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There’s the Rub

Challenged

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After Miriam Defensor-Santiago comes Alan Peter Cayetano.

Like Miriam, he says Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s gifts last Christmas were unlawful, engineered by Enrile’s, well, her official designation is chief of staff, her unofficial one is the woman in his life, Gigi Reyes. She has become so powerful, Cayetano says, she might as well be a senator, or indeed a supra one, being the alter ego of the Senate President who signs millions of pesos in disbursements in his name.

Like Miriam, he says, Enrile has a beef with him because he has stood for principle where Enrile has stood for villainy. In Miriam’s case, it was because Enrile was a martial law custodian whereas she was one of those who fought against it. In Cayetano’s case, it was because Enrile was a Gloria Arroyo stalwart whereas he was one of those who fought against her. “Let’s call a spade a spade. Why are you personally upset with me? It’s because you and Attorney Gigi are close to the former President and First Gentleman.”

Like Miriam, Cayetano has met with reprisal for his tirade. Enrile promptly got personal with him too. At the Senate floor, he waved a document that showed a P37-million unpaid debt Cayetano’s father, Rene, had apparently incurred as a partner in Enrile’s law firm. Enrile said he had personally authorized that loan so Rene could feed his family, with all its suggestions of profound ingratitude.

Like Miriam, Cayetano has been called a hypocrite for even hinting that Enrile’s gifts did not come up smelling of roses. It was Ping Lacson who expressly called Miriam that, asking why she found nothing wrong with the gifts in the past. It is Reyes who implicitly called Cayetano that, for the same reason. “It’s illegal? Why does he accept such gifts every year?”

All this makes you wonder at the future of two things.

The first is the future of the Senate to conduct hearings on corruption. Lacson points this out and concludes that it is dismal. “Our well-being, whether as institution or as individual senators, largely depends on public perception, our image.” That image has been badly tarnished by the trading of charges of unethical conduct between Enrile and Santiago and Cayetano. Where lies now the Senate’s moral ascendancy to investigate corruption?

Last time around, I said the problem with Miriam’s complaint against Enrile, an exceedingly valid and vital one, which is the notorious role he played during martial law, was that it owed to money, or division of spoils. What triggered her broadside was Enrile giving her less than the others. The same is true of Cayetano, which makes him just as vulnerable. His complaint about Enrile, an exceedingly valid and vital one, which is the notorious role he played during Arroyo’s regime, also owes to money, or division of spoils. That is suggested by his pointing out that Enrile bears him the greatest enmity. How has that enmity been expressed? By Enrile, or his chief of staff—he denies the romantic link but he also denies having said his ambush was fake—giving him less than the others.

Outside looking in, this isn’t really a quarrel over principle, this is a quarrel over money. The girian isn’t over katiwalian, it is over  hatian. True enough, you have to wonder how the public will react the next time the Senate hauls in someone for questioning or, worse, impeaching. That public is bound to end up sniggering and saying, “Physician, heal thyself.”

Far more importantly, all this makes you wonder about the future of P-Noy’s campaign against corruption.

At the very least, it’s not easy running after people—Arroyo is first in line—having a Senate caught in the pit of disguised corruption. Enrile’s gifts may be justified legally, but they may not be justified morally. Miriam is right: Why should you give the senators “supplemental budget” at the end of the year when their work is done? Enrile doesn’t make things better by trying to be cute and saying those gifts were just “lambing” to the senators. Why doesn’t he show the same lambing to the taxpayers? Why doesn’t he show the same cariño to the street children who brave the poisonous fumes and descend on vehicles to badger their occupants for a few coins particularly on Christmas?

Far more than that, lest we forget, most of the senators involved in this fracas were part of the coalition that government helped form in order to push along the impeachment of Renato Corona. It did not include Miriam (along with Joker Arroyo and Bongbong Marcos) who eventually voted not guilty. Impeaching Corona was the first step in clearing the way for the prosecution of Arroyo, a truly potentially huge step toward stifling corruption. Arguably, government had to be pragmatic too and make unholy alliances to accomplish its ends. The question now is just how unholy it was.

That coalition did get to convict Corona. But it also produced the unholy effect of making Enrile once again one of the most powerful men in the country. How powerful you see in Miriam’s and Cayetano’s revelations of another conjugal dictatorship. Indeed how powerful you see in P-Noy being compelled to attend Enrile’s book launching—justifiable too legally but not morally. Outside looking in, or downside looking up, it suggested giving blessings to hiding the past, mangling the past, denying the past.

Miriam and Cayetano are right: Enrile was a custodian of martial law, Enrile was a pillar of Arroyo’s rule, two of the nastiest things ever to have happened to this country. But he has been exalted while those who fought martial law have been humbled. He has been rewarded while those who fought Arroyo’s rule have been punished. And now we have turned him into a pillar in the fight against corruption. Can anything be battier?

And we call Miriam mentally challenged.


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Tags: Alan Peter Cayetano , Juan Ponce Enrile , Miriam Defensor Santiago , Philippines , politics , Senate



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