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There’s the Rub

Jail ’em

Jinggoy Estrada scoffed at TG Guingona’s announcement last Tuesday, saying it fitted well April Fools’ Day. That announcement of course was that the Senate committee that conducted the inquiry on the Janet Napoles scam had found enough evidence of Estrada’s, Bong Revilla’s, and Juan Ponce Enrile’s participation in it and was filing charges of corruption against them. The Ombudsman confirmed the fact.

Jinggoy was right to say the announcement came aptly on a day meant for fools. He was wrong to think the fools were other people. At the very least, if he thinks he can still play the role of the  inaapi  or underdog on the public, then he must be a bigger fool than we thought. At the very most, “fool” can mean either clown or  manloloko, as in “fooling the constituents.” He has added the second to the first.

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Much along these lines, Reuters showed no small capacity for irony by featuring Manny Mogato’s report, “Manila files corruption charges against three senators for misuse of funds,” with a photograph of Enrile presiding over the impeachment trial of Renato Corona. Clad in crimson robes, not unlike the one worn by the Black Nazarene along with a  korona  ng  tinik, he is explaining why he found Corona guilty as charged. It’s as sublime a picture of rise and fall as you can get.

As Erap himself said about the fickleness of fate: “Weather-weather (pana-pahahon)  lang  ’yan.”

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But before I go any further, I must commend TG Guingona glowingly for the way he saw the inquiry through. It took courage to do it with dispatch. Jinggoy of course attributed the dispatch to bias and prejudgment. The rest of us can only attribute it to refusing to be blind. Such as those who have been presiding over the Maguindanao massacre case have been blind. That case has dragged on now for more than four years despite the preponderance of evidence, hell, despite the atrocity having been wreaked with glaring impunity.

Which is why I say courage. Cases like these do not really require wit, they require will. The evidence is abundant, the evidence is sheer, the evidence is unassailable. Certainly, the witnesses are abundant, though they have been disappearing in the Ampatuan case. There is no hint of that in the case against the three senators, the witnesses have shown no signs of flagging, the witnesses have shown no signs of wavering, the witnesses have shown no signs of taking a vacation.

The problem is not how to appreciate the evidence, it is what to do with it. The problem is not astuteness, it is resolve. Guingona has found the resolve. He has done something about it.

Miriam Santiago and Scrap Pork Network, the group that led the Million People March last August, want to do better. They want to see the three senators jailed.

“Once the Ombudsman files the case in court, it should be automatic,” says Miriam. “The Sandiganbayan will now issue an order suspending these senators from office and they should be held in detention cells. They should not be detained in air-conditioned palaces or be placed under house arrest because the people will see that there’s a difference in treatment when one is poor and when one is powerful.”

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d agree with Miriam wholeheartedly, but I agree with her wholeheartedly on this. Erap was in jail after government filed a case against him, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in jail after government filed a case against her, Napoles is in jail after government filed a case against her. Why shouldn’t the three senators be so? Why should they be free to breathe the air we breathe?

This too clearly is not a matter of wit, it is a matter of will. It is not a matter of appreciating the nuances of the law, it is a matter of carrying out the law.

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It should help that groups other than the Scrap Pork add their voices to the rather poetic legal demand to “let justice be done though the heavens fall.” I’m thinking in particular about those groups in Leyte and Bohol and other places that have been visited by mind-boggling disasters, who are struggling to rise above the rubble by their industry and perseverance. Borrowing money where they can to restart and rebuild and reshape their lives.

That should have the effect of giving the fight against corruption an emotional content, by driving home the incalculable loss, not the least of it in lives, from lack of food, shelter and medicine, it causes. It should have the effect of giving the fight against corruption a face by directly linking the theft of pork to the misery of those who are left to grovel after a disaster, who are left to live under the bridges of Metro Manila’s streets, prey to sweltering heat and driving rain, who are left to live in hunger, ignorance, and hopelessness. It should have the effect of showing the enormity of the crime and the burning urgency of punishment.

What happens to the three senators is the key to what happens to the struggle for the  daang  matuwid. More than what happened to Erap, more than what has happened to Gloria, both cases being weighed down, if not by the perception of politics, at least by the perception that jail can only befall people who are no longer in power, who no longer wield power. The three senators are in power, they wield power. To prosecute them, to try them, to hound them to the ends of the earth for what they have done, that is the test of the daang matuwid. That is what will curb, if not stop, the  nakawan  in the next few months, or years.

Of course the three are innocent until proven guilty. Everyone is. But the law is clear, as Miriam does well to remind us. It’s automatic, or should be: The Ombudsman charges you with corruption, you should be in jail. The Ombudsman has charged Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile with corruption.

Jail ’em.

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TAGS: April Fool’s Day, Janet Napoles, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, nation, news, pork barrel scam
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