Monday, August 28, 2006
It's 4:00 PM and I am in my office. I just turned on the monitor which gives me the real-time goings on in the session hall downstairs. The National Anthem has just been played. A member of COngress delivers her carefully prepared prayer, an appeal to the Almighty for wisdom in the performance of our duties.
Then the majority floor leader moves to dispense with the Calling of the Roll. A motion to approve the journal of the previous sesison...no objections, motion is carried..then a motion to read the Reference of Business for the Day. The Secretary General reads the list of bills and resolutions which are then referred to the appropriate committee.
After the reference of business, the Majority FLoor leader moves to suspend the session. Session suspended. It is now 4:10 PM , and all I can hear over the monitor are some light banter and someone laughing his heart out at some joke that somebody probably cracked.
Another busy day at the office....
These verbal jousts are are tests to the skills of the participants and the soundness of their ideas. The weaker argument usually ends up in submission, with the proponent agreeing to the opponent.
BUt there are times when one side of the debate resorts to an argument that is impossible to tear down, even with the soundest logic, mastery of words and skill in delivery. Once confronted with this argument, one cannot help but simply give up in frustration and leave the debate empty handed.
This is known as the "Abas" Argument.
No, it is not named after some crafty debater who excelled in every forum he participated in. Neither is it some unique principle that could solve all the mysteries of life. It isn't a mystical power wielded by a debater which provided him the answers to all questions.
Simply, it is the "Abasta!" method of arguing.
I must admit my weakness in not knowing how to translate that in English. My best would be to liken it to the lingo of the youth when they use this retort in an exchange: "Whatever!"
You can never win against the Abas Argument....even if you present an idea backed up with facts, figures and the kitchen sink, the simple reply would be : "Abasta! I don't believe you and your idea is unacceptable!"
----"But the documentary evidence shows that you accepted the payment! It has your signature on it verified by handwriting experts!"
----"Abasta! That's not my signature!"
Many times in my work I have encountered the Abas Argument. The amazing thing about the Abas Argument is that even if technically, the user has lost the debate due to the inability to offer a logical and established argument, he simply just maintains that air of "I am right and I win" attitude and he comes out the winner.
You simply cannot win over the Abas Argument. You disagree?
Abasta! I am right, you are wrong!
I have just concluded answering my e-mail and reading the blogs of various personalities, capping a four-hour straight marathon in front of my computer. I have been reading, absorbing and answering the reactions the impeachment vote last wed-thu, particularly the position that i took during that vote...well, I think I've explained myself enough.
A question that comes to my mind after all that mental exercise is, is there a point to answering all these emails? Am I just wasting my time giving a detailed response to each and every email to me? Actually, I can simply send back an acknowledgment (" thank you for writing, I will ponder on what you said...") and therefore disqualify any comment that I don;t respond to messages sent to me.
But that would be a disservice to the public. As a public official, I do have that obligation to respond. And respond substantially. The public deserves, and it actually it's their right, to be answered by government officials.
That is the reason why in spite of the demise of two impeachment complaints, people are still seeking answers to the questions brought about by the Garci Tapes...they were never answered. Not then, not now.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Prior to the decision of the Committee on Justice, I was still hoping against hope that a fair and unhindered presentation of the complaint and the evidence supporting it was going to be allowed. I was banking on the belief that since COngress is a deliberative body, congressmen will listen to reason and instead of putting up legal technicalities as obstacles to the truth, they will stretch the limits of rules in order to assist the Truth to come out, before making an objective, rational and intelligent decision on how to vote.
I would like to think that I am an idealist. I shudder at every moment in my politician's life when I stop and ponder if I am losing my idealism and start becoming a pragmatist. I still believd in the process and I still had faith in the Institution that is the House of Representatives.
But as things turned out, the impeachment complaint was not going to see the light of day. It was then that I began to question the process and the wisdom of pursuing an objective that will never be achieved.
I am one who believes that while we stand firm in the principles and causes we fight for, we should also be flexible enough to adapt to the situations we face in the pursuit of those principles and causes. The US Marines have a motto to remind the troops how to perform under fire, even under the most dire conditions..."IMPROVISE, ADAPT adn OVERCOME."
The question was: "should we pursue impeachment even if it does not have a chance at all to survive? What will its dismissal do to the opposition's objectives and goals?" It was time for strategic rather than emotional and sentimental thinking.
After much contemplation, I arrived at the conclusion that under the prevailing process in the House, the impeachment complaint's fate was already sealed by the overwhelming number of the Majority. I knew that no amount of reasoning or argument can change that.
