OpinionsEcon 101The Truth Commission

The Truth Commission


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P.Noy has announced he is creating a Truth Commission to be headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

Former President Joseph Estrada quickly pointed out the impartiality of Davide may be tainted because of his links to the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
He is not the only one who has reacted to the appointment; there are other concerns about Davide, and the nature of the Truth Commission itself.

In South Africa, a Truth Commission was instituted to heal the wounds of apartheid — the system of society where the whites were given privileges and preference, and persons of color were considered in a lower bracket, with a set of rights defined by law; as in, they were allowed to sit only at the back of public buses, use public toilets different from that of the whites, enroll only in schools for people of color, were not allowed to inter-marry with whites, etc.

Many crimes have been committed against the coloreds during that period. Eventually, after 27 years in jail, Nelson Mandela, leader of the colored struggle, became President of South Africa. Because of his history of suffering, Mandela had a different point of view about what to do when the coloreds overcame the years of oppression.

He wanted to unite his people, and rise above the hubris of violence, and move on as a nation. He succeeded because his Truth Commission was about people who were able to have their apartheid stories documented, and was composed of persons in government who were responsible to narrate the facts and circumstances of their participation, and the amends they were willing to make.

There were forms of restitution — payment for damages, seeking forgiveness from the victim, prosecution of the hardliners and incorrigibles.

A similar body was formed in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge-Pol Pot massacre regime, wherein at least one million people were summarily massacred, assassinated, or executed.

What does P. Noy want to achieve by creating a Truth Commission? The answer to that will determine the nature and mechanism that will empower the Truth Commission to define its duties and responsibilities.

Former Chief Justice Davide is in the unique position to view the assignment from a holistic viewpoint because of his personal history as a former opposition leader during the Marcos regime, a trusted ally of the late President Cory Aquino, the Chief Justice appointee of President Erap, presiding officer over the impeachment proceedings, and later, the one who administered the oath to the person (former President Arroyo) who ousted Erap.

As usual, Filipinos are saying in jest: “Why do we have to commission the Truth?”, probably alluding to a commission in monetary terms. This is a reaction borne out of the history of flagrant bribery and money politics of the past, which has caused the Truth to be buried.
Recall what the late Dean Coronel said: “What truth are you talking about? My truth, your truth, his truth, their truth? Madam, what truth are you talking about?”

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