Did Eddie Ermita really do Gerry Salapuddin a favor?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-11-22
What drove Executive Secretary Eddie Ermita to jump the gun on an ongoing official probe to endorse the innocence of former Deputy House Speaker Gerry Salapuddin in the Batasan bombing incident? Eddie Ermita's careless defense of Salapuddin ignores the importance and value of objective and credible inquiry and raises doubts on the motive behind the premature absolution.

Since evidence gathered from the raid in the Quezon City Violago Subdivision does not directly link Salapuddin to the bombing, he is rightfully considered innocent unless proven otherwise. However, since circumstantial evidence point to a possible link, authorities cannot rule out his involvement while the investigation is on-going.

Any statement attempting to absolve Salapuddin at this stage will likely be perceived as a government cover-up in progress.

Had he been more circumspect, Executive Secretary Ermita would have been better off stating that Salapuddin has not been directly implicated and that he is therefore deemed innocent until proven guilty. But it is inappropriate to state outright that Gerry Salapuddin is innocent.

The Executive Secretary is the primus inter pares among the cabinet officials, the first among equals. He signs decrees for and in behalf of the Chief Executive, giving him the complimentary tag of "Little President."

Executive Secretary Eddie Ermita's statement — as conveyed on national television — can stymie efforts to unearth the real story behind the crime and ultimately impede the delivery of justice to the victims of the Batasan blast. The mindset of our government bureaucrats is such that they will now feel pressured to submit a report that conforms to Ermita's conclusions.

The pressure is very real when we consider that patronage is the character of Philippine politics, one that is also highly personalized. Not only that, the Executive Secretary represents a regime that is notorious for its trade-offs and autocratic grip over the bureaucracy.

Eddie Ermita cannot claim that he made the statement in an unguarded moment and that he did not realize the implications. He is too much of a political veteran not to know the impact of his remarks. He should not blame the public if they now tend to see this as another accommodation extended to a political ally.

If Eddie Ermita uttered what he said out of loyalty to a highly-esteemed friend, this means that he is ignorant of the depth of the prevailing political ferment and public cynicism. In other words, he failed to consider that it can make investigators unduly clear Salapuddin of accountability on the one hand, and on the other, this can make the public even more cynical and suspicious of a cover-up.

Has Eddie Ermita already been cloistered too deeply in the corridors of power that he is totally unaware that the Arroyo regime suffers from a severe credibility problem? Hasn't Eddie Ermita been following the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys and what they reveal about GMA’s credibility crisis?

Did he not notice that many sectors are clamoring for independent investigations for the Glorietta 2 and the Batasan explosions precisely because of the government's lack of credibility?

Did Ermita not realize that his act of prematurely exonerating Salapuddin could well have delivered the opposite effect?

The worse thing that can happen to Salapuddin's cause is to be linked to a perceived cover up of a regime that has chalked a record-setting series of cover ups.

Over 800 unarmed political activists have already been murdered. Even UN Rapporteur Philip Alston, who came here and investigated the cases, concluded that these murders appear more likely to be the work of a segment of the military. These are over 800 murder cover-ups in progress.

We have not even mentioned the slew of other cover ups of the grand scale graft and corruption scandals, election fraud and the shameless subversion of our democratic processes as shown by the grand conspiracy of regime allies to railroad the killing of the impeachment case.

If you were Gerry Salapuddin and happen to be innocent, would you feel good being prematurely absolved by an Executive Secretary who represents a regime known for falsehoods and cover-ups? Until that point when Eddie Ermita tried to absolve Salapuddin, the former House Deputy Speaker was doing well and enjoyed the benefit of the doubt.

Salapuddin made a good move in immediately confronting the issue without having to be invited for questioning. His explanations were very believable when he said that the arrested driver no longer worked for him after his third Congress term ended and that those congressional license plates of his were already discarded ever since he ceased to be a congressman. Salapuddin's openness enhanced his credibility.

Credibility is a very precious public commodity that the Arroyo regime does not possess. Unwittingly, perhaps, Eddie Ermita may have shaken public confidence in Gerry Salapuddin's innocence with that premature statement.

Instead of aiding his friend, Ermita placed Salapuddin in a very difficult position by moving his case from the confines and parameters of the court of law to that of the court of public opinion.

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