Saturday, February 4, 2006

The Power of Regret in Davide and Abueva

LECTORAL REFORM appears to be the arena that Hilario Davide wants to make his mark in, instead of going quietly into retirement, or taking a gentleman's sinecure in New York as permanent UN envoy. It is a brave choice and speaks well of him. But working for GMA disappointed many of his fans, who think he will only be used. There are contrary opinions that give him the benefit of the doubt...(surprisingly, even from Philippine Commentary)

Amando Doronila's
PDI column analyzes the Predicament of Hilario Davide and Jose Abueva in having accepted high profile positions from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recently. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Davide is now the new Presidential Adviser on Electoral Reform and Jose Abueva has been the Chairman of the ill-fated Consultative Commission on Charter Change. But Doro puts it succinctly --
The dilemma of both men is that their decisions are being seen as political statements on the question of the appointing regime's legitimacy. If they had declined, that would have been interpreted as non-recognition of legitimacy. Indeed, their acceptance has already been interpreted as implicit recognition. Whatever they decided, they were damned. Appointments such as theirs are seen as legitimacy tests and the standards for which have been arbitrarily laid down by quarters who have appointed themselves as the conscience of the nation and arbiters of political morality.
Mr. Doronila would know a lot about conscientious political moralizing, especially from the redoubt of the OpEd pages, but in this case he may be at least partly right in this observation --
Their problem is that the regime that appointed them faces a crisis of legitimacy. If they wait for a squeaky clean administration to make the call, that will never happen. There's reason to believe they accepted their appointments because they regarded them as a call to public duty, and they responded in that spirit and in the belief there's a job to be done. Unfortunately, they cannot choose their employers.
I think Doro is only partly right because there is something that Davide and Abueva share. Both men have had the greatest projects or events of their lives blow up in their faces in spectacular failures. In Davide's case that would have to be the Impeachment Trial of Joseph Estrada, which I've claimed elsewhere he lost control of and then saw Edsa-II as a means of "restoring a personal Zion." It has become painfully obvious to the retired Chief Justice, I am sure, how terribly wrong all that judicial putschism of his truly went. What powerful feelings of regret he must have over how his handiwork has turned out. Such Davidean regret can only be matched by the supreme chagrin that Jose Abueva has probably been carrying since the Constitutional Convention of which he was the Grand Poobah in 1972 became the fig leaf on the hairy balls of Ferdinand Marcos brutal dictatorship. He's been our sad and tragic and almost noble Constitutional Sisyphus.

Manuel L. Quezon III, in his own Long View in PDI OpEd this week, focuses solely on Jose Abueva and delivers a stern, almost merciless dissection of the contradictions and absurdities attendant upon the ConCom kerfuffle and the man who became its avatar. MLQ3 concludes with this --
Most of all, how can I not reach the sad conclusion that, despite the President and her party mocking his most cherished advocacies to his face, Abueva still strongly defends the entire process he's been trotted out to decorate? The pathos of such a man, insisting his tin-foil crown represents the laurels of genuine public service, is so heart-breaking it makes me mad. They chained him to their ambitions, and still he wags his tail.
[Comments, as always, are lively and cerebral at the associated weblog of MLQ3. I discover the Philippine blogosphere's new and old neighborhoods often through MLQ3, which is also a part of the Pajamas Media blog collective.]

I think the simple fact is that both men, Hilario Davide and Jose Abueva are in the thralls of the power of regret, and wish they could do and undo certain things in their lives, the complex motives and personal intricacies of which, may remain mysterious forever. But as long as such men of substantial minds and high offices still breathe, I think that they strive to protect or correct their contributions to history, and their reputations to its vast audience. If they do nothing more in their lives, I think they know that reputation will be vulnerable to the odd Commentary makers that may not idolize them as others do. Yet if they do make something of these opportunities, that reputation would be much safer here than in other places.

REGRET IS THE MOTHER OF FRESH RESOLVE? I leave Abueva to MLQ3's tender mercies, but I will advance a speculation about Davide. I think Hilario Davide is conscious of his terrible errors on 20 January 2001, and conscious even more that History cannot but treat them as such. No matter what his present day idolizers say, I think he knows what grievous damage was done to Democracy and the Social Contract itself by his wanton disregard for the Constitutional provisions on Presidential succession on that day. It caused a still unhealed break among the major political mafias. But I think he had little to do with the 2004 alleged Wiretapping and Voterigging complexes of crimes involving Comelec and Virgilio Garcillano. Remember, he did not go along with the decision to void the Comelec Contract for an automated counting and data transmission system, recently examined in the post Davide and Goliath: Trust But Automate.

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