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Two weeks ago, upon the invitation of MTRCB chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares, I attended the birthday mass for his father the late Fernando Poe Jr. at the Manila North Cemetery.

The event attracted media attention not just because it was attended by former president and FPJ buddy Joseph Estrada and newly proclaimed senator Koko Pimentel but because FPJ himself was back in the limelight six years after his death.

Indeed, there is renewed public interest in FPJ because it appears he really should have been the 14th president of the Republic. Recent revelations about the sophisticated fraud committed by Comelec officials, political operators, local warlords, the military and the police involving the results of the 2004 presidential elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) compel us to reexamine what really happened, hold those involved accountable, and initiate greater reforms in our electoral system.

To be sure, there is already a public consensus on what happened. In 2004, then Pres. Arroyo and her allies, fearing an FPJ victory, pulled out all the stops to subvert the elections. Official resources and funds were utilized – PhilHelath, OWWA, PAGCOR, PCSO, and DA through its fertilizer fund program – to bankroll GMA’s campaign.

But that was not enough. On the day of the elections, FPJ won in nearly all provinces, save for pockets where the GMA cheating machinery was solidly in place – the so-called PCIB provinces of Pampanga, Cebu, Iloilo and Bohol. Thus the need to make that phone call to a Comelec commissioner to “ensure that I will lead by more than one million.”

Enter “Hello Garci” and the massive dagdag-bawas in the ARMM. The cheating extended till after the counting – in January 2006 – when a special team of police officers broke into the House of Representatives to stuff the ballot boxes with manufactured election returns, in case FPJ”s protest prospered and a reopening of the ballot boxes were done.

Unfortunately, previous efforts to reveal the full extent and detail of the cheating and hold those involved accountable were prevented by the Arroyo regime, for obvious reasons. Impeachment became a dead end, with the Administration being so brazen as to give each congressmen P500,000 in paper bags just to seal their support.

Congressional investigations became a dead end as well, with Executive Order 464 and subsequent orders preventing military and civilian officials from testifying. President Arroyo did order the military to investigate its generals through the Mayuga Commission, which then proceeded to whitewash its findings and whose full report was never released to the public till last week.

With official avenues for redress closed, civil society organizations created an independent Citizens Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) in 2006, which was able to investigate the 2004 poll fraud, human rights violations, and other anomalies of the Arroyo presidency. But its findings were never recognized by any government body.

Thus, it is only now that we will be able to have an honest to goodness investigation into the matter. It is only now that, hopefully, closure can be achieved and justice done.

The question now is, why bother? Arroyo is not the president anymore and FPJ is dead. What’s the use of bringing this all out again?

In his homily during last Saturday’s mass, Fr. Larry Faraon made a very important point. “Bakit, sino ba ang nadaya, si FPJ? Hindi. Tayo ang nadaya at buhay pa tayo.”

That, I guess, is the crux of the matter. We need to investigate the 2004 election cheating, prosecute and punish the guilty and initiate reforms for the sake of the thousands, if not millions of voters whose will was subverted in 2004 and who will most likely be future victims of the same fraud machineries unless they are dismantled.

FPJ’s ghost is now resting in peace. Let him be. The fight for truth, accountability and social reforms is for the living, not the dead.#

One thought on “The ghost of FPJ

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