Madame John Quincy Adams?


By W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla*


The sixth American president, like GMA, was the child of a previous president: John Quincy Adams was son to second president John Adams. After he lost his bid for reelection in 1828 to the populist Andrew Jackson, he bided his time looking for ways to be useful to the young republic, and stood for election in 1830 to the House of Representatives as a candidate from his home state of Massachusetts.

Is there another parallel emerging? We hear that the 14th president of this republic plans to stand for election to the Filipino House of Representatives from her home province of Pampanga. Is this a horrific loss of face—to go from palace to mere Batasan? Well, Adams refused to consider it as such, and as Congressman Adams in fact achieved far more than as President Adams. His was the essential and eloquent voice against slavery throughout his 17 years in the House, and he is remembered as one of the preeminent men of principle in the history of American politics. So we guess the parallel has already become dubious.

For we know that Congress is not all that GMA has in mind. Hers has been a relentless search for ways to remain in power, and we haven’t found a single suggestion here in Manila that it is because she so deeply wants to serve her country. Rather, it is usually suggested, she doesn’t wish to serve it in jail. For a single page of paper issued by the department of justice can instigate a search for any properties she or any member of her family may have obtained—even with a smidgen of evidence—of laundered or otherwise unlawfully gained funds.

Here’s what could happen. An unfriendly successor in Malacanang can authorize the DOJ to empower any investigator abroad to go to a court (say, in San Francisco) with the slightest of proof that a building was so obtained, and the court will in all likelihood freeze the ownership of this house or building, preventing its sale. The investigator can then go to that American court and through a complicated but brief process demand under oath an accounting for all funds used to acquire it (it’s called ‘Discovery’ in America). The resulting bank records, of course, can be used to follow the flow of funds all over the world. One can hide one end of a bank record—but not both ends—and the resulting search can take the investigator all over the world to discover all related funds in cut-out companies, holding firms, banks, or any other entity used to acquire properties or equities with illegal monies. The results can be, might well be, devastating.

Globalization has proceeded in international law at a breathtaking pace in recent years. Government ministers can be arrested in any of a number of countries. Israeli ministers do not, for this reason, travel to Belgium, which has ‘friendly’ laws for seizing persona of governments so accused. Small wonder Robert Mugabe doesn’t travel without previous assurances of legal immunity. The United States kidnapped the Panamanian head of state; a San Francisco court convicted the former prime minister of Ukraine on 27 counts of felony connected with his acquisition of about $40m of properties in the Bay Area and he has spent quite a time in jail or otherwise restricted there.

Apparently Mrs. Arroyo knows all this. It’s no wonder she wants the protection of high office. But at what cost to the Republic? Her problem though is a different one. A friendly successor can promise her immunity here in the Philippines, but that’s worth nothing abroad. Any properties she or her family hold abroad can be scrutinized for any illegality.

In this instance of course she can avoid travel to the accusing country, but that might be a bit of a problem if she, say for example as prime minister of a newly-formed parliamentary republic, wishes to address the United Nations (or enjoy the properties members of her family are thought to possess abroad).

Now John Quincy Adams didn’t have any of these problems. Though his family wasn’t poor—they’d been merchants prior to Father’s presidency—he didn’t have properties abroad or much at home. But he had honor, honor to burn. And his descendants—though two of his sons had painful careers trying to carry family honor—included the great Charles Francis Adams, diplomat and writer, whose namesakes continue to brighten the Boston skyline.

There is a parallel with the sixth American president for the fourteenth president to consider. She could run for Congress, and of course win, and then serve with honor in the manner that her ample professional qualifications allow her—the macroeconomic record of her presidency is very impressive. She and her family could continue to serve the Philippines in a way that causes no ugly rumors to emerge. One presumes that her financial problems aren’t great; it’s the legal ones that bother her. But if she began anew, let us say in the style of her incorruptible father, she could burnish the golden side of her record impressively—and our guess is that no one would dare challenge her legally. When you have honor on your side, even if it emerges only latterly, foreign courts just aren’t too interested in incarcerating you. And the American president would surely then welcome such a person—it is all too well known that Barack Obama spurned her initial attempts for a meeting simply because of the tarnish that lingers over her presidency.

Eight years ago, it was written that Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo had an unparalleled opportunity to leave a fantastic legacy, since she almost certainly had most of a decade to do it from Malacanang. It’s never too late to start.


