That’s what everyone and his shooting buddy may blurt upon reading that headline. Why in heaven’s name is media to blame for the Manila airport extortion from hapless travellers over planted bullets in their luggage?
Answer: The press has encouraged the corrupt, brazen pepetrators of ‘laglag-bala’. How? By constantly letting President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his clique of classmates, allies and shooting buddies (KKK by their Filipino initials) off the hook in fiasco after fiasco since 2010, pro-Aquino media has abetted the excesses now done with impunity.
From the Luneta hostage crisis and the 2,000-plus vanished cargo containers, to the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos and the current laglag-bala extortion, Aquino and his cronies have repeatedly escaped full accountability and lasting opprobium for every anomaly — with the connivance of his backers in media.
Aquino’s controversy-killing drill
Malacañang’s controversy-killing drill is now honed to a T. First, defend the crony and downplay the anomaly, like Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda dismissing as “industry practice” the Macau family junket of top Aquino crony and casino czar Cristino Naguiat Jr. improperly paid for by a gambling license bidder (remember that?).
If public pressure continues, Aquino orders investigations, and sometimes, lets his friends quit without charging them, like then Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Ernesto Diokno and, after three years of controversy, Land Transportation Office (LTO) head Virginia Torres (remember them?).
After such public relations ploys, Aquino waits. For what? For new headlines to take the minds of media and masa off the scams. And co-opted or corrupted reporters, editors, and broadcasters make sure unflattering coverage disappear from the headlines.
So the nation forgets the brouhahas. Aquino’s ratings rebound, and little else is heard or done about the controversies or the investigations Aquino orders but never follows up.
Ask family and friends if they remember the following scandals, among many involving Aquino’s KKK: the Leviste hospital furloughs, the 2,000-plus vanished containers, the billion-peso rifle bidding scam, the Torres casino video, the Inekon extortion try, and the anomalous billion-peso chopper contract.
It would be surprising if most Filipinos remember that presidential friend Diokno resigned over the unauthorized hospital stays by jailed murderer Jose Antonio Leviste, the first among many BuCor scandals, for which no chief has been charged. Ditto the brouhahas over then LTO chief Torres’s illicit gambling and corporate meddling, both caught on video, plus her recent involvement in alleged sugar smuggling.
And there is nothing more said in the papers or on radio and TV about the $30 million demanded from Czech company Inekon to get the Metro Rail Transit train deal, or the P1.2-billion contract that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin approved for the purchase of combat helicopters unable to fly.
Fast fading too are public outrage over Mamasapano, which plunged Aquino’s ratings just six months ago. Plus the plight of Supertyphoon Yolanda’s victims, still languishing in temporary housing despite P15 billion in unspent calamity funds. Not to mention the killings and oppression of Lumads (remember? … never mind).
So it will be with laglag-bala and more unsavory schemes under Aquino, especially this election fund-raising season, and often perpetrated with silent approval from administration stalwarts — notice former Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas’s silence on the airport scam.
And fawning, forgetful media creates the nationwide amnesia which allows schemers to keep preying on the public without shame or fear.
What negative media?
Those with long memories of Aquino-era anomalies cannot but shake their heads at his temerity in admonishing the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines last week about the media’s supposed negativism. In fact, so many appalling truths about his regime are kept off the headlines by his minions in leading papers and networks.
Again, ask at the dinner table, the office, or on Facebook who knows that crime, smuggling, and pork barrel all trebled under Aquino to all-time highs. Yes, his regime has seen the highest levels of crime, contraband, and congressional largesse ever.
Crime incidence as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority more than tripled, from 324,083 cases in 2010 to more than a million in the past two years, with another hefty rise in the first semester of 2015. Administration apologists blame better crime reporting. That’s BS. In fact, crime data enhancements were instituted in 2009, tallying ten times the figures in past years.
In the International Monetary Fund’s Direction of Trade Statistics, the discrepancy between the value of goods shipped to the Philippines as reported by our trading partners, and the amount of imports recorded by the Bureau of Customs also tripled.
That widely used estimate of smuggling leapt from $7.9 billion in 2009 to $26.6 billion last year — helped no doubt by the disappearance of more than 2,000 uninspected and untaxed containers in 2011, which Aquino never investigated. Total contraband under him tops P4 trillion, with lost value-added tax alone exceeding P760 billion. It’s not hard to guess who got a cut of that humungous pie of uncollected levies.
As for pork barrel, Aquino more than doubled the Priority Development Assistance Fund from about P9 billion or less a year in the last years of the Arroyo administration, to more than P20 billion annually in his own budget proposals starting 2011. Add to PDAF the unconstitutional juggling of P157 billion in budgeted funds under his Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Now, if Aquino isn’t hauled over embers for the nationwide explosion in crime, contraband and congressional sleaze under his watch, it’s no surprise that laglag-bala extortionists and other KKK schemers think they too can get away with murder. Over the weekend, Manila Airport chief and Aquino friend Jose Angel Honrado just denied involvement in the scam happening right under his nose, and offered no solution.
What’s worse, Aquino and Roxas want to give Filipinos six more years of their rule. If voters somehow agree, that too would largely be media’s fault.