OF SUBSTANCE AND SPIRIT
Eleven years ago, S.W.A.T.: Firefight was released as a sequel to the 2003 film S.W.A.T. It’s now running in Netflix and despite a few gaffes, like firing a .50 caliber rifle showing no recoil, it’s quite engaging.
One key take-away from the film is that S.W.A.T. should always aim to seek and overpower the enemy in any way it could. “Always on the move, nothing is static.” The S.W.A.T. team based on its new manual was trained to “shoot on the move” and “rescue on the move.” This new requirement, due to the more sophisticated evolution of terrorism, now puts premium on both accuracy and speed, to neutralize the enemy and keep the hostage safe.
Any which way you put it, our health authorities could neither shoot nor rescue on the move. Lockdown was the only way they knew to deal with COVID-19. They could only quarantine whole patches because the diagnostics protocols have remained crude. It is like expecting the S.W.A.T. to excel without a manual. As a result, thousands perished from the virus and millions infected. We failed to employ S.W.A.T. techniques because many of our health authorities were hardly moving outside the protracted interagency task force meetings, thinking they had all the time before the virus starts mutating.
Unable to shoot and rescue on the move, our health authorities virtually buried their heads in the sand until the pandemic blew over. While at it, our health authorities, based on the 113-page report of the Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Sen. Dick Gordon on the Pharmally scandal, also corrupted the medical supplies procurement process in the billions of pesos. The film’s sequel demonstrates that some S.W.A.T. team members could sleep with the enemy that they were trained to hunt and neutralize.
It is just that the report pinpointed key public officials and private individuals associated with the Pharmally scandal that should be charged.
But how far will this report go in so far as establishing criminal responsibility?
Only a handful of senators signed the report including the chairman. They were Senate Minority Floor Leader Frank Drilon, Senators Risa Hontiveros, Ping Lacson, Leila de Lima, Manny Pacquiao, Kiko Pangilinan and Koko Pimentel. Short of the required 11 out of 20 senators, the Gordon Report cannot be considered official for plenary discussion, all the way to the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan.
We might be seeing more of this kind of outcome haunting us if those who are running on platform of unity without justice succeed in the May 2022 polls. For our discernment, we need more than slogans; we need a roadmap out of this health and economic mess.
After all, the message of unity without justice is shared by some of those who led this Republic before and after EDSA in 1986. It’s like a cloud without rain, this argument of some that the failure of EDSA is now driving the UniTeam’s popular support. It is incorrect because this platform of unity would like us to set aside issues associated with martial law and plunder; electoral fraud and corruption; wholesale gambling and incompetence; extrajudicial killings and plunder during the pandemic, so that we could move on. These acts betrayed the EDSA spirit.
Should we now sweep under the rug the issue of $5-10 billion in plundered wealth as documented by the rulings of US, Swiss and Philippine courts? That means those who stole this much of public money would succeed in keeping it and enjoying it while the Filipino taxpayers continue to pay for it. PCGG records show that nearly P126 billion remains at large. This is something that cannot be condoned in the spirit of unity.
Should we now forget all those killings and tortures, incarcerations and disappearances which should look warped against actual court ruling that awarded damages to martial law victims? How do we strengthen our legal institutions from the lessons of the past unless we keep them in our collective memory?
Should we now support the revision of Philippine history that claims martial law was a golden period of the Philippine economy, knowing that it never was, that the kind of growth we achieved was simply driven by inordinate borrowings, while we were being robbed? Is it purposeless to be reminded that a few years before EDSA, we had to do a Mexico and Argentina declaring a moratorium on our maturing obligations because we could no longer pay?
Should we now support the ruling that failure to file income tax return and pay the penalty involves neither legal transgression nor integrity, because “there is no law prohibiting it” even as our courts had earlier convicted the UniTeam’s presidential candidate? What will happen to our tax regime?
We are seeing a gathering storm repudiating this message of unity without justice. From the mammoth crowd that joined the Leni-Kiko proclamation rallies in Naga and Quezon City, and elsewhere, one could sense the pulsating hope of a people who did not have to be paid, fed and ferried by a whole fleet of buses. Paid trolls can always fake a thousand news, but they cannot duplicate themselves into a red and green crowd.