Gloria Arroyo and the Hitler Complex

We are forever frustrated by the continued existence of Gloria Arroyo as President. But would you have stood up to Hitler’s Germany? And can you really stand up to Arroyo’s Philippines?

“And where were you, comrade Khruschev, when all this was happening?” “Who said that?”   No one answered. Khruschev smiled, and replied, “You have proven my point.  I was in the same position as you are in now.”

–Nikita Khruschev, attributed during his speech denouncing Stalin

The Nuremberg Defense

Nuremburg, 1945. The victorious Allied commanders held a large trial for war crimes charges against the survivors of the political organ of Germany, called the Nazi Party. Adolf Hitler, its maniacal spiritual leader, had jumped the gun by committing suicide a few weeks earlier. The trial therefore focused on his subordinates, and the immediate military and political leaders of the government.

The generals, almost to a man, were embittered by defeat, and wanted to distance themselves from Hitler as much as they could. They denounced him, cursed him, and described his “unquenchable madness”. They were not real Nazis, they were generals, they reasoned, who hated his persona and his tyranny over them. One surprise in the trial’s course was the spirited, and singular defense of Hitler by his “second-in-command”: Goring. Deemed incompetent as an air marshal, and a caricature of corruption within the Party and government circles, he proved himself more than formidable in legal parley with the Allied litigants. He decried the “treachery” of the others, and persistently alleged that they never did anything wrong; they were following the orders of the Fuhrer, and at that time, he embodied German law.

Adolf Hitler was the legitimate leader of Germany. Through legal backdoor dealings, and intrigues, he was appointed the Chancellor. President Hindenburg vested the emergency powers to him in response to the “Reichstag incident”. The Nazis took control of Parliament through elections, and not forceful, extra-legal means. He represented a lawful government. The German generals, therefore, owed loyalty to the Fuhrer. And, legitimately, he began to penetrate every facet of German life, making it a virtual Spartan state. No man could defy Hitler’s orders; that would go against the German law at the time. How could they resist, in an environment of fear? And who were they to resist a legal decree?

The Nuremberg trial concluded that this was not enough; every man was bound by natural law—that they had a duty to defy Hitler if it went against this law. This is an ideal principle; but how would you have implemented it?

This is how the “men of the bureaucracy” in the Philippines justify their continued allegiance to Czarina Arroyo. Secretary Neri, by his own admissions, detests the “culture of corruption”, yet refuses to defy his Chief Executive. Why should he? She was the legitimate President, and he still follows orders. He represents the larger part of the silent, top brass within the Executive Branches. No, not everyone is a “bigwig”, who is in his office through political favors and almost does nothing but enrich himself through the siphoning off of public funds. Some take the bribe not out of greed, but out of duty. Who were they to refuse an order (albeit implied) from the Office itself?

The sad reality is that these men, in being moved through indirect channels by the President, or any other element of the Executive Body, are actually doing lawful duty. Chairman Abalos, in his capacity as COMELEC head, negotiated with the other major players of the ZTE-NBN under these orders. Sure, he was ready to take the money, but there was also the fact that it was an order. Its lawfulness is merely a question of semantics. He was following orders, and no more. That was why he resisted little when they eased him out to serve as “scapegoat.” The even sadder reality is that those who do defy the corrupt practices are the violators of the law. The Garci whistleblower is actually liable for sedition and wiretapping; the Hyatt 10 and elements of the Church are liable for treason or inciting to sedition, as the case may be.

So, yes, the choice to a government official is often whether to do what is lawful or what is right. No doubt, this was the contention of the local governors, and officials at the duration of the Marcos nightmare. It’s an airtight case. They were doing their job, he was the President and he had control of the army; so why be a hero? Orders were simply orders.

The Luck of Tyrants

Eventually, the German generals were faced with that ultimate question: why did you not stop Hitler? Why didn’t anyone defy him? The generals, apart from saying that he was their legitimate leader, would say that at one point in time they did think of getting rid of Hitler. Felix Steiner, (the man that caused Hitler’s final breakdown) even once proposed, in the comfort of the small army circles, to kidnap Hitler, and declare him mentally insane. What paralyzed these generals from acting, was fear; not only of what the Fuhrer was capable of, but to what future it will lead Germany. Politically decapitated, Germany would be at the mercy of the “Tatar” Soviets.

Additionally, the generals of Hitler’s time had the burden of “Christian nerves”. The dictator himself professed to a strange sort of atheistic-paganism. Those who did plot against Hitler were always on edge at the thought of murder, and the collateral casualties. They wanted to make the plans perfect, but not enough to tweak their “moral fibers”. There were occasions when plotters would decide to blow themselves up, taking Hitler with them, only to be thwarted by “Christian nerves”. Stauffenburg himself, the man who came closest to killing Hitler, left the bunker before he could make sure the bomb really did blow off in the Fuhrer’s face.

There was also the added element of the “Hitler government”. Not only did they want Hitler dead; they wanted to make sure that the likes of Goring and Goebbels would not be able to seize power, and inflict terrible reprisals upon the hapless German population, or to the ranks of the German army. So, yes, there was a time that Hitler was at the mercy of the assassins, but Goebbels, Himmler, or Goring was there. Fearing that the dictator’s death wasn’t enough, they cancelled it.

This is then why, for all her protestations of fear, Czarina Arroyo herself would not be assassinated. She continually trumpets this in the face of her detractors: her primary rival in the 2004 election is dead; the major members of the Opposition are not themselves “clean”, and individually are not universally supported. Her Vice President is deemed by many as an “incompetent”, and until recently “had no spine”. There are insurrections in the provinces by the Reds, and separatists in the South. Only strong leadership could replace strong leadership. So who was there?

And if they did assassinate her, how were they sure that the “Arroyo government” would not order reprisals? We have our local collection of Goering, Goebbels and Himmler—the First Gentleman, the major figures in the Executive Branches, and the major military leaders. Indeed, when Marcos was toppled, there were many more years when elements of the military, the local governments, and civil sectors plotted to bring him back. This was why former President Aquino prevented the dictator’s early homecoming. He would have become a rally point to the dissidents.

It’s a Race

In light of all this, we are still obliged to be vigilant. Many people would ask: why continue? The elections are two years away; like her counterpart George W. Bush, she has only this one term left. But remember that we are talking about an “Arroyo government”. How are we to know that Czarina Arroyo would not control the Philippine government from the sidelines, the same way Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore? There are also the earnest efforts among elements of her government to push through “Charter Reform”, to ensure their continued tenure in power. The point is, two years is two years away, and a lot can still happen in that span.

That’s why the Opposition continues to resist her, and find ways to overthrow her. Not only for the sake of vindication; it is also to ensure that they could sooner dismantle the “Arroyo government” and make sure that the next elections would indeed represent the people’s voice. No one can get her to quit. She, like Hitler before her, can always claim “divine appointment”.