Monday, June 27, 2005

The Garci Conversations

Insider information is almost never publicly traded. In business, by law it is illegal but for everything else, we have an unwritten agreement to keep privileged information, secret. The public has long suspected that there are dealings happening but I imagine, they could never fathom or even begin to imagine how it actually happens. It is such a wonderment that it can fly beneath the radar but I suppose, rare is the situation where we destroy the hand that feeds. With the coming out of the supposed recorded conversation of Garci with so many people, the man on the street can at last catch a glimpse of these background negotiations. Yet what does all this mean?

The sheer complexities, the sheer repercussions of what these recordings can do is mindbogglingly crazy. That is assuming they are real, meaning they were not made up or put together through the use of existing technology. On one hand should they prove to be real, who will validate them? And if they can be validated at all there is a matter, a question of law--- can these recordings at all hold ground in any legal setting in the Philippines?

On another point of view, one must also understand that we are not simply dealing with our domestic squabble here. The implications have international repercussions--- should the Government of President Macapagal-Arroyo fall and should it fall because of extra-constitutional processes, will the international community acknowledge the government that will replace it? What happens to the billions of dollars being invested in the Philippines--- though it is just a tickle when compared to other markets, money is still money and when people lose this commodity, they take it against people who took it from them.

Do you now realize the complex problem we have at hand? And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What if the recordings are true?

Let us first look at it from the assumption that these recordings are true. The word “true” meaning, in fact these conversations did occur on the supposed dates and times it is alleging and not merely made up ones. If they are, it is even more curious to know how, if it is true that the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces tapped Garci's mobile phone when the entire government machinery was under the complete utter control of the Arroyo Administration.

To first answer, is it possible to intercept cellular phone conversations? For one thing our cellphones conversations are not encrypted, what makes people think no one is listening in? As for simpler solutions, the imaginative mind could come out creative ways to listen on cellular phone conversations. And yes it is even easier to listen to landline conversations, a headset, a couple of wires could give you a tap.

It is therefore important that investigators can have, not a copy but the master recording in their possession. The content of the “released” Garci Conversations are damaging on themselves, are they not?

Any investigation will have to determine if the master copy is in fact genuine. We need to know how the information was obtained to be able to determine if by law this is admissible as evidence. Yet is is even more curious to know that there is only four hours of taped conversation. There must be more “raw” information without the supposed narration.

Are you getting where I am driving at?

From the point of view that these recordings are in fact “true”, the matter of legality comes to mind. Filipinos are known to break their own set of rules, why is it important now? For the simple reason that there must be legitimacy in any change of government that may occur; there must a basis of legality and justice for it be accepted by the people and by the international community.

If these recordings are not legal--- meaning can not be admitted as evidence in a court of law, then from the legal point of view, President Macapagal-Arroyo did not break the law. But then again, one can not name a sitting President in a lawsuit. I suppose this would have to be debated by legal stalwarts and probably must be answered by the Supreme Court.

If the whole point is to take down President Macapagal-Arroyo, why not simply, file an impeachment case in the House? Two reasons: first, the instigators of this needs to have built credibility with the public. The public though it may not be willing, must be open to this new possibility. The instigators remembered Erap's envelope all too well. The second reason being, the instigators do not have the political credits to spend--- they will need to have built credibility with the public to ensure that the impeachment complaint be acceptable in the House. Politicians like the sharks that they are after all will turn, if they smell blood in the water.

what if the recordings are not true?

Technology today is advanced enough that we can mimic voices and do animation at such an amazing accuracy that it is very important that investigators get their hands on the original material or “source” of the Garci Conversations. The possibility that these recordings have also been “cut” and “pasted” could not be discounted.

The obvious reason why someone or some group would instigate this now is simply to undermine the Arroyo Administration and bring her down. They mean to inflame people's passions. They mean to bring the Administration down.

Reading Intentions

What makes me doubt “the genius” of this plan? It would have been mute and academic, had Samuel Ong played the entire tape recording when millions of Filipinos were listing on, when he had his press conference. They could have inflamed people's emotions--- and rallied a crowd. Yet they failed to do so. They even failed to get Ms. Susan Roces to join their group. What Samuel Ong said were empty words. The Filipino can smell this sort of hogwash a kilometer away. Who is Samuel Ong that the Filipino would rally for him. It makes one wonder, if these instigators truly have a smoking gun. It also makes me wonder if they at all understand the complexity of the Filipino. The sovereign Filipino is not a fool.

There are many questions as to why these recordings are only coming out now. True, they would have been more effective right after the elections or at least the months thereafter. It would have been more effective during FPJ's untimely demise. Which begs the question, was FPJ was merely a pawn in this game?

When we look at how the President's camp is acting these days, they are very disorganized. If I were in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's camp, I'd be advising the president to simply answer one thing. Tell all her critics that she will answer their charges at the proper forum.

There is only one place to battle this all out: an impeachment court because if the people behind this ruckus have any proof at all then they will win because the people can judge if they are being played at. They did it to Estrada, who had the highest mandate in the post-Marcos era.

Maybe both camps have much to fear from the content of the Conversations, too many people entangled in it.

People Power

A question, can these recordings bring down the Arroyo Administration? To answer this question, we must look back at the past 20 years.

The first EDSA, one sees that it took three years in the making to get that far. From the time of Ninoy Aquino's assassination, the countless protests, the failing economy, the blatant cheating during the elections and lastly, the failed attempt at a coup by Enrile and Ramos and the call of one Jaime Cardinal Sin sparked people to march. Separately, any one of those “ingredients” do not an uprising make.

