Better weird than never
I had thought of writing about it earlier, but it got waylaid by far more important things. “It” is the minor version of Pacquiao vs. Rios, which is the match between Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. What waylaid it was the passing of Nelson Mandela, which put everything on hold, as it should. It’s not just that some things are more important than others, it’s that this was a case of choosing between the sublime and the paralytic. I chose the sublime.
But time now to get back to the paralytic. What can I say? I’ve been vastly entertained by the spat between Enrile and Santiago this last couple of weeks and greatly mind the people who have been trying to break them apart on the ground that their behavior has been most un-parliamentary—indeed, on the ground that their language, which has lapsed into name-calling or finding more inventive ways of depicting one another’s unsavoriness, has been most lamentable—want to have their privilege speeches stricken off the records.
Why? I can’t think of either of them doing the public a better public service than this. At the very least better that they are funny than irritating, better that they offer a spectacle of themselves than a monstrosity of themselves. The Pacquiao-Rios fight was of course one-sided, this one has not been so. Though as trading put-downs goes, I’d give the edge to Enrile. His demolition of Santiago was not without its hilarious moments, particularly the part about their relative “asim” or hotness. Santiago’s weakness in things like this has always lain in her being humorless, mistaking calling people names with wit, mistaking an audience laughing at her with an audience laughing with her. Ang pikon talo.
While at this, it gives off a whiff of karma. Certainly the people Santiago has bullied in the Senate—in the impeachment cases against Erap and Renato Corona and in various hearings—hurling insults, shouting at those who have caught her ire, or even throwing them out of the gallery will catch that whiff. Nakahanap din ng katapat, as we say. She’s met her match.
But more importantly, why want their words stricken off the record? Their colleagues miss the point completely, seeing the form for the content, seeing the outrageous conduct for the outrageous deeds. What is thoroughly unparliamentary in fact is not that they have been calling each other names, it is what they have been accusing each other of. If true, or if they can prove their accusations to be true, then we have two of the longest-serving senators in the Senate who are crooks, liars and human rights violators. Which is something most Filipinos have known, or suspected, all along.
That is what’s not very parliamentary, to say the least. I do not particularly mind that lawmakers lack the breeding and social graces to acquit themselves well in the august halls of Congress, but I do mind that they lack the conscience and moral compunction to acquit themselves well in positions of public trust. Or put more bluntly, I do not particularly mind that they are boorish and vulgar, but I do mind that they are thieves and oppressors.
I’m glad that Santiago, unwilling to let Enrile have the last say—the pikon, like God, works in mysterious ways—has insisted that the Department of Justice investigate Enrile, and Leila de Lima has expressed her willingness to do so. But I’d be gladder if Enrile insists on the same thing and get the justice department to investigate Santiago as well. Thievery, like misery, loves company. When the pot calls the kettle black, they have the merit of being both right.
Enrile himself of course has merely contented himself with raising all sorts of questions about Santiago’s mental health. Which is not prosecutable, and which merely raises all sorts of Lewis-Carroll-like questions about who is mad and who is not in a Congress not unlike Alice’s Wonderland. But his attack dog, Ping Lacson, has not. Lacson it was who accused Santiago of being a “crusading crook” in his own defense of Enrile, citing as example her use of Senate funds to rent an extension office from a building she owns.
More to the point, Santiago and Enrile had been partners in crime, which is not entirely figurative, before their falling out. Their partnership dates back to when they defended Erap to the death during his impeachment trial and goes all the way to when they defended Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo throughout her 10-year rule. The latter began shortly after they shared a stage at the Edsa Shrine and called on the Erap horde to “sugod! sugod!” Gloria, as startlingly swift a shift of heart as you could get. They share a history of defending crooks, which must raise serious issues about their kinship with corruption.
Arguably, Enrile has the weightier crimes, at least to go by Santiago’s accusations, accusations that have been made as well by those who suffered grievously under martial law, who are the political prisoners. He’s not just a big-time crook, they say, he’s a big-time human rights violator. He has blood on his hands, having caused the deaths of several people, directly or indirectly. Truly, it’s about time the Furies shrieked at the smell of blood and De Lima has been depicted as one of them.
It would be sublime irony, quite apart from justice, if that should really happen. For one, stem cell would have allowed Enrile to live long enough for justice to catch up with him. For another, what Cory failed to do out of compassion, which was to mount a Truth Commission to get the martial law custodians to confess their sins, Santiago would have managed to do out of vengefulness, which is to finally put one of its principals on the dock.
What can I say? Better late than never.
Better weird than never.
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