With that, I decided to abstain from voting, and I even prepared my explanation of vote:
Mr. Speaker, colleagues:
“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgments in your courts” – Zechariah
For the second time in the 13th Congress, we are called upon to exercise our duties as Representatives of the People and decide on a matter that will have great consequence to our nation. We are asked to decide whether or not the President of the Republic of the
I have no regrets in standing for what I believed in, and I maintain that it was worth the fight. Ultimately, the judge of whether we did right or wrong in last year’s impeachment will not be our fellow man but God Almighty.
It is a sad note that even before this year’s complaint saw the light of day in the Committee on Justice, it was already sentenced to its doomed fate. It is ironic that with the same vigor that the death penalty was abolished in this Chamber in the name of justice, the people’s complaint was summarily executed in cold blood, its eventual death decided on before the first bang of the gavel.
The rhetoric by those who proclaimed the death even before the initial examination speaks of verbal creativity. Indeed the play with words are worthy of emulation, if only for the display of literary prowess. I doubt, however, if it reflects any value for fairness and balance in the process.
I am a believer in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Of his five essentials for victory, the first says, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” This is further explained by Chang Yu, one of the acknowledged commentators on the Art of War, “If he can fight, he advances and takes the offensive; if he cannot fight, he retreats and remains on the defensive. He will invariably conquer who knows whether it is right to take the offensive or the defensive.”
A tactical retreat should not be equated to the abandonment of a cause. It is merely a selection of the battlefield where one will fight, a lesson not lost on General MacArthur, who, if he had chosen to stay and fight the Japanese, could have died a hero but never see the victory at the end of the war.
The conditions prevailing last year are different from conditions prevailing this year. That is not to say that questions about the Truth have already been answered, partially or wholly. It is just that there are less elements that favor a successful impeachment.
On hindsight, my knee-jerk reaction to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the
Now I am inclined to agree with their statement, that indeed, the process does not lend justice to the noble cause of the search for truth.
While I no longer favor the pursuit of impeachment at this time for reasons of strategy and not of substance, I cannot be counted with those who agree with this committee report. I find the process not in conformity to my ideal manner of how to let the Truth come out.
I believe that it requires extra effort on everyone’s part for Truth to reveal itself, and any resistance, however miniscule, will surely hinder its exposition.
I enjoy competitive sports. But if I feel that a game is fixed, or rigged to go in favor of a particular side, I lose interest in participating in it. I would rather not allow myself to be subjected to such an insult and just wait for the next game.
The impeachment is not the be-all and end-all of the search for Truth. The cause is greater than the process and I believe that there are other methods and opportunities to continue the fight for righteousness in government.
I do not wish to participate in this particular process, therefore, I abstain.
But as I was listening to the interpellations prior to the voting, I couldn't help but be dismayed at how the debate was proceeding. It was disappointing to hear none of the expected gentlemanly debate that is contemplated by Robert's Rules of Order or even the Rules of the House of Representatives.
It was bad enough that the spirit of giving the minority the chance to present its case and possibly, just possibly, convince other congressmen of their cause was abandoned. It was made worse by the arrogant manner of interpellation by some members of the majority.
This was not the idealist's preference of a truly "Honorable" House of Representatives and Impeachment Proceedings.
It was then that another decision was made...that of NON-PARTICIPATION.
I did not wish to participate in a process that did not conform to what I believed should be the way a COnstitutional process is conducted by a COnstitutional institution. Even a vote of Abstention would have lent credence to something that I objected to.
As far as the majority in the House is concerned, the second impeachment complaint was doomed from the start. If compared to a boxing match, it was a fight not to be decided on how good the fighter fights, but on whose side the referee and the judges are on.
I do not think even Manny Pacquiao would enter the ring if he knew that even if he landed all his punches, the judges will not give him points but instead award it to his opponent. Or even if he knocks down the opponent the referee will not count. Most likely he will just choose not to fight and wait for the next match.
The obvious result of the failed second impeachment is the further weakening of the opposition. The administration now has the bragging rights to claim a second victory over a threat to the presidency of PGMA, further strengthening her hold especially among the players in the political field. This is most especially true considering the forthcoming elections in 2007. Having emerged the victor in this latest political skirmish, candidates in the coming elections will have second thoughts going against a now-deeply entrenched president whose use of resources to gain political allies has already been mastered as a science.
It would have been a different scenario if, like the first impeachment, the prospects of convincing members of Congress to support the impeachment were real and greater. But long before the second impeachment complaint was filed, it was already clear that the previous number of 51 was not going to be reached. And neither were there any of the pro-GMA congressmen who even indicated a change of heart.
