Scoundrels and the ‘negatives’ list

Scoundrels and the ‘negatives’ list Featured

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has come out with the final list of those running for the Senate; 63 names are vying for 12 slots. Pundits predict only the first 20 names extracted from polling syndicates (SWS, Pulse Asia) will have a statistical chance of winning a seat. This could be true as, historically, the dominant names have been those of incumbents running for another term. Added to the mix are popular actors, media personalities, athletes, entertainers and delusional “wannabes” with qualifications alien from those which the position demands.
 
This spectacle is repeated triennially when we surrender to these persistent suitors our precious collective political hymen on the one day we are seemingly in control; for a perverted guarantee of three years of rape and debauchery. The majority of voters will acquiesce to their entreaties, or sell their voters to the highest bidder. Every election cycle, we sell our souls. Many of these branded names we elect come from political dynasties whose concept of public service is primarily to serve their own. Many of them are crooks, corrupt traditional politicians who have perfected the art of kleptocracy, while sharing from time to time a pittance of their loot with their respective dispersed but pliable constituency. Many of these senators belong to the trash pile, the bottom feeders who during their incumbencies prove themselves to be adept at lining their pockets with the people’s treasure.
 
Today, assisted in part by pollsters, both legitimate and seedy, and for a fee, avail of Facebook apps to artificially bolster their numbers, they engineer stats projecting their popularity — the basic ingredient the unwary voters often rely on. Social media indeed is a two-edged sword; logistics and funds are still the primary engines. Predictions of so-called political cognoscenti therefore have narrowed down the list to just 15 to 20 names.
 
I disagree with this mechanics of exclusion. There ought to be a law against this. I say, its high time we really look into these names and decide if they are worthy to represent us in the highest echelon of political leadership; and conversely, if we deserve to be allowed the right and privilege to elevate these people to such positions this coming May elections and beyond, mindful of Thomas Jefferson’s admonition, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”
 
Comelec, for whatever decency it still possesses, must attempt to lead this type of endeavor, “leveling the playing field” for all legitimate candidates. I am not suggesting that all the current branded names are on the flip side of the good, the decent and true. We have among them people with track records of excellent public service.
 
We are imperfect voters, prone to elevate dangerously flawed people to positions of power who lack the requisite modicum of perspicacity on what it takes to be true servants of the people. We are inconsistent and biased voters exposed to the values we grow up with and captives of our culture. We are therefore influenced by opinions of friends, colleagues and those within our milieu. We are susceptible to herd mentality with the tendency to conform to ours peers in a group where we comfortably belong; and therefore adopt “certain behavior on a largely emotional, rather than rational basis.”
 
 
 
Having said this, let me disturb you and take you out of your comfort zone. I start with a counsel from George Orwell (1984) who put it succinctly, “A people that elect corrupt politicians, impostors, thieves, and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.” I will not attempt to present my choices. They shall remain names “en pectore.”
 
I will instead proffer a “negatives list” culled out from social media — FB, Twitter, blogs and postings. Surfing through the internet, three glaring names emerge: all former senators — Estrada, Revilla and Enrile. These are members of a close fraternity with singular distinction. The three were “…implicated in the PDAF scheme supposedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who was convicted of plunder in her case with Revilla. She is accused of funneling P10 billion of lawmakers’ funds into bogus nongovernment organizations.” (CNN Philippine staff.) As a disclaimer, these personalities have no personal ties with this columnist, nor have I exchanged recent pleasantries with them. I doubt they know me or read my columns.
 
Enrile was granted bail in 2015 on “special humanitarian and compelling circumstances.” The same is questionable as bail is not allowed on plunder cases. Enrile’s plunder trial for allegedly receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from projects funded by his office’s pork barrel at the Sandiganbayan starts this month. He is further charged with 15 counts of graft. A painful twist here is that “…the crucial link to Enrile are two women: his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes and socialite Ruby Tuason. Tuason said she got kickbacks for Enrile from Janet Lim Napoles, and she coursed them through Reyes.” (Rappler, Feb 19, 2019.) Reyes has not been granted bail and is now languishing in jail. Socialite Tuason, a member of one of Manila’s elite families, returned P40 million of her share in the scam and saved her skin by ratting on her accomplices.
 
 
 
Jinggoy Estrada had an unresolved plunder case when he ran and won a Senate seat in 2004. He was let out of jail after posting a P1-million bail for his second plunder and graft charges in September 2017. When he filed his certificate of candidacy in October, last year, Estrada declared with arrogance he was confident his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam would not affect his chances to win a senatorial seat in the 2019 elections.
 
Meantime, Bong Revilla was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan on his plunder case but posted bail on 16 other graft cases. But his chief of staff Richard Cambe and Napoles were found guilty over the diversion of Revilla’s discretionary funds. The three were asked by prosecutors to pay government as the three accused were “solidarily and jointly liable to return to the national treasury the amount of P124,500,000,” as civil liability. This is currently being contested while the good ex-senator again filed his certificate of candidacy for his old seat.
 
Why mention only these three names and not the others? Admittedly, there are rascals among the remaining names. My premise is simple. Why should we return these three ex-senators to the same office they were booted out from and thrown in jail for transgressions arising out of their acts as senators? The argument that they have been proven innocent and therefore not guilty beyond reasonable doubt does not wash. They stand not before the courts of law now but before the judgment of the people — the ultimate arbiter. Their notoriety should not invest them the privilege of another try at public service. There are 60 other senatorial candidates from among whom, if we the voters discern enough, we could find better and suitable senators.
 
