Mrs. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo said last July 19 that she would organize a Truth Commission, the members of which she would announce by July 25.

Mrs. Arroyo failed to do either. No one with an ounce of self-respect was willing to be identified with that commission, and she wasn’t really serious about it. The call for a Truth Commission had been made by the University of Santo Tomas and the Catholic Bishops Conference, apparently without much thought having gone into it.

Mrs. Arroyo seemed willing to oblige. After saying she would organize it, she subsequently announced that (1) the commission would have no power other than fact-finding, and (2) its mandate would include not only the investigation of the charges of electoral fraud against her, but also the “destabilization conspiracy” allegedly behind the allegations of electoral fraud, betrayal of public trust, human rights violations and other high crimes that early in July nearly led to the regime’s collapse.

Although an outrage from the very beginning—not only would the accused create a body to investigate herself, much like the defendant’s selecting the judge and jury in his own trial—that she should also turn the tables on her accusers by investigating them, equivalent to the same defendant’s ordering the judge to investigate the prosecutor, was expected.

The enthusiasm with which Mrs. Arroyo grabbed at the suggestion meant that it could have been a convenient way for her to defuse the crisis, and she was willing to try anything that could work in her favor. Her inclusion of the so-called “destabilization conspiracy” against her in the yet-to-be-created commission–an obvious intent to turn the tables on her accusers—was also indication enough that such a body could end up being a Falsehood rather than Truth Commission.

After all, if a commission had to be created, it would be Mrs. Arroyo who would create it through an executive order. She would define its functions and specify its responsibilities. She would name its objectives, membership, and organization. She would give it a budget.

Under these circumstances the commission she was willing to create was exposed as just one more potential instrument in her favor. Interest in it dissipated as soon as this became apparent even to its Dominican and CBCP proponents.

Last October, however, the people’s organization Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan (Unity for Truth) organized the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability, or CCTA. Although promptly labeled a “People’s Court,” the Congress is the Truth Commission idea revived and realized.

But the CCTA is not the same as Mrs. Arroyo’s Truth Commission. It was organized, not by government, but by citizens who felt that, with the impeachment complaint defeated in Congress last September, not only what happened in the elections of 2004, but government involvement as well in the political killings that have claimed the lives of over 80 people since 2001 would forever remain secrets.

Chaired by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability began looking early this month into allegations that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated in the last elections, and committed acts of corruption as well as human rights violations.

Palace mouthpieces immediately described the Congress as a kangaroo court, its members having allegedly pre-judged Mrs. Arroyo. Malacanang also made sure to suggest that it didn’t think the Congress worthy of her attention. Charged with receiving the notice to Mrs. Arroyo that United Nations Judge Romeo Capulong served, a Palace nobody tore it up, complete with what he thought were dramatic gestures of disdain.

Mrs. Arroyo and her subalterns’ subsequent statements and actions reveal, however, that they consider the CCTA a threat grave enough to deserve intimidation and demonization.

The usual threats of legal action, imprisonment and other dire consequences flowed and are still flowing from the so-called Justice Department where one Raul Gonzalez holds ludicrous court. While Ignacio “I-have-two-tapes” Bunye made every effort to make it seem as if the Palace had other concerns, Mrs. Arroyo herself made it a point to denounce the CCTA in that by now infamous speech about losers and winners she delivered at the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Management Conference in Baguio City last November 10.

The most consistent Palace line about the CCTA is that what it’s doing usurps state functions. The law and state prerogatives are the least of Malacanang concerns, however.

Although Filipinos are entering a holiday mode, the coming year is likely to be a difficult one. By January 2006 the flow of Overseas Filipino Workers’ remittances will shrink from flood to trickle, possibly resulting in the peso’s weakening to pre-October levels. The impact of the broadened application of the Expanded Value Added Tax, which came into effect this November, will be sharply felt in terms of higher prices. Meanwhile, the remaining two percent of E-VAT, once implemented within the first quarter of 2006, will make things even more difficult for the poor and the middle classes.

Add to this volatile mix an announcement of the findings of the CCTA—findings the media will of course report and comment on– and the result could be a level of public anger that could shake the Arroyo regime to its already weak foundations.

These dark possibilities make it essential for the CCTA to be discredited before, during and after its hearings so the government can disparage its findings and suppress their dissemination. Not coincidentally is the media also being targeted, urged to be “positive,” to cover “winners,” and even linked to terrorists. The media are the inevitable purveyors of the CCTA’s findings as well as of the spate of bad news the new year is likely to bring. What the country is currently witnessing, among them the orchestrated effort to discredit the CCTA, public protests, people’s organizations and the media, are frantic regime preparations for the volatile days ahead.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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