It’s as clear as day: The campaign season has started.
And Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s advice to voters makes profound sense: Don’t vote for those involved in the pork barrel controversy. But don’t stop there, she said. Shun as well those who have remained “consistently silent” in the face of staggering criminality in public office, those who refuse to take their colleagues to task for their corruption, those whose political considerations trump their sworn duty to root out and condemn venality in government.
Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance, has promised that a Binay presidency would spare no one. “Justice is color-blind. Whoever committed a crime cannot expect any favor or refuge from [Vice President Jejomar] Binay—hindi niya pagbibigyan ang sinumang nagkasala sa batas (he won’t spare anyone who breaks the law).”
Tiangco’s words were in reaction to what he decried as the selective administration of justice in the Aquino administration. Numerous allies of President Aquino have been implicated in the raging pork barrel scandal, yet none has been haled to court, let alone subjected to the same vituperative criticism and scrutiny that have been leveled at such opposition figures as Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. All politics, Tiangco said, but when Binay becomes president, “sinisigurado [niya] na kahit yung mga hindi kakampi sa politika, hindi sila makakasuhan dahil lamang sa politika (no one, not even nonallies, will be prosecuted on account of politics alone).”
But Tiangco must forgive the skeptical; they’ve heard such promises before, and they are leery of trusting the caterwauling of barker-politicians in the (early) run-up to the 2016 presidential election. He must, instead, examine whether the product he’s hawking lives up to the spin.
There may be some truth to the observation that the administration is playing politics with the pork barrel controversy, but would a Binay presidency be any better? The Vice President is the second highest official of an administration that has launched the biggest anticorruption drive so far in the country’s post-Edsa history. One may argue about the intent or sincerity of such a campaign, or how far it has gone. But at this point, it has managed to indict three senators, shine a light on anomalous multibillion-peso transactions stretching some 10 years back, and put numerous government officials, past and present, on notice that they face questions of accountability in the plunder of public funds.
That kind of campaign deserves to be supported—championed, even. But Binay has hardly been enthusiastic. He has pooh-poohed the investigation of Estrada, for one, sarcastically asking if any of the charges would hold water in court. And his political party has floated the idea of getting Estrada as his running mate in the 2016 elections.
The implication is clear: Even if the prima facie evidence so far suggests that Estrada has at the very least some serious questions to answer about how he had handled his pork barrel allocations, Binay will look the other way. He will choose to see Estrada’s situation at this time as the usual demolition job against a viable political figure—and the paper trail and the whistle-blowers’ testimonies be damned. Binay will in effect prejudge the investigation and absolve Estrada of wrongdoing, simply by standing side by side with him.
Spare no one?
The sad thing about all this is not so much the empty rhetoric as the fact that the Vice President himself sees no political liability—never mind a moral one—in taking up the cudgels for a senator accused of bilking the public by the millions.
It’s clear that in these parts, public shame has long ceased to work in keeping public officials in line. The rules of the game have become coarser, cruder, more brazen; there seems nothing that a politician can do these days that would render him/her unfit for public service. Estrada’s father, after all, resurrected from the dead to become mayor of Manila. So what’s a pesky pork barrel indictment for the son?
“The politician who tries to become a wise guy by being friends with everybody—corrupt or not—is not a leader,” warned Santiago. Good point.
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