Why Abad should face the Senate

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If only to dispel the impression that he is channeling US president Richard Nixon and turning the DAP mess into his own Watergate, President Benigno Aquino 3rd should be wary of invoking “executive privilege” in preventing Budget Secretary Butch Abad from facing the Senate and answering questions about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the illegal expenditure of P140-billion of the people’s money.

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Nixon’s use of executive privilege did not save his presidency; in the end he had to allow his White House legal counsel John Dean to testify in the Senate; his chief of staff H. R. Haldeman and presidential assistant John Ehrlichman were hauled to court and convicted on charges of obstruction of justice. Nixon was ordered by no less than the US Supreme Court to surrender his White House tapes to the special committee formed to investigate Watergate.

In the end, Nixon, facing certain impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate, opted to resign from the presidency. He would instead strive to win vindication in the following decade by writing his memoirs and other books.

Aquino will make the trajectory toward resignation more certain by sticking stubbornly to a policy of executive secrecy and executive privilege.

No administration omerta (conspiracy of silence) on DAP can save the DAP and the Aquino presidency.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, no matter how much he tries, will not be able to stop the Senate from calling Abad back to the witness chair. His lawyering for Abad, in the earlier Senate moro-moro, will not work this time. Conscience and the weight of his office (third in line to succeed to the presidency in case of vacancy) will finally weigh on him.

In what follows, I discuss the eerie Nixon parallel and its important lessons for Philippine presidential politics.

Eerily replicating NIxon
Whether by design or instinct, Aquino is replicating many of Nixon’s missteps in Watergate, in his own handling of the DAP scandal.

There’s a new word, “channeling,” that more vividly describes how Nixon is being reincarnated by Aquino. It comes from New Age beliefs that denote the process whereby a person becomes a conduit for a deceased person, who imparts information about a previous life.

Aquino began the channeling on October 30 last year when he went on national television to publicly declare that he was “not a thief” in an attempt to head off the growing corruption scandal surrounding DAP, PDAF, and the President’s Social Fund (PSF).

Specifically, Aquino declared: “The issue here is theft. I did not steal….I have never stolen. I am not a thief. I am the one who goes after thieves.”

Aquino’s declaration, perhaps on the advice of his speechwriter, consciously echoed Nixon’s declaration, “I am not a crook,” at a news conference on November 17, 1973.

In an hour-long televised question-and-answer session with 400 Associated Press managing editors, President Nixon vigorously defended his record in the Watergate case and said he had never profited from his public service.

His exact words were: “I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life I have never obstructed justice…People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

From executive privilege to resignation
The following chronology of events shows how Nixon’s initial decision to invoke executive privilege progressively deteriorated to an ever-losing position, and eventually to his resignation from the US presidency.

February 27, 1973: Nixon tells White House counsel John Dean, he intends to use executive privilege to keep aides, Haldeman and Ehrlichman, from testifying before the Senate.

March 2, 1973: Nixon invokes executive privilege in preventing John Dean from testifying at the confirmation hearings of FBI director L. Patrick Gray. “No president could ever agree to allow the counsel to the president to go down and testify before a committee,” Nixon says.

May 22, 1973: Nixon says, No executive privilege claims will be made in regard to the Watergate investigations. President Nixon promises that he will not use the claim of executive privilege to impede testimony or the presentation of evidence: “Executive privilege will not be invoked as to any testimony concerning possible criminal conduct or discussions of possible criminal conduct, in the matters presently under investigation, including the Watergate affair, and the alleged cover-up.” It is with this understanding that former White House counsel John Dean would testify before the Senate Watergate Committee the following month.

July 7, 1973: Nixon invokes executive privilege in refusing to testify or provide documents.

July 23-26, 1973: Documents, tapes subpoenaed by Watergate investigators; Nixon refuses to comply.

Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox and the Senate Watergate Committee demand that President Nixon hand over a selection of presidential documents and the secret White House tapes. Nixon refuses to hand over any of the requested material. He invokes executive privilege.

August 9, 1973: Watergate Committee files suit against Nixon for refusing to comply with subpoena.

August 15, 1973: Nixon delivers second Watergate Address to Nation. He says that the Senate investigation has focused more on trying to “implicate the president personally in the illegal activities that took place,” and reminds listeners that he has already taken “full responsibility” for the “abuses [that]occurred during my administration.” But in light of the increasing evidence being revealed about the Watergate conspiracy, Nixon’s speech is later proven to be a compilation of lies, half-truths, justifications, and evasions.

