A television station featured last week a number of action movies starring Sen. Bong Revilla. In one scene, he endured and survived the agony of being tied and dragged by a horseman. In other scenes, he was tortured and even hanged upside down but there was nary an anguished cry from him.
I was still thinking of Bong Revilla the actor’s stoic reaction to physical torture when I heard reports of his complaining about the heat in Camp Crame where he’s detained on charges of plunder. In the movies, he could endure physical torture. In real life, he couldn’t withstand the heat, unlike us ordinary mortals who could tolerate high temperatures without a whimper.
How I wished he had accepted everything thrown at him, even the kitchen sink, for what he considers a political persecution. They could do their worst against him but he would still remain strong and defiant. Now, that’s my underdog hero. Unfortunately, he wilted because of the heat. The image he had cultivated in the movies is nowhere to be found in Crame.
Indeed, there’s a big difference between reel and real life but this usually escapes the ordinary voter. While covering a senatorial campaign, I interviewed a man who was lustily clapping and shouting at the mention of the name of an action star.
The man said: “Ang galing-galing niya. Pinapatay niya lahat ng kanyang kalaban.” (He’s very good. He kills all his enemies.)
It didn’t matter that the actor-candidate’s heroism was confined to the movies where he shot blanks and nobody got killed. Real-life warriors who engaged enemies of the state in actual combat and got numerous medals are often ignored by voters. Some of these candidates are Col. Ariel Querubin of the Philippine Marines, recipient of the country’s highest medal for bravery, the Medal of Valor, and B/Gen. Danny Lim, a West Pointer and former head of the Special Forces. Both bombed at the polls in 2010.
Revilla topped the 2010 senatorial election with 19,414,795 votes. (President BS Aquino who was supported by 42 percent of the electorate got 15,208,708 votes.) Revilla’s votes were the highest ever in any Philippine election until Grace Poe got 20,147,423 in 2013. This shows that a big number of voters believe in him. As an actor or as a legislator?
One of his former colleagues in the Senate didn’t seem so impressed with him. While he was sponsoring the bill seeking to abolish the amusement tax on movies, Sen. Jamby Madrigal stood up to interpellate him. She started by asking what language he preferred.
“English or Tagalog?” she asked.
Revilla took a deep breath and after about a minute of silence, answered in English.
Well, anybody who has read his Senate Bill No. 954 titled Agriculture Technology Generation and Transfer Act filed in the First Regular Session should acknowledge his mastery of the English language. It said in part: “This bill is in response to the strongly felt need to integrate R&D and technology generation and transfer into a single coherent and harmonious system dedicated to the socio-economic well-being of the Filipino farmers and the development of the nation.” Wow!
He has filed a bill seeking to establish a 15-day buffer stock as a strategic food security rice reserve. I was about to shout “bravo” when I learned that the National Food Authority was already mandated to maintain a 30-day buffer stock at the start of lean months.
Revilla styles himself as having authored the most number of laws in his first three years as senator. Yes, that’s true, but most of them were local bills seeking to nationalize provincial roads and schools. (Once, he asked the majority leader to insert into the Senate records his sponsorship of the bill amending the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973. His motion was withdrawn and his bill was shelved for the day after Sen. Nene Pimentel objected, saying “it’s not possible to interpellate the records.”)
Now, he’s facing the biggest challenge in his life in the plunder charges. It takes more than his heroic exploits in the movies to overcome this challenge. This reminds me of a case in 2012 when the Department of Budget and Management said that he got P210 million in pork the previous year, with P115 million spent for the acquisition of 529 multicabs in Cavite.
It turned out that he got only P100 million that year and that he bought only 23 multicabs. Budget Secretary Butch Abad apologized and attributed this to a computer glitch.