HAS anybody read a Palace statement on the death of the much admired former Sen. Joker Arroyo? There was a report of President BS Aquino The Last’s going to Mindanao to attend the wake of policeman who had served as his security, but about Joker?
I may be wrong. A Malacañang statement could have been buried somewhere, but nobody should be surprised if BS Aquino considers Joker’s demise a non-event, not after Joker had made mincemeat of his legal pretensions in a plenary debate more than six years ago. For Joker’s “effrontery,” BS Aquino stopped talking to him although Joker had been a family friend for more than 40 years. Oh well, what else should we expect of an onion-skinned leader so full of himself?
But if Malacañang had ignored the death of the beloved Joker, so what? This will not stop people from paying tribute to a great statesman that Joker was.
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Much has been said about Joker’s refusal to touch his “pork” as senator. Not many knew that he also never availed himself of his pork in the 9 years that he was Makati congressman.
“The Makati councilors will merely laugh at me. Their pork is much bigger than that of congressmen,” he explained.
The fact is, it wasn’t the minuscule amount but its use by lawmakers that had troubled him. Note that he never used his “pork” even when he became senator and it became much bigger showed. Despite this mindset, Joker never pontificated against the evils of the pork barrel system. He never uttered a single word against his colleagues who believed in the system.
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In one of the rare times that he talked with Senate reporters about his stint as Executive Secretary of President Cory, he recounted that before her state visit to the US he proposed that she seek total or partial condonation of Philippine debts.
“The Central Bank was against the idea. The CB said that a debt is a debt and must be paid. From that day on the Central Bank became my enemy,” he said.
President Cory was then the world’s darling and her call for debt condonation would have received favorable response. In fact, the US and other First World countries had subsequently agreed to condone debts of several distressed countries. Popes have appealed to rich countries about this.
Just imagine how much better economically we would have been if only she had listened to Joker and not to Central Bank officials!
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At the Senate, he made a dent as chair of the blue ribbon, the committee that investigates allegations of graft in government. He had zealously guarded against the panel’s being used as vehicle for personal vendetta or for a political agenda. He had refused to undertake an investigation based on mere rumors and suspicions even if the investigation was sought in a resolution referred to his committee.
“I will never be a party to investigations that are meant to sully the reputation of some people. Neither will I agree to the use of the blue ribbon committee for a fishing expedition!” Joker exclaimed.
He moved with deliberate speed in investigating Proclamation 1017 issued by President Arroyo authorizing warrantless arrests and the curtailment of press freedom. His probe into the contract between National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez and the Venable law firm in the US led to the cancellation of the contract, which the blue ribbon had declared unconstitutional.
Under Joker, the blue ribbon concluded that the contract of the Commission on Elections with MegaPacific for the automation of the 2004 election was “highly anomalous, overpriced and grossly disadvantageous to the government.”
He was also the unanimous choice of his colleagues to represent the Senate in opposing before the Supreme Court Executive Order 464 that barred the military, police and executive officials from appearing in a legislative inquiry unless approved by President Arroyo.
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Joker’s simple ways had made him avoid pomp and pageantry although he had held lofty positions. In fact, he was the only winner in the 2007 senatorial elections who snubbed his proclamation by the Comelec.
He described the proclamation ceremonies as similar to a Famas award where the winners were even given plaques.
He made this aversion even more manifest with his refusal to receive any necrological service at the Senate although this would have been a fitting send off to a lawmaker who had served the country well.