On hindsight, the wisdom of pursuing the second impeachment complaint now comes to test. With the knowledge of the eventual fate of the complaint, was it to the benefit of the over-all cause of the opposition for it to be led to its pre-determined death?
There is always a reward of glory in making a desperate, last stand against all odds. That’s the appeal of Custer’s last stand. The
General Douglas MacArthur was humbled by his retreat from the
And return he did, with a fresh plan, forged determination and clear objective. If he had chosen to make a last stand in the face of the Japanese advance, he would most likely had inspired his men to fight to the death. HE would have either been captured or killed along with his men. If that had happened, there is no doubt that he would have been lionized as a hero.
A dead hero. One who can never fight again.
A military saying goes, “better to retreat today and live to fight another day”. Another says, “a living soldier is better than a dead hero.”
Sun Tzu, in his much acclaimed writings of military doctrine, The Art of War, said, “Victory goes to the one who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
Choosing the battles you fight is one of the accepted military tactics and strategies. It also holds true even in the stock market or foreign exchange trading…you have to know when to sell and when not to sell. It especially holds true in politics. Even in Impeachment.
And so it goes back tot eh impeachment complaint…was it beneficial to bring the opposition to an eventual political loss? What are the gains of the exercise? Did it add to the number of the opposition or did it just make the opposition angrier? Frustrated? Discouraged?
Did it add to the number of idealists or did it contribute to the ranks of pragmatists?
These are questions that I hope the opposition will ponder on now, in the period going into the 2007 elections. It is during this lull in the battle that plans should now be made to ensure victory in next year’s elections. Lessons from the past will serve the opposition well during this period, as well as the visions for the future.
The victory was decisive--- 173 votes cast to junk the impeachment complaint, 32 votes to uphold it, and 1 abstention. True, there is no doubt that the second impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was dead.
In fact, as one administration congressman put it, it was a “cadaver of a complaint”, dead on arrival at the footsteps of the House of Representatives. You have to hand it to this congressman. He displayed such flair and mastery of the language as to how he described the complaint—“lifeless complaint for impeachment”…. “What we heard from its endorsers were funeral orations”….“classic case of suicide”…“complaint killed itself”…he seems to have a fetish for death, savoring every moment whenever he relates the impeachment to loss of life. I wouldn’t be surprised if he experiences orgasm at the very thought of the “cadaver of a complaint”.
Even before the first bang of the gavel, the second impeachment complaint was doomed to the fate of the complaint filed in 2005. Statements from administration stalwarts prior to the hearings of the Committee on Justice shamelessly proclaimed the eventual dismissal of the complaint. The reason why it became a “cadaver of a complaint” was that its life was stifled by those who were supposed to be entrusted by the Constitution to give it an opportunity to at least gasp for breath and say its last words.
Even the death convict is given that opportunity before his life is extinguished.
It was a foregone conclusion. Perhaps that is the reason why the interpellations prior to the voting deteriorated to the character of a street corner debate amongst drunks instead of an exchange between “distinguished” and “honorable” gentlemen. The arrogance of the sponsors of the committee report was not unnoticeable even to the general public, which was revealed to me when one of my constituents asked, “sir, bakit ho kung magsalita at sumagot yung mga matatandang congressman na yan ay parang walang kinatandaan?”.
The majority did not see the need for any debate. They did not want to listen to what the endorsers of the impeachment have to say. The only arsenal of the minority in this arena is the spirit, logic and reason of their arguments in favor of the impeachment.
In a democracy, it is true that the majority rules. As it has been said repeatedly by the anti-impeachment personalities, it is a “numbers game”, that as long as you have the numbers, you win the game. But the true essence of democracy is not a simple headcount. The true spirit of democracy is allowing your opponent to speak and for you to LISTEN to and CONSIDER what he has to say. While you uphold the principles and advocacies you believe in, you still open yourself to be convinced by the other side.
In that ideal situation, ideas prevail instead of personalities. Reason is given a chance over stubborn bull-headedness. It ensures that what is upheld is the IDEA that is supported by the most number of people, not the PERSON supported by the most number of allies.
The mockery and high-handedness these veteran legislators displayed against the young members of congress struggling in their fight for principles betrayed their callousness and pride. They have outlived their idealism and miserably failed to present themselves as sources of inspiration and guidance to the younger generation of leaders. It is a pity that instead of being looked up to by the youth, these old timers now represent what the new generation seeks to reform. Instead of being guides and partners to the young, they serve as the tormentors.
To be continued...