When Estrada lost power, it was because of stupidity, remarkably by his own inner circle. When the enveloped that sparked much protest was opened much later, it was empty. The Estrada Senators should just have opened it. One thing the Filipino does not want is for them to be lied to in their faces.

What do these two events have in common? The ones who took up arms against Marcos and Estrada were not just the simple man on the street, it was the “middle” class. They were the deciding factor that when added to the elements of the Military, to the call of the religious, to the jeopardy of the economy to the blatant lies, they bring down governments.

The instigators have been trying to re-create this, but they have so far (and those are the keywords here) failed.

What do the People Want?

We of course speak of the middle class, not as the government defines them. For us, the middle class is composed of the working stiffs who are sort of comfortable but not overtly well off, the business leaders, churches, and if this were the United States, we'd be calling them “democrats”. The Middle-Class we speak of are generally idealists--- they believe in the rule of law, they believe in common decency and they prefer to go about their own business. This Middle-class just wants to send their kids to school, to live quiet lives, to live a comfortable living. Their political leaning should not in anyway be mixed with their personal or religious beliefs as this class is composed of both conservative and liberal camps.

Neither should the middle-class be mistaken for the various “Civil Societies” who lean more to the left or the right. The Middle-Class should also not be mistaken for “Labor” who lean more towards the Marxist ideology. This “Labor” also accounts for those factions living in the poverty line who allow themselves to be bought off. This faction makes a business about protests who prefer to stay at the opposite side of government because it is a money making business for them.

Recent surveys are saying that the common man on the street makes no distinction between Administration and Opposition. To them they are the same species, and this perception plays a crucial role in our political situation today.

Next, recent publicity surveys give President Macapagal-Arroyo a very negative rating (-33), the lowest of the post-Marcos era. In previous blogs, I have stated that this translates simply to the sheer demand of the Filipino people to just move forward. When associated with the survey that they make no distinction between Administration and Opposition as well as the middle class' exhaustion in any extra-constitutional action, it can only mean that the Filipino people just want to get on with their lives, damn those sitting on top.

All the Elements Together

At the beginning of this post, we had asked what does all this hoopla mean?

The recordings may be true and it were, it is very frightening indeed that there is an organization capable of that kind of Signals Intercept. It is doubtful though not beyond the capability of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces to have such capability but those factions capable to acquiring this intelligence from the Armed Forces are few and points to a weakness in our society. Yet it is important to acquire the original, the source as it were to find out if it is at all legal and/or true.

The Garci Conversations is a snapshot, a window to what goes on behind closed doors. It is a way for the general public to have an idea how the business of this country is being conducted.

These recordings should they prove true can tell us that the ruling party today are expert political operators. They know how to win, how to utilize the machinery of government for a purpose. It was good tactics, good strategy. Imagine if they actually use this logistics train, this immense capability for the good of the country.

The Garci Conversations if true, validates for us that the FPJ camp did not have the capability to win. It speaks of bad intelligence by the opposition during the period these recordings were made.

Can you even imagine the number of people implicated in the Garci Conversations? It is not just the president but scores of people from the top to the local governments to the military to the civil service.

Loads of people will say, how can one validate cheating? During the elections, loads of people chose Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because they didn't want the alternative. They chose her over a movie actor whose resume included testimony from people whom he may or may not helped. If running a country was like garnering friends and testimony at friendster, then a lot of people could be president.

Loads of people also chose Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over a former General who for an independent garnered three million votes just like that, imagine if he ran with a full party. They chose the lady over the general because they didn't want to spoil the vote. Thank God, I chose to vote my conscience and my ballot had the general's name.

A few people also voted for the other senator who got sick. They also voted for some religious who chose to run. Some people just didn't bother to vote, in protest. They were all disgusted by the way things are in this country, who can blame them?

If there was blatant cheating, why didn't the people cry out foul when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was declared the winner. They cried foul when Marcos was declared winner, because they knew he wasn't. The people cried foul when senators in Estrada's camp tried to rob them of process, so they took back the presidency from him. Do most in the middle class and the Civil Societies believed that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cheated? My point being, if there was blatant cheating as the opposition is yelling at the top of their lungs, the Filipino people simply closed their eyes. Perhaps they did not like the alternative, or more to the point did not like the group that surrounded the alternative. Perhaps all this proves once more that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

If these people only stop squabbling amongst themselves and really listen to what the people are saying. The opinion polls are doing the talking. Everyone's tired of the same old thing. It gets old when there's no food in the table and no money to pay for text messaging.

Maybe that's it! The telecoms have experienced a slight loss of revenue because we've become the text capital of the world, people are exclaiming, “we've done it!” No one wants to text anymore. “Hello, Garci” ringtones, text messages and jokes must be driving revenue up. Must remember to hire their marketing people, simple genius! I wonder if the President is getting royalties for those? Oh right, thats not her.

Nearly three years later, we are still talking about who won and who lost in 2004. Or rather politicians and media choose to talk about who won and who was cheated. Bunch of hypocrites who talk about cheating as if no one looked the other way, all for the greater good. It is as if there's nothing to do in this country.

Folks, 2010 is ways off but then again maybe thats a big enough reason, they don't want to wait that long and don't want to “pay Garci” an exuberant amount when that time comes. Hey, may be he's going to be retired by then, I mean, all those ringtones mean millions in royalties? Oh right no one can lay claim to it! They probably wouldn't even have an opportunity. Shame.

What happens to the business of the nation? Unrest makes feeding people and economic viatality even more difficult than it already is. It is no wonder this country is being left in the dust by the rest of the world. At the end of the day, all we do is talk. “Hello, Garci” means we all lose.