I am partial for journeys, I mean the physical one. But these can be abstract, too, like a political journey. Or a “judicial” one.
But first, do you still remember this scene in January of 2001? In front of multitudes, then vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was sworn in as the country’s 14th president by then Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. Many politicians jostled for position on the stage, including then Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. who held, of all things, the microphone.
That scene capped a series of events that led to the toppling of the Joseph Estrada presidency: Erap’s failed impeachment trial and People Power 2 (which included then Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes depositing the entire military force into the hands of the Edsa crowd and then Philippine National Police chief Panfilo Lacson forced by his subordinates into letting go of his support for Erap).
That was, what, more than six years ago? Now, to the journey. Gloria has since then been elected to a full term in 2004, sparking the “Hello Garci” controversy and the agriculture fund scam in the process. She has parried two impeachment tries, surviving only because of the administration bloc’s majority in the House of Representatives.
Davide has since then retired and then swiftly broke his promise to go home to his hometown Argao and become a farmer (he accepted the Arroyo administration’s offer for an ambassadorial post). Pimentel? He almost became vice president had not Arroyo appointed the older Teofisto Guingona instead. He is back in the Estrada-led opposition, apparently wanting to forget his role in the Erap impeachment trial.
There were many other “journeys,” of course. Like the so-called civil society-Cory Aquino wing, vociferous in their call for Estrada’s ouster, eventually gravitating back to Erap (didn’t Cory’s son Noynoy run under the Estrada-supported opposition senatorial slate?). Remember Plunder Watch inspired by the plunder case filed against the ousted president? Its leaders have since become hesitant to call for Erap’s conviction.
Militants, on the other hand, after watching Arroyo’s swearing in at Edsa in 2001, have trained their guns on La Gloria, a move that led them to forge a temporary alliance with the Erap-led political opposition to topple the President. The last time I heard, they awkwardly welcomed the Sandiganbayan finding Estrada guilty of plunder on Sept. 12.
By the way, that plunder case. I am talking about political journeys only because Erap’s judicial travel has almost reached its historic end. The first president to be impeached has also become the first former president to be convicted of plunder. But that journey wasn’t that bad because, while jailed, he enjoyed the amenities no other ordinary prisoner could avail.
The saga will still continue, though, and reach the Supreme Court. In the meantime, there’s been some rejoicing about Erap’s conviction serving as a warning to corrupt officials that if Erap can be convicted, then they too will suffer.
But looking at how far the main players of the Estrada story have traveled more than six years after, I am amused by such claims. Erap’s ouster and the filing of the plunder case against him was like we just turned a curve. We are actually back where we started before Edsa 2. The same kind of politics. The same magnitude of corruption.
–-I wrote this for my Sept. 14, 2007 “Candid Thoughts” column for Sun.Star Cebu