Nixon concludes his address, saying that it is time to put Watergate behind us, to abandon this “continued, backward-looking obsession with Watergate. The time has come for the rest of us to get on with the urgent business of our nation.”

August 29, 1973: Judge Sirica orders Nixon to hand over tapes. Nixon refuses, but he will lose in court.

July 24, 1974. The issue of access to the tapes has gone to the Supreme Court. On July 24, 1974 the Court rules unanimously that claims of executive privilege over the tapes were void. It orders the president to release them to the special prosecutor. On July 30, 1974, President Nixon complied with the order and released the subpoenaed tapes.

August 5, 1974. The White House released a previously unknown audio tape from June 23, 1972. Recorded only a few days after the break-in, it documented the initial stages of the coverup: it revealed Nixon and Haldeman meeting in the Oval Office and formulating a plan to block investigations by having the CIA falsely claim to the FBI that national security was involved.

The release of the “smoking gun” tape destroyed Nixon politically. The 10 congressmen who voted against all three articles of impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee announced they would all support impeachment when the vote was taken in the full House.

August 7, 1974. Senators Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott and Congressman John Jacob Rhodes met with Nixon in the Oval Office and told him that his support in Congress had all but disappeared. Realizing that he had no chance of staying in office, Nixon decided to resign. In a nationally televised address from the Oval Office on the evening of August 8, 1974, the president announced his resignation:

August 9, 1974. President Nixon and his family leave the White House.

Abad in the Senate
Will Aquino follow the footsteps of Richard Nixon?

Will Miriam’s Question Hour with Abad take place? Or will the administration head it off by making her an offer she cannot refuse?

Will the senators who do not carry the stench of DAP with them join Santiago in questioning Abad?

As I write this piece, there’s still no official word that Senator Santiago has already filed her resolution for the Senate to call Abad to appear in the chamber for a Question Hour session.

The truth is it is Abad and Aquino who will be presented a summons that they cannot refuse. President Nixon tried everything to prevent his men from testifying in the Senate to no avail. Most of the aides wound up in court and in jail. The White House counsel had to testify anyway. And the subpoenaed tapes and documents had to be turned over.

The promise of this session with Abad is that Abad will be interrogated by senators who are without the stench of DAP hovering over them, and who are not beholden to Abad. Senators will not be embarrassed to ask him tough questions about the DAP.

There will be a sea change and a breath of fresh air, when Trillanes, Cayetano and Pimentel go to the sidelines when this session takes place.

The media will be there in full force. The gallery will be full.

Some readers will like the parallels and lessons I have drawn with the presidency of Richard Nixon.

Some will relish them hoping that this Filipino political drama will end in a similar way: with the resignation of a failed president.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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14 Comments

  1. What happened in Watergate is that the congress at that time was dominated by Democrat while Nixon was a Republican. Additionally, the major newspapers in the USA knows that there was a crime as leaked by deepthroat plus they dont have PDI, STAR, ABS- CBN, GMA and their allied tabloid. Nixon cannot do a dap to pay Democrat congressmen. But you may say we have Miriam. Miriam who? Her mouth was shut at the time when Abad go to congress willingly. She was sick? I am sure she have newspaper and tv and staff where Miriam could convey her comment. Anybody heard anything from her? This time maybe different because it was mentioned she was planning to to join in the 2016 presidential race.
    Therefore Mr Yen, your opinion of today is wishful thinking.

  2. Whatever happens, Noynoy will finish his term and his annointed one will still have a chance of winning because of the Filipinos’ ABSCBN mentality. Nothing will change in the government and the society unless the masa will change. Pero malabo. Malabong malabo. Haay, what to do.

  3. anastacio mabini on

    in the philippines the tongress and senatong were talking here is the money how much it cost useless question hour magsasayang lang ng pera ng bayan the best siguro magparamram si tita cory sa kanyang uniko iho sabi nga ni cayetano may kuliling

  4. Yen, in your article “Why Abad should face the Senate” where, backed by/with historical data, you laid before us concerning the ignominy that the Nixon’s Watergate scandal had brought about, and of the possibility of a repeat in case of PNoy were he to persist in not complying to abide by what he promised while had his hand resting on the Bible. I was deeply reflecting on such a possibility when Don McLean’s “Starry, Starry Night” crossed my mind, the same way the NOWHERE MAN of the Beatles, did sometime ago. I’m quoting the most revealing portion, Yen. It might strengthen the public’s perception on the real state of mental health the President’s possesses.

