Seems the decision to hold the official presidential Independence Day celebration in Naga City, Camarines Sur was shrewdly-timed considering that a big anti-Pork rally is scheduled to be mounted in Luneta Park that same afternoon. According to an ABS-CBN News report, Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III used the occasion mainly to slam critics who accuse him of “politicizing the prosecution process.”
President BS Aquino’s accusers likely draw from events over the last several months where information teasers such as the infamous Napoles Lists were dangled before activists and media personalities, and various Senate tele-hearings were set up as platforms for every Senator and his/her dog to grandstand (or deny allegations, as was the usual case). Filipinos, as they tend to do, spent those days feasting on the circus, watching with gleeful contempt as showbiz Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada waffled out emotionally-charged privilege tele-speeches before Congress. The sheer national cringe felt by Filipinos as they watched was palpable; an unbearable privilege of pettiness, Inquirer columnist Randy David called them…
These days, a senator’s privilege speech is likely to be no more than a theatrical display of self-indulgent pettiness and hollow rhetoric, full of emotion but signifying nothing. The preponderant abuse of this democratic tool makes one wonder at what point things went wrong. One searches in vain for signs that the passing of the years has made us stronger as a community and more capable of self-rule.
The senators who listened to Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s privilege speech on June 9 were too kind or too polite to say anything that might reveal what they were thinking. But, their faces showed that they were consecutively amused, amazed, and perhaps taken aback by the cinematic self-assurance by which incoherent thoughts could be communicated by a colleague.
Indeed, there are as many ways to politicise a process as there are to skin a cat. The administration of President BS Aquino has a proven track record in this field, having adeptly engineered the highly-politicised impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 even as it was given a superficial look-and-feel semblance of “due process” as the sessions were broadcast live to the public in living colour. In that instance, in 2012, President BS Aquino and his henchmen had full control over just about every aspect of the exercise — the impeachment itself was conducted by a Senate which, as we now know, was by then largely under Malacanang’s porky payroll.
This time, it is slightly (yes, only slightly) different. Notwithstanding the noise surrounding it, the Pork witchhunt is now, at its core, a real criminal investigation that (we hope) will lead to a proper criminal trial to be undertaken in a real court.
On the battlefront for ‘justice’, the activists now seem to be getting it right. The battlecry on Manila’s streets is now “Jail All”, which is a conceptual leap from the days when much of the activism was focused around the Napoles Lists (essentially information just an iota of a notch above hearsay). A “jail all” position (again, we hope) implies a more thorough combing of the books and document trails for real evidence — potentially yielding a more comprehensive catch that makes the Napoles-centred “scam” a mere subset of the bigger picture of national thievery. The following excerpt from a manifesto published on the San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia website captures this essence to some extent:
We are calling for the purging and imprisonment of all those implicated in the plunder of our nation’s assets. Many months have passed and yet not a single person has been convicted, of the over 100 accused. We ask our President Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. to not engage in the coddling of these most despicable of criminals, lest he be tagged as an accessory to over 100 of the most heinous crimes in Philippine history.
The passage (whether intentionally made so by its authors or not) implies several important points;
(1) That the President and any member of his office are not, by default, automatically immune to investigation and prosecution, which means;
(2) That the onus is on the President, the sole accountable custodian of the ultimate source of the funds the government had lost control over, to prove why he should not be subject to prosecution, and;
(3) That the call to “jail all” entail a thorough bottom-up professionally- and scientifically-conducted investigation (not necessarily premised on the accounts of “whistleblowers” and “star witnesses”) from which suspects and persons of interest shall emerge systematically.
As a movement on a national scale will necessarily involve a coalition of different groups and communities of interest all having their own specific agendas and ideologies, the unifying philosophy should be simple and leave enough room to accomodate the independence of each party contributing to the cause.
The above three core principles collectively fit this criteria and should henceforth define the overall National Anti Pork Barrel Movement.
By simply grounding in these three principles the conceptual frameworks of all activist movements mounted by the various disparate and indepdent communities and groups contributing to the cause, efforts to politicise the cause or the risk of fragmenting the movement along different ideological lines can be mitigated. These three key core principles ensure that we all remain focused on the whole point of this exercise.
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