Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Inquirer Editorial

Editorial : The key?

Inquirer News Service

INCREDIBLE and implausible. That's what the Palace says of the testimony of Michaelangelo Zuce. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself has dismissed his testimony as the kind that's … la carte, meaning basically for sale.

But that's precisely why the testimony seems so engaging: if it has been scripted, it's better written than what's been peddled so far. And if it's for sale, then it may have enough truth to it, to be a hot property indeed.

With the low level of credibility all sides suffer from, the latest in a series of whistle-blowers paraded (or soon to be paraded) before Congress has one thing going for him: a proliferation of allegations that can be easily subjected to verification. Zuce has provided an interminable list of names, numbers, events and locations, all of which should lead to other witnesses who can verify-or demolish-his testimony. While MalacaƱang naturally wants to emphasize the witness' lack of importance in the political scheme of things, it can't avoid the fact that he once merited employment in a politically sensitive office. Neither can it avoid being put in the uncomfortable position of hearing the testimony of someone who at least has enough knowledge to come up with a tale that includes the President herself as a character, however the tale has been embroidered.

MalacaƱang ought to be very careful about impugning the testimony of Zuce, simply on the basis of his having been a low-level operative or even a flunky. Our class-conscious society suffers from the delusion, common among the powerful, that their flunkies don't think and thus don't realize the full importance of what their employers do and say in front of them. Reporters routinely resort to interviewing waiters, janitors and household help to verify the movements and actions of people in the news. There is no reason a low-ranking fly (admittedly, a pretty big and not very inspiring one) wouldn't have information damaging to his former superiors.

Unlike Ador Mawanay, who was easily proven to be a liar, or Sandra Cam, who has been easily proven to have the goods on retired Police Chief Supt. Restituto Mosqueda but no one else, except through hearsay, this new witness has made allegations that can be subjected to verification, at least on a circumstantial basis, on many levels. Reporters and other journalists have been feasting on Zuce's testimony precisely because his stories can be subjected to verification-and, conversely, be debunked-in many instances. What is interesting, in fact, about Zuce's allegations is that it's marked throughout by the pedestrian nature of the corruption he claims to have taken place, and in which he participated. In contrast to Cam's exaggerated claims involving millions of pesos in bribe money, Zuce speaks of "gifts" in the range of tens of thousands of pesos: it is more believable that a person as piddling as the Palace says Zuce is would only have handled, and known of, relatively small sums. There is, after all, a hierarchy even among political crooks.

Certainly, by his own testimony, Zuce was a petty political crook, and undertook apparently unsavory tasks. Administration officials even say he wasn't a particularly hard worker, and didn't seem worth keeping on the payroll. Even his co-workers seem to have a low opinion of him. He is the kind of big-talking, wheeling-and-dealing posturer whose usefulness is so short-lived as to make it undesirable to keep giving him crumbs.

But all this doesn't mean he didn't see or hear something. It also means, that alone among the witnesses who have come forward so far, he is the only one the Palace can't deny as having come from within its fold. Thus, if he is such a disgraceful individual, it doesn't speak highly of his employers that they once found him worthy of being paid out of the public purse.

In the end, Zuce's testimony particularly in the impeachment trial, if it should come to that, will speak for itself. Either it will be proven to be a series of weak links, or links that make the chain stronger. After all the noise, this seems to be the only testimony that shows the potential of truly causing sleepless nights in the Palace.

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