It was so lacking in grace.
The sight of an embattled former First Couple desperately struggling to leave the country in a circus of media lights and confused onlookers; was ugly. “Survivors”, Amazing Race”, “Silence Of The Lambs” and the Marx Brothers finally came together. To the Arroyos this was what Saigon must have felt like in its last days.
Yet they need not have been so concerned.
If in seventeen months and with home court advantage, the Government has been unable to get its act together against them; it is unlikely to do so in a few days, the time for the TRO to indisputably settle in.
This Government has only itself to blame for its travails. It neither had a strategy nor, more important, a timeline for bringing GMA to justice. P-Noy talked about it extensively in two SONAs but his people never minded the details. It was a bounty of riches. The evidence was so plentiful and the national sentiment so conducive, they thought they could wing it. There was no urgency, they felt, to file the modicum of charges to keep her home. Now they are cramming and not doing a particularly good job at it. So we as a nation must suffer the ire and frustration of watching the couple take flight.
This might be the occasion for the President to review the state of his team and the priorities of his Administration. That he has to delay an important trip to personally field a routine ball means his Office is not taking care of business. He has a Cabinet of good technicians but nobody that has the full narrative in his head. He urgently could use a person that can stand above the cacophony of daily administration and take a 10,000 feet view of what really matters in the agenda.
The agenda should be one that not only feeds the physical needs of the people but also its sense of self. We are, if one believes the numbers, making progress on the former but sadly lacking in the latter.
The Filipino needs to be satisfied for his self-worth that justice is delivered. He wants redemption but is not getting it either in the GMA instance or the Ampatuans or the corporate plunders that have taken place before our very noses. As aptly put by a local pundit, the Filipino does not want the President to share in his suffering, he wants the President to end his suffering.
The Filipino wants a Presidency that he can be proud of, not one that embarrasses him. Yet the latter, in the GMA travel debacle, is what it has done, shame us with its negligence and then with its awkwardness in catching up.
The travel restriction on the Arroyos never had the legs. In the absence of a non-bailable charge, the ban clearly violated their constitutional right to travel. Having recognized this, the Administration should have taken its lumps with dignity. It should have allowed the Arroyos to exit on the face value, however small, of their commitment to return. Let the onus be on GMA to prove she is not a liar.
It would also have saved the dissenting Justices from the ignominy of having to defend a position that clearly was not there. In the end, they argued not against the constitutional principle, but that hearings on the matter simply be considered. The Government is taxing even the intelligence of these good men and women.
The Administration hopefully does not compound its error by blaming the Supreme Court for its failings, something it has been wont to do in the past. There is enough poison in their relationship. The Court does what it is mandated to do, call a spade a spade. It is the Executive’s Office’s responsibility to do likewise, take accountability for its affairs.
Lastly some parting words for GMA : You were the President of the Philippines. Out of respect for the Office, for yourself and for the legacy of your family that you so love; act with dignity and grace. Wait for this last legal procedure to run its short course, then leave with your head high.
You just got a pass out of Dodge. There is no need for you to flee like a thief in the dead of night.
(Epilogue: 24 hours after this post the RTC of Pasay issued a warrant of arrest for electoral sabotage preventing GMA from leaving. My apologies to the First Couple. The Government can sometimes haul ass.)