Clarissa Ocampo versus Jun Lozada

Date posted on February 27, 2008

Here’s why I’m not quite stirred by the political hooplah involving star whistleblower Jun Lozada:I hate any form of grandstanding.

I acknowledge that Jun Lozada is on the side of truth. What I don’t appreciate how he keeps on appealing to emotion and popularity. Self-references as a mere “probinsyanong intsik.” Engaging in an interview on national television dressed in an undergarment then calling attention to how meekly he is dressed compared to the uniformed people with whom he is engaged in a debate. Declaring statements inflamed with self-importance, like “I didn’t know my coming out to tell the truth will save the country’s soul.” Doing rounds, making appearances, delivering speeches, and quoting Jose Rizal in interviews and opportunely referring to the national hero as his idol.

I am tempted to call them stunts, but I don’t want to be unfair to Mr. Lozada. Having said that, it’s hard to not suspect him of consciously doing these things with the intention to efface himself. In an instant, Mr. Lozada morphed from a sniveling witness to a master showman wielding humor and self-deprecating comments to capitalize on public sentiment anxious for change. In my eyes, that’s what spells the difference between genuine and false humility.

This is where Clarissa Ocampo comes in.

Miss Ocampo came out as a witness because she was privy to something important. She simply had something to say, so she came forth, said it, and left the people to weigh her revelations on their own. And that was it. Clarissa Ocampo wasn’t all over the place campaigning for public support like Lozada does nowadays. I seem to remember her indulging requests for appearances but not in a manner that sought recognition as a hero or a savior. Not the way Lozada strikes me. His actions reek of an agenda to hoist himself onto a moral pedestal to earn credibility for his testimonies.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in what Lozada says. I believe that the ZTE deal was anomalous, that Abalos was out to protect his PhP130M commission, that his escort out of the NAIA airport was an attempt to keep him out of the Senate’s reach (though I wouldn’t really join in calling it “kidnapping”). I believe in the value of Lozada’s testimony and how crucial it is in ridding our country of this culture of corruption.

Even so, I believe a careful scrutiny of the messenger is still in order. No, I am not out to shoot Lozada, but neither will I blindly follow the call of Lozada, Joey de Venecia and those from the opposition whose motives are unclear and possibly mixed with selfish ones. Greed, as generally recognized, is the root of corruption. This is why a whiff of greed evokes extraordinary discretion on my part, enough to keep me in the sidelines, far from the hysteria in Binay’s front yard.

What I advocate is a fair assessment of the veracity of these witnesses’ revelations, and a resort to the appropriate legal action that conforms to the rule of law. Yes, people power has been ensconced in the constitution, but so were other legal remedies such as “impeachment.” The political minority and other interest groups lobby for a street protest saying that the administration control of the congress makes it impossible for the a proper resolution of this controversy. So when will an impeachment, as provided in the constitution, be the proper recourse? When it’s convenient for them? Perhaps what they really want is for work to be cut out for them.

I continue to believe in the spirit of EDSA Dos and am grateful that it resulted in the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada. And yes, I believe that President Gloria Arroyo is much better president than he was, though she’s obviously far from perfect. But like before, I still would’ve preferred the impeachment proceeding to an extrajudicial ouster of Estrada. I welcome the windfall of our mass protest in 2001 but admit that it was essentially a shortcut. That we allowed it then, I believe, is what drives certain politicians now to clamor for a wrest of power from the present government.

I understand how unfathomable it would seem, especially for hardliners, to hear how I can like EITHER Estrada or Arroyo. But I stress again: this opinion piece is about Jun Lozada and Edsa Dos, and today’s call for rallies.

Back in 2001, I don’t remember being ‘called’ by anyone to go to Edsa. I think it’s because back then, ordinary people like us took the lead, and organized blocks followed. Not necessarily the case now. While I recognize this time that many untarnished figures who I look to as moral beacons are beckoning ordinary people like us to join the rally, beside them I see the likes of Erap, Joe and Joey de Venecia.

We should’ve heeded that nagging feeling back in Edsa Dos, when we wondered why traditional and quasi-politicians like Chavit Singson, Bong Revilla and Nora Aunor shared the stage with Chief Justice Davide and those others whom we trusted as sincerely echoing our sentiments, when we wondered why GMA only showed up for the oath-taking. But I own up to that, I helped ushering a GMA into the presidency, I share the blame. I just don’t want to contribute to another wrong. I want to determine if this indeed is the right way to go – an extrajudicial route to enact changes once again. Who fills in the void afterwards is a serious concern that needs as much deliberation. We should learn from the Estrada turnover to GMA in 2001. Doesn’t it prove that people power is not only an extrication, but an installation of another figure, and that it can be just as bad, if not worse? Sino ulit sisihin natin pag nangyari yon? Discernment is my mantra for now.

It’s not simply about lack of an alternative to a present evil, but a refusal to be manipulated by another one.

I was already made into a pawn when I participated in EDSA Dos. I’m not falling for that again. Fool me twice, shame on me. It would take much more than people with shady credentials and blatant agenda to coax me into heeding a call that could ultimately sweep someone else less deserving and more deleterious into power.

Thank you, Mr. Lozada, for telling us what you know. You have definitely earned your place in history. But can you please stop with the antics now?