What goes around comes around. Who gets the laugh for the day really depends on which side is throwing the boomerang. Back in the first half of 2012, the national hysteria of the day swirled around the kangaroo court impeachment trial of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona following months of systematic demonisation by the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. As we know now, Corona was found “guilty” after the Second Aquino Administration poured the vast public resources at its disposal into railroading the “complaint” against him through a complicit Lower House, mobilising its cadre of media “thought leaders”, deploying its covert Small Lady ninjas, and presenting to the impeachment “court” illegally-obtained and often blatantly flawed “evidence” to support their case.
Funny how things turn out for bozos that once donned the purple robes of Philippine “justice”. Now in the wake of allegations of vast Congressional pork barrel thievery, three Philippine Senators — Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla — are on the verge of being charged for grand plunder in connection with their ties with alleged ring leader Janet Lim Napoles. Unfortunately for these “honourable” gentlemen, justice in the Philippines is not a procedure — it is a game.
The lawmakers who have been tagged by the whistle-blowers as alleged accomplices of Napoles in the transfer of their pork barrel to her NGOs have likewise not stated their side, not even in the Senate inquiry. They, too, have not been formally charged and they are not sure who of them will be prosecuted.
Most of them, if not all, have pork barrel allocations in the national budget, but all of them are under cloud from and smeared by the allegations of the whistle-blowers in the midst of the atmosphere of lynch mob hysteria that has permeated public opinion.
What is endangered in this mass hysteria lusting for blood, without going through due process, is that we might be laying the ground for the lynching or sending to the gallows of a fundamental principle of constitutional democracy—a fair administration of justice underpinned by the right to be heard before being condemned as guilty.
Recall the tactics of the administration’s key media henchmen back in 2012. Leading the media juggernaut against Corona at the time was God’s-gift-to-Filipino-journalism and self-described “social news network” Rappler.com led by Maria Ressa who seemingly tacitly endorsed the collection and publication of bank details in violation of existing Philippine bank secrecy laws by her hipster reporters Carmela Fonbuena and Matanggol de la Cruz. Perhaps it is time for another media “hero” to step up and do the same today. After all, “the people” are “clamoring” for a fast-tracked bringing to “justice” of all found guilty of plundering the national coffers.
Legislators are finding out today the true cost of being on the pork barrel take.
We can now understand the profound collective stupidity of the chamber of politicians that is Philippine Congress when one considers how their own greed, petty infighting, and mutual one-upmanship has all but brought to the public light the legislative infrastructure that shrouds their illicit personal money trains in secrecy. The irony of how all that mudslinging at one another highlighted just how secret the country’s bank secrecy laws kept things simply flew over their pointed heads. 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, selling substandard hardware to the Army, and, yes, scamming pork barrel funds) to tax havens abroad be sniffed out. Indeed, we can thank the accidental genius of President BS Aquino when he mounted his dynastic-preservation-motivated campaign versus Corona which left in its wake an interesting legacy…
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 country’s outdated bank secrecy laws.
Will Filipino politicians learn from all this? Unlikely. The money just dangling for the taking above every Congressional seat is simply too plump to ignore despite the risks to one’s moral fibre. That question really should be directed to the Filipino people. After all, they enjoy the power to elect these bozos to “lead” them. Mob vote followed by mob justice. You gotta hand it to Philippine politics where every step in the process is not just an event but a circus.
Like the Corona spectacle of 2012, we are looking forward to a grand tele-trial of Napoles and the three Senators, as well as whoever else will be roped into this big national lynch. The media will be in their element of course. After all, they not only get away with sloppy and — often — crooked reporting, they also routinely end up laughing all the way to the bank.
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