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There’s the Rub

Lessons

A friend of mine put it this way in a text message. “By being jailed, Juan Ponce Enrile finally lived up to his campaign promise—‘Basta ang gusto ko, hapi ka.’”

It was an anticlimax of sorts, as Enrile probably wanted it. He had been staying out of the limelight of late, trying not to draw attention to it. The only time he talked about it was to say that maybe government might discover the virtue of consideration and shower him with some, being now 90 years old and ill-equipped to handle jail. But he did not press the point. The event passed quietly, and was gone after a brief stir last Friday.

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He had every reason to avoid drawing the attention to it. It had drama written all over it, little of which enhanced his image. At the very least, it did invite recollection of his campaign promise of devoting the twilight of his career to making people happy. What better way, for a generation of Filipinos who went through martial law and got their faces rubbed in the mud when he came out with his reinvention of his role in it in his book, for him to do it than to be jailed? And get to experience the very thing he condemned a host of them to during Marcos’ time?

That is quite apart from the (melo)dramatic, or titillating, aspect of his being jailed alongside, if not in the same cell as, Gigi Reyes, a person believed to be his close confidante in more ways than one. In this gossip-mad country where even coup plots are known well in advance, Enrile’s marital woes may weigh a lot more heavily on his mind than his criminal ones. It’s fodder for the rumor mills, and I can only wonder if they’re not running overtime even now with the event not making a splash.

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At most, it’s Enrile who’s the prize catch in this batch. Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada are nothing; they’re in the Senate only to provide comic relief and they provide neither comedy nor relief. It’s Enrile that really tests government’s resolve. Would government jail the one person that made the ousting of Renato Corona eminently credible? Would government jail the one person that has been a fixture in this country’s politics, reinventing himself constantly with the passage of time?

Yes.

Enrile has tested government’s resolve, and government has passed it. The last of the three has been arrested and jailed. At least until such time their lawyers can bail them out.

So, will the lesson about not doing the crime if you can’t do the time finally be learned?

I myself had thought it would be, and had said repeatedly that this would be different from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sending Erap to jail, and making it permanent by convicting him. In a sense that’s true. As far as culpability goes, it’s just a tossup which one was/is more culpable, Corona or the three senators. More importantly, as far as credibility goes, it’s just a tossup which process was/is more due, that of the Office of the Ombudsman, which sifted through the evidence against the three with a fine-toothed comb, or that of Enrile, who went through the evidence against Corona with a fine jurist’s eye.

Gloria Arroyo had everything to fear from Erap and had a vested interest in jailing him that P-Noy does not; they are not a threat to him, only to the daang matuwid. So will the lesson be learned that if you are corrupt, you will be found out and punished?

There’s the rub. I’m not as certain now as I was then. In fact, I’m a lot more doubtful now than I was then.

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The near-unanimous Supreme Court ruling that the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) is unconstitutional messes things up immensely. At the very least, its authors are guilty of violating the Constitution—flagrantly so, as the justices point out in the case of Butch Abad, the DAP’s chief author, who knows the ins and outs of the budgetary process. At the very most, its authors, and the DAP’s main beneficiaries, could be guilty of corruption, pending investigation of the actual uses of the DAP.

The people who demand that P-Noy provide an explanation for it have a point. In fact, the people who demand that he take that up in his Sona as one of the things that most define the state of the nation have a point. Unlike the snubbing of Nora Aunor as National Artist, this thing won’t go away without an explanation. Or by just reciting the mantra of good faith. Or without taking serious action, or promising to, to rectify a mistake.

The problem had actually been building up before the Supreme Court ruling on the DAP. Not least in the antipork march last Independence Day, which called on P-Noy to go beyond the three senators to prosecute his own allies. That was dismissed for being a largely leftist rally and for lack of any charges being brought against the President’s allies. But the call has gotten a lot more strident, coming not just from leftists but also from various sectors of the public at large and from the perception that the only reason government allies have not been charged is that government has been unwilling to charge them. Or worse, investigate them at all.

The P-Noy administration may continue to ignore that protest only at its peril. It does that, and all the resplendence that the jailing of Senators Revilla, Estrada and Enrile radiates will be blotted out. More than the jailing of Enrile, the jailing of allies will be the test of government’s resolve. Would government indict the persons who are dearest to P-Noy’s heart but have broken the law? Would government arrest the persons who dream of another six years crying “daang matuwid, daang matuwid,” while replacing the label of inferior cement with “good faith”?

If the answer is no, then all the lesson we will learn is that in government’s pursuit of the straight path, the wayward will be found out and punished…

Unless he is a friend of the assessor of the straightness of the road.

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, daang matuwid, dap, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Enrile, gigi reyes, Janet Napoles, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, marcos, pork scam, Supreme Court
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