A tiresome administration
The other week I visited old friends from both the left and right of the political spectrum who are currently detained at the old Camp Crame stockade – the same one where I cooled my heels for 20 eventful months long, long ago at the ripe old age of 19.
The place is now much more crowded, with new cell blocks having been added somewhat haphazardly over the years. The heat was stifling and the paint is peeling off in many places, but the security detail in charge was a lot more courteous than I remember from my day, although still every bit as strict.
I was shown, in the newer part of the compound, the 4 large cells that they’re rushing to finish in time for the VIP’s, led by at least 3 senators, who are expected to begin enjoying government hospitality in the wake of the Napoles affair. Reportedly the administration is just waiting for the Ombudsman to come back from abroad in June to sign the requisite documents.
At last count there were 16 sitting and former senators, among others, who had been mentioned one way or another in one or another of the multiple Napoles lists. Some of them may have actually benefited from the disclosures, e.g. the male Cayetano sibling, who allegedly received half a million pesos, returned most of it, and refused to accept anymore. Compared to some of the others, this amount is peanuts.
But does the buck really stop only at the Senate’s doors in this sordid affair? Shouldn’t we be looking somewhere else closer to the Pasig River? Consider the following:
- Napoles surrendered at Malacanan Palace no less and stayed there for several hours before being booked at Camp Crame. Most of that time was reportedly spent talking to President Aquino, according to a chronology by Kit Tatad that has not yet been credibly disputed.
- Executive Secretary Ochoa was also in Malacanan when Napoles surrendered there. Later, the indefatigable Benhur Luy was reported to have deleted files detailing transactions with Ochoa and others following the impeachment of former Chief Justice Corona, one that we now know was bought and fully paid for.
- The whistleblowers’ attorney Levi Baligod claimed that Justice Secretary De Lima asked Benhur Luy to focus his testimony only on the PDAF releases for 2007-2009. As a matter of fact, Budget Secretary Butch Abad still refuses to disclose how PNoy spent his own PDAF, especially from 2004-2007 when he was deputy speaker of the House and entitled to an additional half a billion pesos of loot.
After years of slavish image-building by the yellow media – online and offline – the thought of such corruption going all the way to the top might boggle your mind. And yet there is other evidence of a culture of corruption, one that is not only institutional – involving the slow destruction of institutions with billions of pesos of DAP and PDAF funds – but also very personal in the worst kind of way:
- The volume of smuggling at the Bureau of Customs, from an annual average of $3 billion under President Arroyo, ballooned to an estimated nearly $20 billion annually under Aquino (don’t take my word for it; go to the IMF website). Do you think none of this money rose to the very top?
- The rising incidence of jueteng under Aquino has been publicly blamed by former Archbishop Oscar Cruz – who’s no GMA fan – on PNoy’s KKK sidekick, Rico Puno, his former inside guy at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Again, none of this money rose to the very top? That’s circumstantial evidence only, you might say. Of course – but no less so than the alleged evidence used to jail former President Arroyo, who has yet to share a photo – let alone spend several hours alone at the Palace – with Napoles. And if you choose to believe the current President but not the other, then you’re guilty of espousing not just kangaroo justice, but also a double standard of (kangaroo) justice.
This is why I find the administration’s recent pronouncements – to put it charitably – tiresome in the extreme, given the cloud of suspicion that grows darker over their heads:
- It’s tiresome for my good friend Press Secretary Coloma to appeal to the public not to direct its anger over PDAF at the Palace – considering it was under Aquino that the PDAF budget ballooned by an awesome 3 times during his very first year in office.
- It’s tiresome for Secretary Abad to sniff – how would you even DARE question my integrity? – considering how he sliced off a huge slab of pork for his native Batanes, allegedly mentored Napoles in her craft, masterminded the unconstitutional DAP program, and – to top it all – didn’t even pay his fair share of taxes for 3 years running (will the BIR’s Kim Henares now run after him too?).
- It’s tiresome for Finance Secretary Purisima, at the recent WEF in Manila, to go so far as to grandiosely label Aquino’s PPP program “a new model of development for the world” – which, if it follows his advice, will see a grand total of exactly one project being finished every year.
Most of all, it’s tiresome for Aquino to persist in trying to rule by press release and opinion poll alone, together with his official coterie who enjoy job security no matter what kind of misfeasance they may be accused of. We have no choice but to wait out the end of his term in two years.
But in the meantime, please – with poverty, hunger, and unemployment knocking ever more loudly at our doors – can we at least be spared the tiresome, empty, mendacious, hypocritical rhetoric? - Rappler.com
In 1970, Gary Olivar was a member of the UP Student Council and the Philippine Collegian staff. After release from detention in 1973, he earned graduate degrees from UP and Harvard and went on to a career in banking and telecoms in the Philippines and abroad. He served as the economic spokesperson of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.