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ormer Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban might soon find himself under arrest, arraigned and prosecuted because of a libel charge filed against him by Ferdinand Marcos crony Herminio Disini. The “libelous act” that Panganiban is accused of is writing an article for the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2011 that Disini alleges is an “irresponsible and malicious” attack with regards to his involvement in the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) during the martial law years. You can read Panganiban’s article titled: “After 35 years, still languishing” here and decide for yourself if it is indeed “libelous” or if Philippine laws are once again being used by people with money and power to muzzle the press.
But let us step back and try to see things from a broader perspective. This article is after all, not just about a Marcos crony and a former chief justice. During the 1986 EDSA revolution when millions of Filipinos put their lives on the line and literally faced down the tanks of General Fabian Ver, Cory Aquino became president while Marcos and his ilk were sent packing. The dreams and aspirations of the long-oppressed Filipino masses took flight with the ascendancy of the country’s first female president. Mrs. Aquino had as well the blessing and admiration of the entire world. She could have ushered in a new era of unprecedented growth and prosperity for the Philippines.
In retrospect however, it now appears that Cory Aquino achieved next to nothing. Not only was she faulted for not even trying, according to her many detractors at the time, she just didn’t seem to know anything. The acronym bandied about back then to describe Mrs. Aquino in office was TWA—not the airline, it stood for talagang walang alam (knows absolutely nothing). Had Mrs. Aquino despite her limitations taken seriously the mandate the Filipino people thrust upon her, she would have moved heaven and earth to bring to justice all those who in one way or another were involved with either the Marcoses or their unjust military regime. Instead, Mrs. Aquino chose to kick the can down the road for another generation to deal with.
Little did she know then that the person who might have to clean up the mess she refused to touch would be her son, current President Noynoy Aquino (Pnoy). And in the nearly two decades that the Marcoses and their cronies have been left untouched, many of those once cowering figures now stand tall, emboldened once again to not just put forward their own distorted version of history but to muzzle those who dare expose their sordid past.
Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban’s stellar achievements despite his humble beginnings stand as a testament to his indomitable spirit. There is likely still a lot of fight left in him. The question however is: what will the president do about all this? Will Pnoy finish what his mother unfortunately never really started? Or will he likewise kick the can even further down the road so that in some distant misinformed future Ferdinand Marcos might even be seen as a hero and his martial law regime as the best thing that ever happened to the Philippines. Published 01/05/2014