Or, vote them back to office and be complicit. And God help our country!

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has come out with the final list of those running for the Senate; 63 names are vying for 12 slots. Pundits predict only the first 20 names extracted from polling syndicates (SWS, Pulse Asia) will have a statistical chance of winning a seat. This could be true as, historically, the dominant names have been those of incumbents running for another term. Added to the mix are popular actors, media personalities, athletes, entertainers and delusional “wannabes” with qualifications alien from those which the position demands.

This spectacle is repeated triennially when we surrender to these persistent suitors our precious collective political hymen on the one day we are seemingly in control; for a perverted guarantee of three years of rape and debauchery. The majority of voters will acquiesce to their entreaties, or sell their voters to the highest bidder. Every election cycle, we sell our souls. Many of these branded names we elect come from political dynasties whose concept of public service is primarily to serve their own. Many of them are crooks, corrupt traditional politicians who have perfected the art of kleptocracy, while sharing from time to time a pittance of their loot with their respective dispersed but pliable constituency. Many of these senators belong to the trash pile, the bottom feeders who during their incumbencies prove themselves to be adept at lining their pockets with the people’s treasure.

Today, assisted in part by pollsters, both legitimate and seedy, and for a fee, avail of Facebook apps to artificially bolster their numbers, they engineer stats projecting their popularity — the basic ingredient the unwary voters often rely on. Social media indeed is a two-edged sword; logistics and funds are still the primary engines. Predictions of so-called political cognoscenti therefore have narrowed down the list to just 15 to 20 names.

I disagree with this mechanics of exclusion. There ought to be a law against this. I say, its high time we really look into these names and decide if they are worthy to represent us in the highest echelon of political leadership; and conversely, if we deserve to be allowed the right and privilege to elevate these people to such positions this coming May elections and beyond, mindful of Thomas Jefferson’s admonition, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

Comelec, for whatever decency it still possesses, must attempt to lead this type of endeavor, “leveling the playing field” for all legitimate candidates. I am not suggesting that all the current branded names are on the flip side of the good, the decent and true. We have among them people with track records of excellent public service.

We are imperfect voters, prone to elevate dangerously flawed people to positions of power who lack the requisite modicum of perspicacity on what it takes to be true servants of the people. We are inconsistent and biased voters exposed to the values we grow up with and captives of our culture. We are therefore influenced by opinions of friends, colleagues and those within our milieu. We are susceptible to herd mentality with the tendency to conform to ours peers in a group where we comfortably belong; and therefore adopt “certain behavior on a largely emotional, rather than rational basis.”

Having said this, let me disturb you and take you out of your comfort zone. I start with a counsel from George Orwell (1984) who put it succinctly, “A people that elect corrupt politicians, impostors, thieves, and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.” I will not attempt to present my choices. They shall remain names “en pectore.”

I will instead proffer a “negatives list” culled out from social media — FB, Twitter, blogs and postings. Surfing through the internet, three glaring names emerge: all former senators — Estrada, Revilla and Enrile. These are members of a close fraternity with singular distinction. The three were “…implicated in the PDAF scheme supposedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who was convicted of plunder in her case with Revilla. She is accused of funneling P10 billion of lawmakers’ funds into bogus nongovernment organizations.” (CNN Philippine staff.) As a disclaimer, these personalities have no personal ties with this columnist, nor have I exchanged recent pleasantries with them. I doubt they know me or read my columns.

Enrile was granted bail in 2015 on “special humanitarian and compelling circumstances.” The same is questionable as bail is not allowed on plunder cases. Enrile’s plunder trial for allegedly receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from projects funded by his office’s pork barrel at the Sandiganbayan starts this month. He is further charged with 15 counts of graft. A painful twist here is that “…the crucial link to Enrile are two women: his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes and socialite Ruby Tuason. Tuason said she got kickbacks for Enrile from Janet Lim Napoles, and she coursed them through Reyes.” (Rappler, Feb 19, 2019.) Reyes has not been granted bail and is now languishing in jail. Socialite Tuason, a member of one of Manila’s elite families, returned P40 million of her share in the scam and saved her skin by ratting on her accomplices.

Jinggoy Estrada had an unresolved plunder case when he ran and won a Senate seat in 2004. He was let out of jail after posting a P1-million bail for his second plunder and graft charges in September 2017. When he filed his certificate of candidacy in October, last year, Estrada declared with arrogance he was confident his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam would not affect his chances to win a senatorial seat in the 2019 elections.

Meantime, Bong Revilla was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan on his plunder case but posted bail on 16 other graft cases. But his chief of staff Richard Cambe and Napoles were found guilty over the diversion of Revilla’s discretionary funds. The three were asked by prosecutors to pay government as the three accused were “solidarily and jointly liable to return to the national treasury the amount of P124,500,000,” as civil liability. This is currently being contested while the good ex-senator again filed his certificate of candidacy for his old seat.

Why mention only these three names and not the others? Admittedly, there are rascals among the remaining names. My premise is simple. Why should we return these three ex-senators to the same office they were booted out from and thrown in jail for transgressions arising out of their acts as senators? The argument that they have been proven innocent and therefore not guilty beyond reasonable doubt does not wash. They stand not before the courts of law now but before the judgment of the people — the ultimate arbiter. Their notoriety should not invest them the privilege of another try at public service. There are 60 other senatorial candidates from among whom, if we the voters discern enough, we could find better and suitable senators.

Or, vote them back to office and be complicit. And God help our country!

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