There is something strange about the way Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino reacts to certain issues that plague his administration. When the President talks about people who he thinks are corrupt, he usually goes into attack mode and lambasts them in front of his audience. This was evident when he shamed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at the National Criminal Justice summit back in 2011.
Back then, a lot of Filipinos were shocked and disgusted with the way the President acted like a toddler throwing a tantrum and hurling insults at Corona who he insisted was getting in the way of his Daang Matuwid. In fact, BS Aquino didn’t stop conducting a trial-by-media and talked about Corona’s alleged “crimes” in public until he succeeded in his campaign to remove him from office.
Fast-forward to today, his recent state of the nation address (SONA) showed him doing almost the same thing. But this time, some people thought he was more bark than bite when he talked hard about “naming names” while completely avoiding naming the names of the people he thought were involved in corrupt activities in various government agencies such as the Bureau of Customs (BoC). A few weeks after BS Aquino’s SONA, no one from the BoC has been sacked or replaced even after the bad rap he gave the agency.
Frankly, some people think that BS Aquino’s apparent lack of guts in getting rid of the BoC officials he alluded to in the SONA has a lot to do with the fact that he handpicked them himself for the posts. His inaction after their offer of resignation says a lot about his inconsistency and inability to accept that he chose incompetent people for sensitive positions. He is probably regretting putting them on the spot to begin with because now that he has highlighted that corruption still persists in the BoC, his critics are waiting for his next move. Obviously, BS Aquino was trying to wash his hands from any fraudulent activities that still go uninterrupted during his term. It’s short of saying, “I’ve got nothing to do with it”. But in a way, he does have something to do with it.
To be fair, since BS Aquino had very little experience managing people before he became the head of state, he might not know the concept of command responsibility. Although, when he was being interviewed by CNN for their program Eye on the Philippines in 2012, Anna Coren asked him why he seemed to be singling out former President Gloria Arroyo in his fight against corruption. His response was that as the Chief Executive back then, GMA should have done something about the transgressions during her term. Like I said before, if we are to follow his logic on this, then he should do something about the transgressions committed by public servants during his term too.
During an ambush interview with reporters, BS Aquino’s inconsistency was again evident in his statement about the alleged Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) scam or what is being dubbed the “pork barrel scam” involving members of Congress. He claimed that the 10 billion-peso scam is nothing compared to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. To quote:
“Compare it to the fertilizer scam, how big was the difference? And the fertilizer scam is the tip of the iceberg, there are more,” he said in an interview referring to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Apparently, the Philippine President is not good with his numbers either. But that is not even the worst thing that the public can take away from his statement. Not only did he try to divert the attention of the media from the alleged pork barrel scam, it seems he is not giving it as much importance as the past administration’s alleged transgressions. Absent during the ambush interview was his usual naming and shaming of those who were implicated in the alleged scam but present was his shaming of GMA and her trial by media that came with it.
In another statement, BS Aquino emphasized that his administration is not perfect and that he cannot claim to have zero corruption under his government. To wit:
“Hindi naman namin puwedeng sabihin na magiging perpekto (ang proseso). Hindi namin puwedeng masabi na talagang zero na ‘yung pagkakataon ng mga tiwali na mapagsamantalahan.”
Since that is the case, he should understand that during previous governments, it was also impossible to stamp out corruption down to zero level without the cooperation of those involved. Therefore, he should realize by now that blaming GMA for all the transgressions committed by people from various government agencies is unproductive, divisive and pointless. If he doesn’t stop blaming the previous government, his political opponents will also blame him for his people’s transgressions.
Going back to the alleged 10 billion-peso pork-barrel scam, the Filipino people should realize that if President BS Aquino does not put pressure on the investigation the way he did with the others he had vested interest in, it will not be resolved at all. All this information circulating on the Net claiming to be from reliable sources that discuss the various ways with which the family of Janet-Lim Napoles were able to get away with the crime of the decade will just fade to black. All the calls for forming an “independent panel” to probe the allegations or any investigation by various agencies will not stop this kind of con from happening again.
Senator Miriam Santiago likewise explained the hopelessness of the case progressing into criminal prosecution when she requested President BS Aquino to form an independent panel to investigate the claims:
Santiago explained that the panel will be the “only recourse” in the issue because senators cannot be impeached, and are not under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.
“Senators are extremely powerful, both with their money and with their influence and contacts in government so we cannot have them investigated by the DOJ because a Cabinet member Leila de Lima, has not even been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. On that issue, she will be vulnerable,” Santiago told reporters after her speech.
Santiago said the Senate Committee on Ethics is also not the proper venue, citing “social constraints” in investigating senators’ own colleagues.
Likely Senate President Franklin Drilon agreed with Santiago, citing conflict of interest if the Senate investigates its own. He proposes the imposition of restrictions on the use of the pork barrel, like limiting it to education and health services, saying these can easily be accounted for.
With Leila de Lima powerless to do anything with the information published by various media outlets, it seems like the members of Congress who have been implicated by the whistle-blower can simply sit this one out until the public loses their interest. The Filipino people have no choice but to keep talking about this issue until another shocking one takes over — unless, by some miracle, Filipinos wake up from their stupor and realize that the only way to end this is to immediately remove the source of the problem, which is the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel as soon as possible.
As mentioned previously, since President BS Aquino does not seem interested in applying the full weight of his office on the matter, this case is pretty much closed particularly with all the conflicts of interest and the limitations of the Department of Justice. It’s all quite amusing, really. With or without the allegations against the members of congress being investigated, they still have a big chance of being elected in the next election. That is how ignorant the voters are to the real state of the nation.
Where are the members of the “Black and White Movement” when you need them? In the past, you could count on them to make a lot of noise about issues like these. Oh, that’s right. They are now members of the Yellow team with Leah Navarro recently appointed to the Movie and Television Review and Classification (MTRCB) Board.
[Photo of Janet Lim Napoles courtesy Yahoo! News.]
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