*Oliver Geronilla, a Bulaneño and  co-author of Dr. W. Scott Thompson (a former US Assistant Secretary of State), is a senior language instructor of  Han Maum Academy, Philippines. He has been teaching ESL since 2000.

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6 thoughts on “Madame John Quincy Adams?

  1. Thank you Oliver and Mr. Scott for posting this article in Bulan Observer. May you come back with more such commentaries. And welcome back to Bulan-Online Community, Oliver, and we really hope you would join the bulan observers and share us your talent in writing and so help reach out the young people in Bulan to open up and join us here.

    There are many things we cannot change in Bulan. But at least we try to offer our people a platform where we all can meet and discuss freely. Where we say what we want to say, not what others want to hear.
    Now about Arroyo and your pieces of advice for her to retain her honor.

    I have no interest in politician laundering or recycling, therefore, no need to cling to Arroyo despite her economic records. There are enough brilliant economists in the Philippines with good character who could be president. Arroyo lacked the sincerity in her character that’s why she wasted that “unparalleled opportunity to leave a fantastic legacy” in her almost a decade in Malacañang.

    If there are many things we cannot change in Bulan, character is one thing that we cannot change anymore in Arroyo. And she was all too consistent in proving that to the Filipino people for many years. If she accomplished something good also, I don’t see anything special in that for she must, and ought to have done more, for it is expected of a president. So we reserve our Utang na loob to somebody else who deserves it. Arroyo insulted the Filipino mind for several times and so we cannot expect the same mind to be thankful to her.
    That’s slavery.

    From Malacañang to Congress so that after that she comes out clean and pardoned for all her legal problems? She should have advised this to Estrada before. I would have more respect to Arroyo if during and after her term she had more money problems than legal problems for this would have been the best proof that she wasn’t corrupt and worked sincerely as president- a situation common to all other public officials and employees who left their service without stealing from the government. Think of our countless unknown policemen, teachers and politicians who retired without legal problems- and with empty wallets, but with honor that gives them peace and pride to the end of their lives.

    I think that corrupt politicians leaving their office belong to jail- and not to Congress. Congress is not a jail, a laundry room or a recycling center but a legislative institution, part of that democratic system of check and balances, where the representatives of the people should be working- and therefore ought to be respected- and not be offered as a safe haven to criminals. This would be another insult to the Filipno mind if she would end up in Congress to continue protecting her dynastic interests instead of being tried in court for all her mess and be divested of her unexplained wealth and properties.

    That parallelism with John Quincy Adams is not correct for the starting argument was not the same: John Quincy Adams was not a corrupt president and so sending him to the house of the representative was not an insult to the American people but- on the contrary- a great honor to the American people and of great use for he worked hard and accomplished many things in the senate- among others for the abolition of slavery.

    And to call her Madame John Quincy Adams is a dishonor to the late John Quincy Adams whose children themselves- honorable in their own right- had problems with the burning legacy of honor their father had left the world. And I think even Arroyo would refuse the honest compliment for it is simply too obvious and too much that it sounds more as a joke and insult to Arroyo.

    Qou vadis Arroyo? Not to Congress- but to another place she rightly belongs.

    jun asuncion

  2. “So we guess the parallel has already become dubious.” Wrote by Mr. Thompson and Mr. Geronilla. Absolutely! John Quincy Adams was a respectable, honorable, honest, compassionate, just and a man of integrity. He was one of honorable member of U.S. congress who pushed the resolution of the AMISTAD debacle.

    John Quincy Adams life’s work had a significant impact on the application of true and profound concept of justice. He believed on the “Inalienable Rights of Man”and justice for all. Even the Africans that were sold as slaves had rights and were given the opportunity to be defended by lawyers. That was justice at its best!

    On the other hand, our President is entirely the opposite.We read so much scandals and corruptions that plague the government, sometimes, it feels like nobody wants to read the newspaper anymore. It is the same news, nothing new. It is all corruption all over the country. Where are the honest uncorruptable candidates for President? Do we have any? I think, I have a few potential candidates in mind who seems to have integrity and have honorable character. One in mind is the Senator from Sorsogon. but we’ll see.

    Salamatonon tabi sa iyo gabos.


  3. Thank you Oliver and Dr. Scott for your articles. Our readers and bulan observers are surely glad that you have joined the community. Your first article already hit the “top chart”. Your next one VFA: a Lick and a Promise? will be published soon. We just give a little more time to Tonyboy’s entry The Pawa Hospital Issue to occupy the front page for all to read and post their comments.
    Thank you and until next time.

    jun asuncion

  4. I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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