BENIGHTED, adj.—overtaken by darkness or night; existing in a state of intellectual, moral, or social darkness; unenlightened.
Benighted this country would be if Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay’s pronouncement that elected officials’ term should be “hanggang sawa” (or unlimited) is allowed to come into effect. If he had his way he would change the law on term limits—Binay-ted, so to speak.
I was so shocked when I heard the presidential hopeful say this on TV last week, but it did not take longer than a minute for my shock to turn into gladness. Why? Because the proof came straight out of the man’s mouth—that is, the desire that he had long harbored in his heart which is that, like many politicians, he wants to hold on to power for as long as he wants.
Hanggang sawa were Binay’s own words. In street lingo, it means until one has his fill of booze and everything else, or until the fierce daylight forces the intoxicants out of the system of the besotted. Awakened from the past night’s drunken frenzy and as passersby look on with disdain, he hobbles toward where his comfort zone used to be, to find nobody there. That kind of disgraceful scenario.
Not so different from the fate of despots who, after years of excessive power-tripping and laying to waste their people’s resources, met their inglorious end in jail, in exile, or as corpses leaning against a cold wall while people danced in the streets and toppled their statues.
But after a day or so Binay clarified his hanggang sawa preference by saying that unlimited terms should apply only to elected local officials. Not to the presidency, he wanted it clear. A quick reversal.
Binay might have been testing the public’s reaction. Would he get cheers and see thumbs going up? Or would he get jeers and see thumbs going down?
Methinks Binay ’s hanggang sawa spiel was not a Freudian slip, like saying “sex” instead of “six.” He didn’t simply slip on a word, he was giving reason after reason why elected officials should stay on and on and on if people want them to. But if it was Freudian, after all, an utterance that came straight out of his subconscious, it was still a hint—a loud hint—on his preferential option for self-perpetuation in power.
The Binay family’s staying power in Makati is proof of this. More than 20 years (since 1986) of family rule in the country’s business capital show the Binays’ walang sawa (unsated) appetite to, um, serve. Three mayoral terms for Jojo, followed by Elenita the wife, followed by Jojo again, then by Junjun the son. Daughter Abigail is a congresswoman; another daughter, Nancy, came out of the woodwork and won as senator, sixth in the winning slate at that.
Reminds me of the TV show “How do they do it?”
But despite the cases of alleged corruption filed against him and the discombobulating, mind-blowing evidence presented, VP Binay is undaunted and is going full steam ahead with his presidential bid, the suspension by the Ombudsman of his son Mayor Junjun (also for alleged corruption) notwithstanding.
Binay continues to refuse to appear at Senate hearings to air his side, mumbling reason after reason why. His latest move was to file a P200-million damage suit against his accusers and those who dutifully go about working on his cases, among them Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales no less. And, why not, the Inquirer that dutifully reports on his cases, plus Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano and nine other respondents.
The Inquirer’s statement on the damage suit:
“We learned from news reports that Vice President Jejomar Binay filed an action seeking P200 million in damages against the Philippine Daily Inquirer and several other individuals and government officials. We have not yet officially received a copy of the complaint (as of Wednesday morning).
“We emphasize that our news reports are either based on public documents and documents which have been made public by the courts or prosecutorial agencies or pertain to matters of legitimate public interest. We regret that the Vice President views the truth in news reporting [as] ‘malicious coverage’ intended to ‘unduly condition the minds of the public.’
“We are at a loss why the Vice President has singled out the Philippine Daily Inquirer even as the Complaint itself mentions some defendants getting ‘maximum media mileage’ from several media outfits (the Philippine Daily Inquirer was not among those mentioned). The Philippine Daily Inquirer was also not the first to report the ‘freeze’ order of the Court of Appeals.
“We value integrity and editorial independence in carrying out our duty to inform and serve the public interest. The role and mission we have taken requires us to uphold freedom of the press enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. We shall continue to discharge this mission with neither fear nor favor.”
Note that in libel cases, malice has to be proven. The burden of proof of malice is on the accuser. Unlike in criminal cases where the accused is innocent until proven guilty, in libel cases the complainant is wrong until he proves himself right about the one he is accusing.
How’s that again, you say? Well, in the case of the Inquirer, Binay has to prove that there was malice in the way the newspaper reported about his alleged colossal wrongdoing.
Here’s a great chance for Binay to prove the Inquirer wrong and malicious; but this is also a great chance for the Inquirer and the other accused to prove Binay’s guilt. In libel, truth is the best defense. The onus is on Binay.
Doesn’t he know that by retaliating (through this libel case) against those who have the goods on him, he is already getting himself tried and fried?
I say, bring it on!
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