    “Now, I understand what you tried to say to me.
    How you suffered for your sanity
    How you tried to set them free.
    They would not listen
    They did not know how,
    Perhaps they’ll lsten now.

    For they could not love you,
    But still your lve was true.
    And when no hope was left in sight
    On that starry, starry night,
    You took your life, as lovers often do.
    But I could have told you, Vincent,
    This world was never meant
    For one as beautiful as you.”
    May the Holy Spirit continue to shed His light on you and on the
    rest of your courageous, and fearless colleagues, in the MT.

  5. jose hernani m. parco on

    “because only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be in the highest mountain.” _ _ R.M. Nixon

  6. Ito na ang pagkakataon ni Merriam Santiago na patunayan na puedi siyang maging pangulo,pangalawang buhay na niya, sana hindi siya magsalita na hindi niya magagawa, dito makikita kung anong klase siya.
    Ang katulad ni Aquino ay di dapat magtaggal sa gobyerno.
    Ang pinakasinungaling pangulo na nagkaroon Ang bansa.
    Ang dap ay hindi malilimutan hanggang may Aquino at hanggang hindi naipakukulong ang lahat ng traitor sa bayan ang tumangap nito,
    Ito na ang pagkakataon ni Merriam Santiago na maipakita niya na karapat -dapat bilang pangulo!!

  7. gabriela silang on

    aquino will surely invoke executive privilege as forwarded by his mouthpiece. though clearly such will not hold ground, aquino will move heaven and earth to frustrate the senate question hour. but that is getting a bit too far. firstly, miriam should file the resolution to set the motion. i have doubts tho with miriam. she in not immaculate clean, much more a lady with scruples. she calls gloria tarantada then during erap’s ouster only to embrace and defend her like a saint. it wont be surprising if she’ll back out from filing the resolution- syempre may lagay! that’s vintage miriam… but of course people change, and maybe her near bout with death would open the good side of her this time by filing the resolution and forcing abad to tell all about dap. who knows, she’ll listen this time to her guardian angel and finally do something worthwhile for her country. by then we can say abadgate is the philippine way of nixonizing aquino. let’s get ready to rumble!

  8. I said so in my previous responses.

    President BS Aquino is President Nixon in the making.

    His only honorable option is to RESIGN THE PRESIDENCY –
    IMMEDIATELY.

    Vice President Binay will pardon him immediate predecessor like what
    Vice Gerald Ford did and like what President Gloria Arroyo
    did to President Erap.

    OTANG NA LOOB KAY PRESIDENT CORY AQUINO –
    Right President Binay? Wala ka naman sa pwesto mo
    ngayon kung hindi kay Cory.

    My unsolicited advice President Binay – do not not run for
    President in 2016 if you plan to do this. YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT.

    • i fully agree with your blog that if biNOY pardons aquino, he will surely get the ire of the people. he should be very careful and think about the issue for he might end up sa kangkungan.

  9. The mischievous one, PNoy and his equally mischievous acolyte, Abad are so thick-faced, even a 44 Magnum with dum-dum bullets cannot penetrate their faces and the entire body. As long as these two have the “purse” and the legislathieve pigs will continue to suck dick.

  10. As a lifetime student of politics, I’d like to see the workings of a democratic process in the Philippine congress, as compared to the U.S. Congress in the Nixon saga. However, I really doubt a possible ‘duplication’ in the case of the Aquino-Abad tandem.

    First of all, one has to consider the emotional and mental frame of the subjects; American legislators, more or less, are guided by moral and legal principles and reflect the sentiments of their consitutuents. Secondly and sadly, the circumstances surrounding the current congress do not show the ‘independence’ of many
    members; many are guided by personal agenda.

    But, be it as it may, I hope the Filipino people, “specifically those in the know”, will be EVER vigilant of what transpires, in and out of the government, for a better congress and head of state; a better Philippines. With much hesitation, I can conclude: “Onli in da Pilipins!”

    Nonetheless, Mabuhay Ka Pa Rin, Yen!