It used to be that the shady world of high-level corruption among politicians was an opaque black box where public funds (taxpayers’ money) went in one end and vacuous political rhetoric and infrastructural mirages went out the other. Nowadays, that unspoken pact amongst crooks has steadily unraveled before the public eye. It started with that spectacular skirt-lifting frenzy that was the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona where “senator-judges” presumed to judge the country’s top magistrate for abuse of authority.
It goes without saying (because of the vast size of the clichÃ© at work here) that twenty four sinners kept themselves really busy posing for the cameras while they threw rocks at the proverbial adultress during the first half of 2012. But this being the Philippines (where the obvious issues and their equally obvious solutions hardly ever capture the public imagination), it does not hurt to keep harping on the obvious…
Ironically, some sectors of Philippine society consider these Senators as heroes for convicting Corona; never mind that there was nothing heroic about what they did. Itâ€™s not like Corona was found guilty of plunder like former President Joseph â€œErapâ€ Estrada, the father of Senator Jinggoy. Corona is not even a convicted mutineer like Senator Antonio Trillanes who won a Senate seat while he was in jail for the crime of rebellion. Corona wasnâ€™t even a repeat offender like Senator Gringo Honasan who led a series of coup dâ€™etat against former President Cory Aquino during her term and who managed to escape while incarcerated. Corona did not even fake his own assassination attempt the way Senator Enrile did in 1972. His act was said to have been used by then President Ferdinand Marcos to justify declaring Martial law. Senator Enrile was also a suspected co-conspirator in the election cheating done in the 1986 â€œsnap electionsâ€, which was said to have robbed then candidate, Cory of the election.
It’s not as if this information will really change the way Filipinos will apply their world-renowned ignoramity when they troop to the polls in this year’s elections. But there it is anyways for the reading pleasure of the real victims of this sad republic — those of us who think.
But the real eye-opener in that mudwrestling match was the highlighting of just how secret the country’s bank secrecy laws kept things. Bank secrecy in the Philippines, after all, protects the rich and powerful — lest their vast holdings be made available to public scrutiny and the money trail they leave behind squirrelling hard-stolen dough (amassed from exporting logs, gold and people and selling substandard hardware to the Army) to tax havens abroad be sniffed out. Unfortunately for the rich and powerful, the action-packed bickering in the Senate during the trial distracted their trustees in the Philippine government from their more overarching mission of maintaining the status quo. Instead, the esteemed Senators (into whom much investment was poured by the rich and powerful) inadvertently laid their decades-long game bare on national television…
Ironically, Corona himself may have marked the beginning of the end of the very law that had saved him during his ordeal. In the wake of his much-awaited personal appearance in court, Corona bestows an unexpected legacy to a circus long criticised for being an appalling waste of time and a mere product of the vanity and vindictiveness of a Philippine president: a precedent call to the government officials of the land to sign waivers opening their foreign currency bank accounts to public scrutiny. The call so resonated across the public that it could pave the way for legislation that may reform the countryâ€™s outdated bank secrecy laws.
Indeed, the accidental genius in President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III’s coercion of Philippine Congress to mount a grand lynching of the hapless former Chief Justice to protect Unlce Peping’s family jewels is in the way it exposed just how big a bunch of morons the Philippines’ “honourable” legislators are. The Corona trial will go down in history as the event that exposed how prone to lemming-like behaviour the House of Representatives is, scurrying like the blinded rodents that they are over a cliff as a furious BS Aquino challenged them on how committed they are to his fake notion of the straight-and-narrow (daang matuwid). The trial also created a permanent rift among the Senators, the ripples of which we continue to feel today as we enter the campaign period of the 2013 elections which, as a consequence of this rift, promises a most entertaining televised mudslinging orgy amongst these revered “representatives” of the people’s “voice”.
The highlight of this rift is the row between the trial’s most vocal critic, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and its former presiding judge, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, that has since transcended the Corona circus and escalated into permanent adversariality. The locking of horns between Santiago and Enrile, on everything from foreign affairs to the handling of public funds in the Senate has turned the Senate into an expensive cockfighting pit with the looming elections serving as both the smoke blown into the birds’ faces to keep their gladiatorial juices flowing and the money poured into the battle by both serious gamblers and two-bit kibitzers to make it really entertaining.
Philippine politics may be stupid, but like the stoopid characters in a good Coen Brothers movie, it never fails to give us a good show.
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