The Sandiganbayan’s despairing decision

 

Enrile, Revilla and Estrada, all accused of plunder over the multi-billion PDAF scam are now enjoying freedom.

This is about the latest decision of the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, acquitting former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla of plunder after the latter was accused of surreptitiously pocketing P224.5 million worth of kickbacks in what is now known as the country’s biggest corruption scandal involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a yearly lump sum or discretionary fund that members of Congress use for government programs to benefit the people, most especially the poor.

It used to be that before the Supreme Court nullified the PDAF, after the P10-billion pork barrel scam was uncovered, a senator and a member of the House of Representative were entitled to P200 million and P70 million  in PDAF, respectively.

One can just imagine, therefore, the enormous amount of money that Revilla, together with then senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, have squandered when the Commission on Audit (COA) found out in 2013 that each of their 2007-2009 PDAF went to phony non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ghost projects masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles, instead of being funneled to a legitimate government organization, as was the intention, to alleviate and improve the quality of lives of the poor Filipinos.

It was on this basis that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed plunder cases that ultimately led to their arrest.

But while Enrile was granted freedom for humanitarian reasons in 2015, being sickly and old, and Estrada freed in 2017, after the anti-graft court ruled that “there was no strong evidence” that he was the “main plunderer” in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, Revilla, however, stayed detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame until the announcement of his acquittal recently.

For many who have been yearning that convicting the three ex-senators for plunder will not only be a moral victory for the Filipino people, but a lesson taught for politicians to truly work for the interest of the people first as they have been sworn to do, the latest Revilla episode is indeed a very despairing decision. It simply means that acquittal also awaits Enrile and Estrada in due time.

We thought lady justice had finally snared the big fishes. Alas, like ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before them, they three got off the hook cheerfully to the dismay of many.

Yes, despairing, but does this mean giving up hope? Of course not!

You see, Enrile looks hale and hearty again and is in fact running for senator in 2019 elections. So is, Estrada and Revilla, who have always expressed their intentions to make a comeback at the propitious time.

On the part of the aggrieved Filipinos smarting from the seemingly unjust ruling, I could not see a more opportune time than in next year’s senatorial elections for them to exact retribution for Enrille’s, Estrada’s and Revilla’s misdeeds and dubious ambitions. All we have to do now is start talking and convincing other people that this is going to be payback time and not having any of them and their ilk elected to the senate ever again is doing our country a big favor.

This is a collective exercise of poetic justice at its best.

 

 

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Santo Rodrigo

President Rodrigo Duterte

Time and again the nation, nay the whole world, gets dumbfounded every time President Rodrigo Duterte utters outrageous or ridiculous comments which many deem unpresidential.

But when was Duterte ever presidential – from the way he wears formal clothes, like the barong tagalog or coat and tie, or even in the way he delivers impromptu speeches and interacts with his audience, what with his ever ready vulgar words to run off at the mouth?

Fortunately we are not bound by rules of electing president based on being dapper or silver-tongued and, thus, Duterte was elected overwhelmingly by many who identified with him as a simple, unpretentious and inarticulate person, but whose leadership has been the envy of every politician in the country the way he transformed Davao City from bedlam to a peaceful and livable place.

It is no surprise therefore that what people see in Duterte is what they get, warts and all, even as our president, because as the old cliché goes, “you cannot teach old dogs new tricks”, especially a stubborn ‘dog’ like Duterte.

And so we tolerate and accept, and even laugh, at the banter that Duterte dishes out when he senses that he has connected with the audience, like when he cursed the Pope and called God “stupid”.

Duterte’s latest caper was when he questioned the celebration of All Saints’ Day alleging that the saints Filipinos were worshiping were fools and drunkards and to be sure that they are venerating the real deal Duterte suggested that they get a picture of his and idolize him instead by calling him Santo Rodrigo.

Clearly this is a joke and no one should lose sleep over it. Had Duterte been a natural born comic and knew how to deliver his punch lines, nobody would be questioning his act.

But because he is the president known for delivering uncouth language, the simon-pure in us insists and expects Duterte to show an exemplary demeanor befitting his position.

Duterte may be unpresidential when compared to those before him, but what he lacks in style he compensates it with important traits of a president which is to have not only the knowledge and acumen of his job but also the political will to go after the problems plaguing the country no matter how controversial, unpopular and deadly it may be. This is what makes him stand out from the others.

At the end of the day the reality is that a well-intentioned sitting president is the person who could lead us to salvation from our long agonizing woes and not the veneration we offer the saints who many believe helps in assuaging man’s suffering soul.

So, Santo Rodrigo, any one?

Of course I am joking!

Preserving our sanity

 

Every time elections are held in this country we always find ourselves at the crossroads where our sanity is being tested to the limit.

It used to be that there were only two political parties to choose from where its respective leaders running it and endorsing their candidates share common values and ideals about the party and the same mission and vision for the interest of the nation and its people.

Election was never a complicated process then as those selected as candidates on both sides were competent and able and had no other motivation but to serve the people in earnest.

It was always fulfilling to have exercised ones freedom of suffrage then knowing that whoever wins will perform to the best of his ability and according to the moral beliefs of the party he represents, which translates to the aspirations of the people.

