A distraught reader asks, How can three brash young men, in such a hurry, go berserk in the Senate without being restrained and held to account by the leaders of the Chamber or by the other members? Why have we not heard from the other senators whose faces we see in all sorts of cheap commercial ads and who are occasionally mentioned as “presidential aspirants” for 2016? Have we become so numb or impotent against this lawless display of power?
Somewhere in the text, the reader identifies the three brash young men as Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Aquilino Pimentel 3rd. The Binay camp calls them and their allies his “detractors.” Vice President Binay has refused, correctly in our view, to honor their invitation to appear before a subcommittee of the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is investigating his alleged wrongdoing and ill-gotten wealth when he was still mayor of Makati.
But on Tuesday he met with Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the public affairs chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, reportedly to shed light on the allegations against him. No details have been reported about the meeting. But one malicious texter has suggested that Binay had gone to the bishop for confession, in an effort to obtain “absolution, without restitution.”
This is clearly foul. Confession is a private conversation between a priest and a penitent, inside a confessional, without the media watching from a distance, waiting for a statement. What took place was a private meeting between a hierarch of the Church and a public official, while the media waited outside for a possible statement. It was preceded by a press release saying Binay would like to tell the bishop the facts about the allegations coming from his “detractors.”
Binay’s spokesmen were less than precise in referring to his accusers as his “detractors.” This was not the right word at all; they are attack dogs, pure and simple. One commits the sin of “detraction” when one reveals to another a third person’s private faults without any valid justification. Thus when somebody informs the media that her female celebrity-friend cannot let a single day pass without having to have a male companion in bed, she is guilty of detraction.
The information may be true, but its public disclosure does not serve any good at all. So if you simply call your accuser a “detractor,” you question your accuser’s motive in revealing your private fault, but you do not deny the truth of the allegation. This is not the case of Binay. He has denied everything, so he is dealing with false accusers rather than mere “detractors.”
Now, the CBCP has a genuine interest in finding out the truth or falsity of the allegations against the country’s second highest official. But the CBCP, like the Senate blue ribbon committee, is not the forum, and cannot be the forum to proclaim the Vice President guilty or not guilty of the allegations. It has to be the courts to do this, and the senators’ duty is to go to court if they honestly believe the VP is guilty of any serious wrongdoing. But by throwing all those bricks against Binay in a forum that cannot usurp the court’s function, they may have simply turned him into an underdog, if not some kind of political martyr.
Their worse mistake is that they have given the impression that, as far as they are concerned, the 2016 presidential campaign has already officially begun, and that Binay is already an official candidate for President. Their more serious mistake, which is not less than a crime, is that they have given the impression that they are prepared to participate in any presidential election under prevailing conditions, without first recasting the system that has been thoroughly corrupted and debased by the rigging of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) voting machines in 2010 and 2013.
For many thoughtful and patriotic Filipinos, this is the real issue rather than the worthiness or unworthiness of any presidential aspirant at this point. This is what the legal technicians call the prejudicial question. Four years into the Aquino presidency, we have come to realize that because the PCOS machines were thoroughly corrupted, and it was a private foreign company rather than the Commission on Elections that conducted the elections, we did not have a real and valid presidential election in 2010 nor a real and valid senatorial election in 2013.
Of course this position is debatable. But it impugns the legitimacy of the national officials “elected” in those elections. This is why the National Transformation Council insists that before we start talking of the next presidential elections, and who should be running or not running there, we must first overhaul our electoral system under a non-partisan, multisectoral transitional council, which is not identified with any presidential aspirant.
This is where Trillanes, Cayetano and Pimentel could meaningfully intervene, if they will. Like the NTC, they could insist on a credible electoral process as a conditio sine qua non for the holding of the next elections. Of course, the three senators are committed to destroying Binay. But they certainly have sent themselves on a fool’s errand if they believe that by doing what they are doing they have moved themselves and their rumored principal, Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, closer to inheriting Malacañang after B. S. Aquino 3rd steps down.
There’s no logic to this whatsoever. By their sheer arrogance and abrasiveness alone, they have destroyed themselves much more than they could have possibly destroyed Binay. If the surveys are to be believed, although I have very serious reservations about them, the three young men are now bleeding (politically) more profusely than Binay. But whether or not the nation’s thirst and hunger for decency and fair play succeeds in giving Binay a much fairer deal, we have to agree that our most pressing business is to get rid of all our corrupt politicians as the Supreme Court has ordered, and a growing number of citizens insist upon. We must change the corrupt regime and the dysfunctional political system before 2016.