Admit impediments: We were probably wrong to have trooped to EDSA and asked for Estrada's resignation on account of an unopened envelope. In hindsight, the wiser action should have been to see the impeachment trial to the finish and accept whatever verdict it may have decided later.
Estrada was corrupt--there is no quibbling about that. He was then a president clearly not in control of his appetites--for money, for food, for power, for sex. His ouster in any possible way-constitutional or not-was a moral imperative for any decent man in the country. But when we marched to EDSA, we were not simply ousting Estrada then. We all wanted him out of the presidential palace, but our collective political action at EDSA took on another meaning far larger than our own moral indignation. We not only voted with our feet against Estrada at EDSA, we also gave our political institutions a no-confidence vote.
That we now come to the current impasse is therefore only fitting. We should reap what we have sown. The Pulse Asia survey shows President Arroyo's popularity has taken a nosedive, but buried beneath the screaming headlines is the far more disturbing decline in the popularity ratings of our political institutions. To hear Mayor Binay, for instance, talk of our Constitution and the irredeemable inadequacy of our political institutions is hairraising. That he gets away with it without so much as a ribbing in the press is a testament to how this poison of the irredeemability of our political institutions is gaining ground. Various sectors are calling to dump the constitution. President Arroyo herself wants it in the trash bin. The law doesn't get any respect in this country. Those who swore to defend it find it too easy to bewail it.
This disrespect for insitutions is disturbing because any enterprising would-be dictator with half a brain knows that the key to seizing power without the pesky requirement of an electoral mandate is through the wholesale trashing of democratic political insitutions. Once the people cease to believe that the institutions could be made to work, they are more receptive to the idea of a political Messiah of unlimited power to redeem the political arena.
No president lives forever, chief executives come and go, but at the end of the day what remains are our political institutions. This gradual, almost imperceptible, decline in the esteem with which Filipinos hold their institutions must be arrested now before it falls any further, before Samuel Huntington's men on horseback grab power.
If President Arroyo must leave, it is an imperative to the health of our political instituions that she do so through resignation ot through the decision of the Philippine Senate in an impeachment trial.
We must learn to distinguish between the end and the means, and recognize how sometimes amidst great peril how we do things is as crucial as what ends we pursue.
We Filipinos live in shitty times for a very long time now that the corruption of our democracy has seemed so banal and hackneyed. But as current events in the country progress and as more and more people lose their fate in the viability of the competitive model of our pluralist democracy, the banal qualities of our sorry tale may just reach the proportion of a Greek tragedy: in our sincere efforts to obviate a perceived evil in the palace we may be led to a far greater one.