It absolutely and utterly offends me that the general response to the proliferation of list upon list of government officials involved in the pork barrel scam has been one of dismissal.
I take offense because to shrug their shoulders, or to put into question a list because it includes their names, or to just go on nationwide television all smug about the credibility that the Senate and Congress and Malacañang continue to have, is really premised on our government officials’ sense of power. As far as they are concerned, all it takes is for them to deny something, all it takes for them is to tell us to not believe something, and that will be enough.
It’s like saying that the public —the electorate!—is mere audience, and everything you shove down its throat it will swallow.
It’s like treating everything to be nothing but show(biz). Talumpati ala Chiz, or yabang ala Drilon, the voice of reason ala Cayetano, or below-the-belt and angry ala Miriam, and all will turn out well. Write your own version of the story, get media mileage for it, sell it well. That’s all it takes.
Which says what exactly about the public.
Taken for stupid
“The Senate is not in crisis,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said on nationwide television a day after various lists were revealed to include names of past and present senators. The Senate leader looked smug and bored, his tone dismissive when asked about the subpoena duces tecum he signed to require Benhur Luy to release digital files to the Senate’s Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the pork barrel scam.
The point of the press con was to say that despite Senator Panfilo Lacson making a big deal about releasing the contents of the list he had acquired, the Senate was far from being affected by it. The Senate President was there to tell us all that the Senate was not in a state of collapse, as it is an institution that is not about the people who compose it. “People may come and go but the Senate will remain as an institution of democracy and as a vital part of our democratic government,” Drilon says.
Really? People come and go? So says the Senator who has had three terms in this institution, and has been in government since 1987!
But what Drilon wants us to believe is that our good senators’ involvement, alleged and otherwise, in the pork barrel scam does not in any way taint the Senate as an institution. He wants us to believe that the best way for senators to react to being a part of those lists is for them to continue doing their work in the Senate, like nothing’s going on.
Like nothing’s going on. That’s like having senators working on their own agendas, no matter what people think. Like having them spend taxpayers money on the laws they feel are important to pass in the Senate, never mind what the lowly taxpayers actually need. Like having our senators working on legislative agendas yes, but more importantly on personal agendas now bound to the 2016 elections, while the rest of the nation is struggling to make ends meet and dealing with hunger and need and want to actually engage with the fact of a Senate that’s embroiled in the pork barrel scam.
So balik sa dating gawi? Like we, the people, do not know of the kind of systemic dysfunction that is in giving our senators the power to spend our money on whatever they see fit? With nary real accounting to the last centavo?
Stupid, I tell you. They take us for stupid.
Take some due process
The President himself, spouting due process like there’s no tomorrow. Give us evidence and we will take our Cabinet officials to court, the President says. This is his family, he says, and they are innocent until proven guilty. If all Cabinet members are fired based on critics’ demands, what would be left of his Cabinet?
Well, the few good men. The ones we still believe exist actually. The ones who can actually say matuwid-na-daan and have a personal and political history to back that up.
I’d rather that, than to be faced with a Cabinet, a Senate, a Congress that’s filled with politicians whose names and political histories are tainted with the pork barrel scam.
And I mean all of them really, all of them traditional politicians who have not consciously and conscientiously said no to the dysfunction that the pork barrel system has created in our democratic institutions.
Your name does not need to be on that list to be culpable, or guilty, of letting this system prosper. In the case of the pork barrel system, the kind that Napoles and her team have earned from, if you didn’t raise your hand in protest of unaccounted for funds and questionable disbursements, if you watched as the Senator next to you did it, or the Congressman before you did it, then you are guilty as well.
If you agree that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was the right response to the public outrage against the pork barrel scam; if you believe that you as Senator and Congressman have the right to spend the people’s money on your own agenda; if you actually truly believe that there is nothing wrong with the kind of accounting and transparency that the public is being treated to by our government institutions, then you are guilty as well of the crime of letting this pork barrel system prosper.
You lived off this system, and you continue to when you do nothing but turn defensive and dismissive, smug and full-of-yourself on nationwide television. That you think we will take this as truth, hook, line and sinker, is to think so little of the public.
Taken for this spin
Ah, but the spin doctors are working overtime here, and we know it too because pushed against the wall—and risking 2016 aspirations—our senators and Malacañang are falling all over themselves trying to convince us to be dismissive of these lists.
Look at that one of Benhur Luy’s, we are being told, look at those lists that can be substantiated with evidence and paperwork.
Well, yes. But should that mean ignoring completely the lists written down by eyewitness the culpable and guilty like Jannet Lim-Napoles? I’ve always been for making Napoles pay, but I’ve also always wanted her to get the balls to actually tell all.
And while our good politicians are saying that these multiple unsubstantiated lists will just muddle the issue, I say the challenge then is to allow the public a better sense of what these lists are about, how might one be more credible than the other, how can one list not have Drilon, and the other have Escudero?
What could this mean for the case of the missing and misused and abused pork barrel funds?
Let’s level up the discussion, shall we? And please, dear senators and Malacañang, hold the drama.