HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated March 29, 2009 12:00 AM
The recent surfacing of explosive affidavits pertaining to the Dacer-Corbito murders years ago has once again riveted us. Are people telling the truth? What about the so-called existing counter-affidavits? Can justice really be served? Really, now.
As a people, we are hungry for justice. Why? Because historically, we have been unsuccessful in seeing justice played out. Thus, we continue to distrust our justice system. One result of this is, as a society, we have failed in defining categorically who our villains are. Aguinaldo, Marcos, the Filipino collaborators during the Japanese occupation, just to name a few, have gotten off largely scot-free for the crimes they committed against their countrymen. Sometimes, I wonder why we continue to ask people to be heroes when we cannot even call the villains as they are.
Today, I would like to open an unsavory can of worms and list down cases of “unsolved” crimes and what to me are cases of undelivered justice that have plagued us and continue to warp our sense of identity, history and what we really profess to believe in as a people. We can’t get past what we cannot acknowledge. It may require a truth commission similar to what South Africa had to do to confront their apartheid past for us to move on as a people.
If I had a magic wand and could compel historical figures, both dead and alive, to tell the truth, I would certainly do so to finally put to rest certain questions that have bogged us down as a people. Here are just some people I would like to get the truth out of:
1) Emilio Aguinaldo — Historians tell us that he ordered the killing of the Supremo Andres Bonifacio and his brother, but he never categorically admitted to it. I remember a story told by one of my older sisters. Her history class was on an excursion in the house of Aguinaldo in Cavite in the ‘50s. The general was already old but still quite sprightly. He was walking the students around his house showing them mementos and other historical stuff when one of the students asked out loud and in all innocence if it was true that he had Bonifacio killed. The host was clearly caught off-guard. Emilio Aguinaldo became quiet for a few seconds before he replied, quite evasively, “History will tell the truth.”
2) World War II collaborators — I am not talking here of the small-town traitors who snitched on the guerrillas since they probably got their comeuppance from their own neighbors. I am talking here of the big ones that society still whispers about — from President Jose B. Laurel to Ninoy Aquino’s father and many other politicians, including possibly some of my own relatives. I would like to ask them whether, in their heart of hearts, they actually believed they were serving the Filipino people by sleeping with the enemy, so to speak. I ask this seriously, and not just for historical but also for moral, spiritual clarity.
In other countries, like France, Italy and others, people — big and small — who did what they did were summarily shot or hanged and condemned forever in history books. There was no ambiguity about how to treat such people, and this probably redounded to something good in terms of how these countries look at themselves and their history.
3) The Marcoses — To this day, the Marcoses admit to no theft, abuse, torture, unlawful deaths or murders, or any violation of any law. They also offer no remorse or apology. The courts have not delivered any justice. We have a deep national debt to pay, wounds that refuse to heal and justice not served thanks largely to our courts and our penchant as a people for forgetting, and administering cheap forgiveness. While the Marcoses may have staged a comeback into our national life, and though some quarters give them some respect, they are still considered low-lives by a large sector of our population.
If we had moved quickly right after EDSA and delivered swift justice, things would have turned out differently. I think we would have had a better chance at honest governance in the administrations that followed.
4) Joseph “Erap” Estrada — He was the only president ever convicted of plunder. His trial ran for six years and he was convicted beyond reasonable doubt. And yet, even before the verdict was handed down, many people in government — and to my big disappointment Mar Roxas himself — were already preparing resolutions to pardon him. It’s as if we are uncomfortable when someone from the political elite, the upper class, is found guilty.
5) Plaza Miranda — Marcos claimed it was the communists who did it. Ninoy claimed it was Marcos who ordered it. Curiously, some former Communist Party members claim it was CPP chairman Joma Sison himself who ordered the attack that almost decimated the Liberal Party in 1971. The case has never been resolved but it is important to know who the real perpetrators are so that we can know our own history.
6) Who killed Ninoy Aquino? — We may have brought to justice all 12 soldiers involved in escorting Ninoy to his death, but we have not found the mastermind. Some really prominent people have been mentioned in connection with this heinous crime but again, no direct proof has been presented and none will probably emerge. We still do not know whether or not they are innocent. It seems that, most of the time, accusations against prominent people fail to prosper in this country. Neither will the accusations ever be truthfully erased because our justice system, for the most part, seems incapable of doing anything that will be perceived to be aboveboard.
7) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — This woman alone elicits questions that could fill volumes. Throw in her family and our courts and historians will have their hands full. I leave that to them. But a simple question I want answered is what compelled her to say “sorry” for talking to a notorious Comelec operative while the counting of votes was going on after the presidential elections of 2004, even if she claims it was not her voice on the “Hello Garci” CD. What was that all about?
Because we are unable to find answers to the big questions, we have become obsessed with answering the trivial, unimportant ones. Is this why we love gossip shows? We live in a society where very little of what actually transpires can be truthfully verified. Everything is lost in a maze of denials, legalities, outright lies and obfuscations.
The poetess Adrienne Rich could have been describing the Philippines when she wrote, “False history gets made all day, any day; the truth of the new is never on the news.”
Thus, our moral compass is defective. We elect people in spite of our knowledge or suspicion that many of them are plunderers, coup plotters, murderers, genuine low-lives. A history of failed justice has crippled our judgment.
In contrast, just last week, a well-known and respected national figure in Australia by the name of Judge Einfeld was found out to have lied about a traffic ticket that would have cost him 75 Australian dollars and some demerit points. Because of his perjury, he was sentenced to serve two years in jail and stripped of his license and perks for the rest of his life. His proud family was reduced to pleading before a TV audience that the justice be spared for all the good things that he has done for society. I sat watching all this in disbelief.
In our society where no one admits to any wrongdoing, much less apologizes, it’s a long, hard road we must still travel to get to where we want to go.