Alas, elections today have become a political circus of sorts – entertaining, yet confusing and unnerving not only because of the numerous political parties coalescing/aligning with one another but more so because of the wide differences in the nature, character and notoriety of candidates running for office.

There is need therefore for every Filipino to be convinced that in order to preserve ones sanity in the upcoming 2019 elections we have to examine our own consciences and determine the best candidates who will be able to help Pres. Rodrigo Duterte accomplish the programs he has set forth for the country during his term of office.

It is still a long time until Duterte’s presidency expires in 2022 and there is nothing more important than to ensure that there are no personal or political hindrances in the country’s march to progress.

There is no doubt that Duterte’s popularity comes from his out-of-the-box type of governance that is being recognized and accepted by the people as what is propelling the country forward and the only way to keep it moving positively is to have newly elected people in government that could contribute fresh and doable ideas for what the president has envisioned for the country.

What is harmful to our sanity is when we allow ourselves to be suckers of pretentious candidates – young, old and very old – who because of their seeming closeness to Duterte are making a pitch of their usefulness, but in reality have continuing hidden agenda of their own.

For sanity sake, let us vote in the coming 2019 elections intelligently and judiciously.

 

 

The privilege of voting

National election is always a day of reckoning for the country.

There is one coming up fast in 2019 and already we have seen a number of candidates who are aspiring to become a senator.

There will only be 12 senatorial seats to be contested and hopefully the Filipinos will find unity in electing the best and the brightest among them who will not only represent the voice of the people but will fight for them as well in all manner, shape and form.

Voting is a privilege, but it is also our responsibility to ensure that out of this right we are able to      choose the candidates who can best serve the interests of the country and its people more than his own – that he can truly be called a servant leader.

Who should, therefore, qualify to become a worthy senator?

Understanding that the senate is where important laws of the land are deliberated and crafted, it immediately signals the brain that we ought to elect candidates who have the capacity, capability and the competence to perform the job that is highly expected of them.

Electing candidates because of their celebrity status or household name, as we had been wont to doing, should no longer be the norm. Almost always it does not translate to worthiness.

It cannot be denied that some political parties nudge the famous and the wealthy to run because it wants to take advantage of their popularity for political gain, but in so doing does a big disservice to the country for it belies the real intention of putting the interest of the country first.

It does not serve the country well either if we keep on “recycling” past senators or what is aptly called the has-beens that we are in the habit of doing, as if they are the best we have ever had.

This is especially true when sometime in the past their names have been linked to some outrageous and shameful activity, the likes of the scandalous proportion of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

There never is a dearth of senatorial candidates worthy of our trust and confidence because of their qualification, but, alas, we always go for the mediocre as if their main job is to grandstand and amuse the electorate.

Perhaps it is wise to remember that whoever we elect senators is a reflection of who we are as people and how serious and determined we are in attaining prosperity for the country and making a positive difference in the lives of the Filipinos.

Electing senators in 2019 and beyond

 

Senatorial positions are again at stake in the upcoming May 2019 elections and this early we are already seeing political parties either floating or identifying names of candidates that could at best boost and make appealing the image of their party to insure political gains.

Sadly and disturbingly, however, some political party leaders continue resisting in adapting better ways of promoting the embodiment of their respective parties, like selecting candidates with impeccable character and tract record, but rather contented, as usual, with representations that leave voters aghast and wondering whether or not their candidates could make a difference in the country’s future.

The motivation in doing so simply points to the fact that what is really promoted is the self-serving interest and survival of the party as oppose to what it should be which is putting the welfare of the country first and foremost over any other political consideration.

For decades now we had been seeing presidents come and go, yet their lack of strong leadership has failed this country such that we see ourselves always lagging behind among our neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

I am sure other countries have the same continuing inherent problems that we had been confronting all these years, like corruption, criminality, insurgency and illegal drugs, for that matter, but the lack of courage, resolve and political will from those we have elected to lead our country have always been our downfall.

We have finally come to realize that electing a traditional politician (trapo) to be at the helm of government is not the answer to our political, economic and social woes and this was proven when the Filipinos overwhelmingly opted to elect the unconventional Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as president in 2016.

Compared to past presidents Duterte stands head and shoulders over his predecessors, even as he finds himself only in his third year in office, in the way he has governed and positioned the country in the world stage.

The fact that Duterte has maintained a high trust and satisfaction rating to this day simply means that his leadership is acceptable and, thus, has won the moral ascendancy to continue guiding the country the way he sees fit until he could turn it around for the better.

Having said that, it now behooves on us all to extend to Duterte our full support/cooperation and ensure that we elect senators in 2019 whose integrity and competence are beyond question so that they could ably assist the president in making his plans come true for the country.

All I am saying, therefore, is let us not become victims anymore of their chicanery and finally put a stop of recycling former senators whose celebrity status and/or notorious reputation are their only means of getting elected, but whose integrity, competence and dedication remains suspicious at best and at worst, ineffective, as gleaned from their past performances.

It is about time we make choices for senators whose ideas could integrate with Duterte’s plan of making a meaningful and lasting difference for the country and in the lives of the greater number of Filipinos.

