Another think coming
Call it the Bong Revilla Salvation Show. That’s the barnstorming that the actor-senator from Cavite is conducting across his bailiwick—with full media coverage yet—in anticipation of an arrest order from the Sandiganbayan that may be issued any day now for him and his Senate colleagues, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.
In this campaign, no one’s soul, or skin, needs saving except Revilla’s. He has banked on the same trusty playbook from the first day his name was tagged in the looting of billions of pesos of public funds allocated to legislators like him for the welfare and development of their constituencies. Faced, not with vague charges, but the direct testimony of whistle-blower Benhur Luy along with voluminous paperwork indicating how the senator’s office laundered his pork barrel funds, Revilla took the tack of portraying himself as a martyr.
He was being persecuted, he said, because he posed a political threat to Malacañang’s candidate for the 2016 presidential polls, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. He and Estrada and Enrile were being singled out, he said, because they represented the opposition—a ridiculous claim, given that none of them had any single original policy idea that differed in any way from that of the Aquino administration, and that they had also aligned themselves with Malacañang in the matter of the impeachment and trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Revilla had couched his vote for Corona’s removal in lofty terms—that he had looked at the evidence and was convinced in his heart that there was good reason for Corona to go. But when the pork barrel controversy broke out, there he was on the Senate floor, playing tag team with his buddy Estrada in fending off the accusations with a time-honored political tactic: Muddy the scene with explosive but unrelated issues.
While Estrada claimed that Malacañang had bribed senators with millions of pesos of additional funds under the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program six months after Corona’s conviction, Revilla unveiled his own tale of intrigue. President Aquino, he said, had engaged in a personal campaign to force senators into voting against Corona, the ultimate proof being, he disclosed, that he himself was driven in secret to a meeting with Mr. Aquino in Malacañang by no less than Roxas.
Revilla and Estrada can afford to hire the brightest lawyers and political consultants, but it seems no one had advised them that while their revelations made for bold headlines for a couple of days, it shaved not one whit of weight off the mass of evidence that has become available on their dealings involving their Priority Development Assistance Fund. Luy’s disclosures came complete with numbered and signed government vouchers, pertinent dates and details—even, in Revilla’s case, a letter to the Commission on Audit that he himself signed, confirming the authenticity of his signature in requests for funds to be directed to what would turn out to be Potemkin organizations operated by Janet Lim Napoles.
All Revilla needed to do to dispel the accusations was to open the books of his office, to show that all his PDAF transactions were aboveboard. But he has not done so. Instead, he has harnessed what he imagines to be his acting talent by conducting weepy interviews in the media lamenting his fate, and reciting the maudlin script that he and his handlers have cobbled together—that he is the victim of a monumental injustice perpetrated by a power-tripping administration. And that he’s of a mind to run for president in 2016!
He has put his Passion show on the road, mobilizing prayer vigils and mass assemblies that have ordinary people expressing their continuing love for him and belief in his innocence. It would be good for the COA to look into whether public funds are again being used for these self-serving activities. But more to the point, what does he hope to achieve with his extravagant appeal to emotion? Simple. He thinks his popularity would be enough to expunge his guilt. He thinks alternately singing and crying before the masses—the Sisa of the Senate!—would somehow render the charges against him illegitimate.
Revilla has another think coming. The best way to disabuse him of the abysmal regard he has for the seriousness of the charges against him, and for the intelligence of the Filipino public, is to make sure he is prosecuted fully, transparently. And no singing allowed in court.
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