Magsaysay, Sen. Pong Biazon, Sen. Frank Drilon, Sen. Mar Roxas, Rep. Roy Golez, Rep. Nery Acosta, Rep. Dodong Mandanas, former education secretary Butch Abad and so forth.

How can Bong Austero generalize media? In effect, he is lumping together Conrad de Quiros, former justice Isagani Cruz and Prof. Randy David together with the likes of Alex Magno and all those others who have become self-styled apologists for the Arroyo regime. He does the same with all businessmen. One can easily see that the majority of the Makati Business Club does not stand on the same platform with Donald Dee.

Where does Bong Austero draw the line when he includes Cory Aquino, the undisputed icon of the restoration of our freedoms, in criticisms that are better directed to the opposition parties that are linked with the Marcos and Estrada regimes? How does Austero defend his conclusion that Gloria M. Arroyo, who has transformed our democracy into a virtual de facto dictatorship, is a better choice over what Cory Aquino is fighting for these days?

Cory Aquino has consistently championed democracy. It would have been far more convenient in the political and economic sense for Cory Aquino to just remain silent about the issues that hound Gloria M. Arroyo. Madame Arroyo, who had been cozying up to Cory Aquino until the time when Cory Aquino asked her to resign in July last year, would not have pressed for the inclusion of the Cojuangco family’s Hacienda Luisita in the Agrarian Reform land distribution program. But because she stayed committed to democracy, Cory Aquino’s family is now poised to lose their single biggest asset.

Just as Bong Austero generalized the people he chose to criticize, he also sounded as if all of them are coup plotters. To begin with, the February 24 aborted event was not a coup. Even Generals Generoso Senga and Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said that it was not a coup. What was planned last February 24 was a rehash of the January 21, 2001 script of EDSA II. How can that be legal in 2001 and now be illegal and subversive in 2006?

Austero makes a big issue about the failure of the opposition forces to make a case for democracy, emphasizing their failure to make the constitutional process work. He has conveniently forgotten that a tyranny of numbers in Congress, powered by patronage and selfish interests, killed the impeachment case against Madame Arroyo. He has also failed to see that EO 464 has virtually removed another major constitutional avenue—Senate investigation—for ferreting out the truth. Austero sees the effect of the failure of the constitutional processes but fails to see the cause of that failure.

He also forgot that, being a stakeholder of democracy, he has as much responsibility to make that case. His duty as a stakeholder compels him to take an active role in providing the mechanism for correcting the bad performance of the elected or appointed managers of the country. This country is in the rut it is in because of people who do not fulfill their role as citizens of a democracy.

Austero assumes that our country can take off without addressing the serious need for system reform and the current issues that are weighing us down. He sounds like the regime’s “moving on” theme song. The fact is we have not gotten anywhere because we never really confronted and solved our real problems. You cannot move on if part of you is pulled back by a culture badly eroded by the consequences of political greed, arrogance, deceit and corruption which forms part of the regime’s recipe to perpetuate itself. Moving on with our unsettled issues is illusory, no different from the illusion of the man who thought that not even God can sink the Titanic.

I will defend the right of Bong Austero to make his assertions but I also reserve the right to challenge those sweeping judgments that were made on the basis of a rather shallow appreciation of the political landscape, more so when his conclusions tend to mislead rather shed light on the festering issues confronting our nation. Everyone is free to swim in depths way beyond their familiar fathom. But we have the responsibility to inform others who may end up drowning in those depths.

What I find surprising is the way the upper and middle classes seem to identify with what Bong Austero said. If that is the pulse of the Philippine middle class, then this country will never recover in this generation. The middle class is supposed to be engine of reform of a society. Not weighed down by the vested interests that dictate upper class behavior, the middle class leads the masses towards the reforms that they need in order to rise above poverty and exploitation. People Power was a middle class achievement.

Middle class reaction to Bong Austero reminds me of the same attitude of this same sector which allowed Marcos to get away with Martial Law for over 14 years. In fact Austero’s generalized statements on the opposition forces are much the same things many of the upper and middle classes used to say about Ninoy Aquino and the opposition then. Just as the leftists and ‘coup plotters’ are tagged these days as the menace of society, Ninoy then was portrayed in the same light.

They said then that Marcos wasn’t perfect but compared to the opposition, Marcos was better. In effect, Austero is also saying that despite what Gloria M. Arroyo has done to our institutions and our democracy, she is better than all those who are opposing her.

It took the August 21, 1983 murder of Ninoy Aquino moments after he returned from exile to rouse the middle class. It was only when the blood of a martyr for democracy was shed that they realized the damage that the Marcos dictatorship has brought upon the country.

I can understand how people then came to those conclusions. Media was totally controlled. You read what Marcos allowed you to read. That is not the same situation today.

You may email William M. Esposo at: w_esposo@yahoo.com

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