Duterte’s incorruptible and resolute leadership is being noticed in the community of nations and it is only appropriate, as it is reasonable, that those who we elect as senators in 2019 and beyond to write and pass laws, approve presidential appointments, etc., are equally sincere, reliable and competent.

 

Duterte wrong in making Trillanes a political martyr

 

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Antonio Trillanes

President Rodrigo Duterte may be a shrewd politician but his promulgation this time of Proclamation 572 ordering the police and the military to file criminal and administrative cases against Sen. Antonio Trillanes in connection with his involvement in 2003 Oakwood mutiny and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege is a grieve mistake that he will come to regret later.

There is no doubt that Trillanes has been a thorn in Duterte’s side ever since the latter thwarted the former’s political ambition of becoming his vice presidential running mate during the 2016 presidential election.

As swell-headed as Trillanes is as a politician, he recognized earlier the ‘bankability’ of Duterte as a presidential candidate and being a heartbeat away from the presidency was where he wanted himself positioned. It was for political expediency, pure and simple.

Duterte, however, know who Trillanes is and the latter’s military adventurism in the early 2000 may not have sit well with him, and neither his performance as a senator impressed him, thus he deemed Trillanes more as a baggage that could drag him down in the polls and therefore unacceptable.

This rebuff from Duterte did not deter Trillanes from running as an independent candidate and true enough he suffered the worst beating of his political career placing 5th among the 6 vice presidential aspirants.

To the cavalier Trillanes this humiliating defeat made him, along with another shamed senator, Leila de Lima, Duterte’s fiercest critics, with the former even going after the president’s children.

Of course we know how Trillanes got catapulted to the political limelight – his notoriety as leader of the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege which both aimed to overthrow the Arroyo administration.

Knowing at the time that the Filipinos were starting to get disgruntled with the corrupt administration of then Pres. Gloria Arroyo, Trillanes took advantage of the situation by playing with the emotions of the people, even as he faced serious rebellion charges, by declaring himself a candidate for senator in 2007.

Known for having affinity for underdogs, the Filipino people elected Trillanes senator of the realm even as his incarceration prevented him from going around the country campaigning.

Trillanes formally became a senator when President Benigno Aquino III, with the concurrence of Congress, granted him and at least 38 of his fellow Magdalo soldiers amnesty in December 2010. He was reelected to a second Senate term in 2013 and will remain as senator until his term ends in 2019.

But the nation finds itself once again in bedlam now as Duterte, through proclamation 572, has voided the amnesty given to Trillanes 8 years ago claiming it illegal from the very beginning.

Why, if Trillanes is indeed a pain in the ass for Duterte, does the senator have to be silenced this way? Does this not smack of political persecution?

This is why at the outset I said that Duterte may regret later to have taken this action because this kind of political repression only elevates and favorably changes the perception of the people about Trillanes.

It is because of Duterte’s high popularity and trust ratings that Trillanes has been preparing for his political demise.

But that seems to be changing now as Proclamation 572 is helping Trillanes regain his popularity and will be around for much longer to continue being Duterte’s tormentor.

This is the price Duterte has to pay for making Trillanes a political martyr.

 

 

Performance over intelligence

Sen. Antonio Trillanes and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

In this day and age, Philippine politics is no longer about a candidate’s brilliant mind being noticed and catapulted to political stardom. It is now a free-for-all and it is not doing the country any good.

If the millennials are part of this readership, I would refer them to the era of the intellectual giants where the likes of Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Sumulong, Ambrosio Padilla, the Tañadas, the Pelaez’, the Tolentinos, the Manglapus, the Rodrigos, Gerardo Roxas, Jovito Salonga, Benigno Aquino Jr., among others, and even Ferdinand Marcos, who later became a dictator, graced the august body of the Senate not with their bloated egos, but with their brilliance and gift of gab.

Except for Marcos whose brutal regime ended disastrously for the country and its people, the other illustrious names mentioned above could have done a better job as president of the country but, alas, it never was their destiny to lead.  Or how could they when Marcos stifled their chances of becoming one.

Politics in this country evolved into one that has kept us thinking if we could do any better than electing movie stars, TV personalities, military people and others that have earned notoriety for one reason or another to the Senate and catapulting them to the presidency.

But more than the glaring flaw of the candidates in this new era, we can only blame the electorate for accepting and embracing the inadequacies of our present politicians and trusting them to lead us to nirvana.

Thus, in this day and age, performance matters more than the intelligence of any politician.

It is not therefore whether President Rodrigo Duterte is more intelligent than Senator Antonio Trillanes, or vice versa. I just find this argument childish, if not absurd.

Between the two we could only ask whose performance is impacting the nation today?

It should sink in Trillanes’ head by now that Duterte won the presidency because of his performance as Davao City mayor and his mission and vision to do the same to the country as a whole. His term is not yet over so we will see and give him the benefit of the doubt.

But it should even sink more in Trillanes’ head by now that his unsuccessful run for the vice presidency in 2016, placing 5th among the 6 candidates, speaks volume of the kind of person he is and his uneventful performance as a politician.