Kiko Pangilinan and Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada don’t seem to get it. Neither do any of the media commentators who talked about today’s hearing in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Echoing Pangilinan’s and Estrada’s assertion, Media pundits also expressed how they saw no point in the Defense team’s tack in raising the issue of the quality of the impeachment complaint and the integrity of the 188 House complainants who signed it. Can we really blame them? Perhaps no, on account of the fundamental nature of this circus being itself a key element in the intellectual DNA of Philippine society and therefore virtually invisible to the range of a Filipino’s self-awareness.
The defense team of course refered today to the nature of the very core artifact upon which this whole circus rests — the Articles of Impeachment which, key prosecution team member Rodolfo FariÃ±as himself asserted, was not worth the paper it is printed on, and which was railroaded through Congress in a manner that speaks of the stunted character of its signatories. Taking the witness stand, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco was quite clear about what one of his primary considerations were in his decision on whether or not to sign the shoddily-written impeachment complaint: â€œI donâ€™t want to earn the ire of the most powerful man in the country.â€ he said under questioning by defense lawyer Dennis Manalo. Tiangco was referring, of course, to Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who back in mid-December 2011 reportedly angrily applied pressure on Congress to fast-track Corona’s impeachment.
What Filipinos, their Media, and some of their Senators can’t seem to get is that the nature of the very system that is determining the fate of Corona is, itself, on trial. This is as much about the very character of the Filipino as it is about the character — and credibility — of the personalities in this drama who are trying to persuade both the judges and the public to see things their way. On one side are those who presume to bring to bear the nebulous force of the “will” of the “people” into the verdict. On the other side are those who weigh in with evidence.
The earlier appeals to a mob, while the latter appeals to the intellect. Indeed, while it takes only a half-brained warm fuzzy feeling to succumb to the appeal of a mob out for a lynching, it takes conscious and deliberate consideration to evaluate facts and connect the dots to form a logical construct based on these. Which of the two more describes the inclination of the Filipino? The answer is a no-brainer. Recent history alone — all 26 years of it — makes the answer to that question very self-evident. For more than a quarter of a century vacuous notions of “people power”, God’s “will”, and the symbols, slogans, and jingles that served as the tools with which these were ingrained into the fabric of the Filipino national psyche turned Filipinos into suckers for shrink-wrapped junk politics.
The prosecution rested their case after spending weeks serving Filipinos their fix of junk politics — very moving to the feeble-minded but lacking in any substance of consequence. While impeachment trial apologists will make a righteous point that the exercise is really political in nature and only semi-judicial in procedure, it still does not change the fact that impeachment in the hands of politicians who take their cue from constituents who have been conditioned for years to lazily follow stupid rather than labour to consider what is sound is analogous to a blowtorch given to a two-year-old to play with. Indeed, we’ve already seen how Filipinos used two other democratic “rights” to turn the Philippines into a vast graveyard of otherwise noble concepts — they used the Vote to catapult one of the most uninspiring and ill-qualified men to the most powerful office in the land, and they used their “freedom of speech” to habitually bury important issues with irrelevant but sensational drivel. It is quite apparent that impeachment has now become the latest weapon of choice for the abatement of the national intellect.
It does not seem to bother anyone that the prosecution had, by design and therefore on their own account, set themselves up to fail. Perhaps it is because their sloppy complaint document and the astoundingly shameful way they ran it through the system reflects the character of the Filipino — a character that predisposes us to cobble together a mediocre product (pwede na yan) then stupidly expect it to strike it rich for us (bahala na). This is after all a society of people who see buying a lottery ticket as an acceptable primary investment strategy.
If we really want to be known more for our yet unproven “ingenuity” and less for our more than adequately proven penchant for banal stupidity then it is high time we wean ourselves off the junk politics that have become fatal legacies of two and a half decades of the wrong arguments consistently winning, the trivial being made to be important, and the irrelevant made consequential.
As an “admired Filipino economist, based in New York” once lamented, “What ails the country is that Philippine society is intellectually bankrupt.” She added her two cents on the National Debate…
“They are droll and unintelligent, focused on the trivial or the irrelevant.” When the issues are of some significance, it’s the wrong arguments that prevail, the wrong side wins. Logic and common sense take the backseat to political arguments and the views of the poorly-educated.
Political arguments are, indeed, the sort of cancers that take deep root in a society dominated by the poorly-educated. The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona may likely go down in history as further proof of this unshakable reality of the Filipino Condition. Then again, it may go on to become the seminal milestone that sees the Filipino step up from their renowned condition and think their way through the mess that their popular president created. It is all up to the Filipino. All we need is the ability to get what the defense team in this trial are trying to do.
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