Senator Bong Revilla’s delivered his privilege speech on the 9th June 2014 as charges related to his alleged involvement in the pork barrel “scam” were being laid against him by the Department of Justice. It opened with an appeal to Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III to lend him an audience whilst he expressed his sentiment before the public. Revilla insisted that his conscience was clear but that he is ready to face his accusers and defend himself there.
With that said, Revilla spent the rest of his time at the podium imploring the good graces of the President and the people who voted for him (20 million of them, he says) to focus on what is important — the welfare of the nation, including, among others, job creation, relief operations in aid of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, reducing rampant criminality, and alleviating hunger. All no-brainers, of course. But it seems Revilla simply needed to remind us that the Philippines is a Third World country beset by Third World problems.
Revilla spent a bit of time on a call for “unity”, appealing to Filipinos of all walks of life to ‘help one another’ saying that he holds no doubts that the Philippines can advance if everyone, specially their leaders, help each other.
He cited the renewal of the people’s trust in government as the key challenge today, and that leaders and representatives need to come to the grassroots and understand the problems at that level. More importantly, Filipino leaders need to set good examples that provide moral clarity to their constituents.
Revilla called on all to put an end to petty politicking and to rally behind the flag by ditching partisan colours. It is his “wish”, he said, that there be no more yellow, orange, green, blue or red; that there is only one kind of blood flowing through our veins, Filipino blood.
He cited the damage that all the mudslinging, hearsay mongering, and name naming has caused the government, most specially to Congress — certainly something that only goes towards eroding any further trust Filipinos have for that institution, perhaps (he speculates) ultimately aligning with the emerging agenda from some quarters to amend the Constitution and abolish Congress.
He also laid out a long list of people to thank starting, of course, with the Almighty himself, then his family, his colleagues (naming specific ones), and other top official’s who presumably touched his life and office.
Revilla capped his speech with a promise that he will continue to love his country and that he will come back stronger after weathering this personal crisis. He closed with a song “Salamat Kaibigan”. According to him it is an original composition dedicated to his friends.
Netizens have criticised Revilla’s speech as lacking in any substance, specifically around any effort to address the charges against him. But it seems this take on the speech is missing the point. It is, after all, a privilege speech, and Revilla did say any arguments related to the charges are best tackled at the proper venue — in court.
Of course it can be said that there was some if not significant degree of embellishment of words, particularly when it came to citing the contributions and achievements of his choice personalities — something (aside from the song, as pointed out by many) that does cause a bit of a cringe considering that Congress is widely-regarded nowadays as a vast den of crooks.
Still, the message to Filipinos is pretty good. How, after all, can a message advocating unity and working together towards the advancement of one’s country be considered bad? Trouble is, it’s all become quite cliched, specially coming form politicians. Thus the tragedy of good intentions routinely confused with good speeches. That’s Philippine-style democracy, in a nutshell.
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