Eyes on the Senate

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The problem with a government that does so many things wrong is that critics can barely keep up. Or are we getting tired?

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There doesn’t seem to me to be enough public, i.e., social media, noise, for example, about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). I tend to think that this might be born of how difficult it is, how much deeper we need to go to understand how agreements like these are always lopsided (to put it kindly) in favor of America, and how this was so obviously rushed to get Obama to get here (now na!) for more hobnobbing with the empire. I mean read it and weep. Listen to the three senators (count that!) grilling members of the EDCA panel and find that they are leaving much of it—practically all of it—up to discussions to happen in the future.

Right now, in writing, all we’ve got is an agreement that is also press release: an effort at convincing us all that they have not signed away our rights over our territory.

Seeing only Senators Loren Legarda, Bongbong Marcos and Serge Osmeña in the Senate discussion today (May 13) it seems too many of our senators have been convinced?

Lacson and lists
Or are the senators, like us, just in over their heads? Because there is The Dreaded List courtesy of Janet Napoles, resident pork barrel scam queen, that one that we knew all this time must exist and which is now being wagged in our faces, with the media lapping it all up.

The thing is, this list has spawned this narrative where former Senator Panfilo Lacson—post-Haiyan rehabilitation czar with nothing to show for it really—is the star of the show. He is the Keeper of Secrets.

Or just the noisiest of those who are in on whom that list contains, and getting some media mileage from dropping hints—some names maybe—prompted and otherwise.

It, of course, doesn’t take a genius to see that this—Lacson himself —is a distraction. It can only be so relative to that “official” list that is with Napoles, and the one that’s with Benhur Luy, and the unverified list that’s with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, and that one with Sandra Cam. It is a distraction that benefits Lacson, too, seeing as he recently dissed the people of Leyte in public, saying that if there are those who remain hungry in the post-Haiyan context, that must be because they are lazy.

We missed that, didn’t we? And mostly because the next thing we knew, Lacson’s was the loudest most consistent voice speaking about these lists, like he holds in his hands the credibility of the Senate and Congress. This former senator fashions himself the bearer of the truth that will set us all free, yet he can also only remain loyal to the institution that cradles him and his co-senators and this corrupt system that Napoles has lived off.

It might be that Lacson thinks he can wash his hands clean of the failed rehabilitation of Leyte, by using The Dreaded List like it’s his to pawn. Might be time to zonk him on the head and tell him we can see right through the spin.

Waiting on media
It took a while, but at this writing (night of May 13), GMA News dared release a list which they’ve verified to have names that are also part of The Dreaded List of Napoles.

It took a while, but at least there’s a non-politician non-government voice that’s spilling the beans—no matter that this might need further verification, and it is unclear what the supporting documents for this list are. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has released a statement saying that it is the Benhur Luy List that she wants to see, as that has supporting documents.

I say, show us all those lists, release all of it to the public. And then let us watch as our good senators try and prove their innocence.

Or let’s watch as they turn defensive and dig themselves even deeper holes to sink into.

So, no, Senator Chiz Escudero, dismissing the Napoles list as “panggulo” just because you’re included in it just won’t work. In fact your defensive stance just reminds me of how much of a politico you are, providing us with the soundbites delivered as angry Pinoy man, now complete with your over-exposed and -used love and romance. Please. Stop the alboroto (goes for you, too, Senator Koko Pimentel).

It’s as good a distraction as any. It’s about as hilarious as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “revelation” of Benhur Luy’s records. What, you acquired a hard disk with files in April 2013 and you took more than a year to get it out? My goodness, who are your tech guys?

Times like these I terribly miss the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when we could count on them to do relevant and important stories, right when we needed them. Now there is nothing like it, and we wait on media about as much as we wait on our politicians to get beyond, rise above, personal interests and gain.

The 2016 monkey wrench
The thing is, this is election season. The President’s got a report card to worry about and is now making decisions, signing agreements, left and right, never mind that they don’t go through the Senate nor public consultations. Lacson and the rest of our politicians—the President’s Liberal Party—also have their eyes set on 2016.

Which would be fine were we getting better discourse and more daring and intelligent discussions out of it. Say, a bunch of senators and senator-wannabes who will take a stand against the EDCA, given the kind of freedom and leeway it gives America in the Philippines, given the gaps and silences that government agreed to. Heck, give me a presidential candidate who will say repeal this agreement, and I just might vote for him or her.

Say, the new senators who are not—have yet to be—scarred by a pork barrel scam, taking a stand for the institution’s credibility and separating themselves from their old(er) co-senators, whose names appear on those lists. I mean if were Bam Aquino or Nancy Binay, Grace Poe or Sonny Angara or JV Ejercito, I would take this opportunity to declare myself independent from the systemic dysfunction that the previous Senates allowed to prosper.

But alas, all we’re getting from the Senate are two things: silence or alboroto, take your pick. The former reminds us that it’s an old boys’ club, one that is not at all about serving the public. The latter tells us that they think we are that easy, that they can get away with rhetoric and soundbites to clear their names.

Meanwhile we can barely keep our eye on any one ball these days. Even more reason to keep it on the Senate, which means keep it on the Palace, too.

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1 Comment

  1. Katrina its not up to the senators to prove they are innocent its up to the state to prove they are guilty. Now its very easy to prove one way or another. There is a paper trail. What ngo’s did they use. If they used any of those fake ngo’s or bogus ngo’s they are guilty. Its their responsibility to know where their allowable monies is going. If they dont follow it up be it on their back They want to be given this allowance to distribut where they see fit so they should see fit it goes there. Ignorance is no excuse. I didnt know it was a bogus ngo. Well you should, you should have followed through with what you were told that money was going to do who it was going to benefit. If you didnt it means you took your share of the money. There is no other excuse. You might kid yourself with i didnt know but you wont kid us with that lame excuse again. Its your responsibility, no one elses yours.