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Cushy Senate nest

Plunder accused Jinggoy Estrada has gone and done what the Sandiganbayan earlier cleared him to do: file a demurrer seeking the court’s evaluation of the evidence presented by the prosecution. If by some legal legerdemain the demurrer is granted, the ex-senator who is out on bail for the supposedly nonbailable crime will see the charge going up in smoke and his P183-million plunder case dismissed.

Seriously. Operating on the “not the main plunderer” principle through which that wheelchair whiz Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came back from the dead. And, if the dark deed is done, truly joining forces with his comrade in arms Bong Revilla, who, curiously, was earlier acquitted of looting the pork barrel, in haranguing the electorate and barefacedly claiming clean hands: “Wala akong ninakaw ni sentimo sa taumbayan.”

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If the results of the most recent survey on the chances of certain senatorial candidates to make it to the “Magic 12” were to be the veritable Oracle, most of the Duterte administration’s anointed would be ensconced in top-of-the-line headquarters in Taguig City by July 2021. The planned 11-story building of four towers is estimated to cost at least P8 billion; it promises to keep such types as these two plunder indictees, the hick from tinsel town, the main man’s valet, or the dictator’s daughter—granting they make it, and the survey raises that terrible possibility—in the lap of luxury (to which they are, at any rate, accustomed, money being no stranger to them).

Is there no justice in this world? one might ask. Apparently not.

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The report run last month on the groundbreaking of the planned Senate headquarters would have merely moved exhausted observers to roll their eyes, except that it saw print while the metropolis was gripped in a startling water crisis that quite suddenly bit the public in the ass. Particularly hard-hit areas had residents bearing pails and palanggana, enduring long and winding queues for hours to collect murky water rationed by fire trucks: It’s a surreal spectacle in a country that claims impressive economic growth and where billions of pesos in taxpayer money are, if not funneled into pork barrel allocations for the queen of the House and her minions, allocated for imposing structures such as the planned Senate nest, or, the way it looks, used freely in the election campaign.

The photograph that accompanied the report showed the Senate president and other members of the chamber looking thrilled at viewing a model of the structure designed by American multinational engineering and architectural firm Aecom. Among the firm’s listed accomplishments are the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games in Brazil, the One World Trade Center in the United States, the Crossrail in London, and the Singapore Sports Hub, indicating that its services would by no stretch of the imagination be cheap.

At this time in the nation’s life, when improvements on the beaching ramp, the runway and other important infrastructure on Pag-asa Island are proceeding in fits and starts presumably for lack of funds, why is this building even being imagined, as though we were still in thrall to Imelda Marcos’ edifice complex?

In the Social Weather Stations survey commissioned by Stratbase ADR Institute, the top qualities that Filipino voters seek in senatorial candidates are “not corrupt,” “concern for the poor,” “good personal characteristics,” and “trustworthy,” according to the think tank’s president Dindo Manhit.

These refreshing survey results provide a glimmer of hope in the election campaign that is proceeding apace. The matter of plunder indictees eluding the long arm of the law, such as it is, or of the planned luxury building for senators, such as they are or will be, acquires heightened urgency. It’s time to get off the “road so crooked it could run for the legislature,” as William Least Heat-Moon wrote, although in quite another context.

More than ever, the candidates offering themselves to the electorate require strict  scrutiny, as though — and in fact it does — our children’s future depended on it. At the very least, why reward, under the brazen honesty-is-not-an-issue-during-elections banner, indicted looters, a woman so steeped in fraud that she fakes even academic credentials (indubitably her father’s daughter), a member of the shameless Cayetanos, even that ignorant screen idol, etc., with cushy headquarters rising above the throng?

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Inquirer Commentary, Jinggoy Estrada, plunder, pork barrel, Ramon Revilla Jr., Rosario A. Garcellano
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