Was it to mock our people that the 16th Congress sent to battle — to contend with the Supreme Court and Vice President Jejomar Binay—the legislators who headed the lists of senators and congressmen who received Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds from Budget Secretary Butch Abad as bribes for impeaching former chief justice Renato Corona?
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th carried the colors for the Philippine Senate. As proof of his being No.1, I refer readers to my column (“Senators and their DAP loot,” Times, July 31, 2014), and the Supreme Court’s DAP ruling, where on page 114, Trillanes is listed as the first among the bribe-takers, in the list submitted by Butch Abad to the High Court.
Not to be outshone, Rep. Neil Tupas was the flag-bearer of the House of Representatives. As proof of his No.1 distinction, I refer readers to the list of 188 congressmen who voted to impeach CJ Corona and got rewarded with P10 million each. The list has been repeatedly posted online by Showbiz Government, where the administrator also supplied photos of Tupas.
To get the complete lists, just Google them; many websites can quickly supply the information.
Representing Congress in caricature
These two personify, in caricature, the authority of Congress, because they cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim to represent the best and the brightest in the Philippine legislature.
The incongruity of their designation summons from the recesses of memory and history some stirring tales and lessons.
During the time of the ancients, when armies went to battle and had to be represented in one-on-one combat by their champions, they invariably picked their most noble and virtuous warriors—in the belief that with virtue, the gods would favor them with victory.
Savvy media journalists suspect that picking Trillanes and Tupas as the Senate and House champions is a case of reverse psychology or kitsch.
Holy Scriptures provides a different take.
Jesus and the adulterous woman
In the Gospel According to Saint John, Chapter 8, it is told that the scribes and Pharisees brought before our Lord Jesus Christ a woman taken (caught?) in adultery. They contended that the woman should be stoned in keeping with the law as handed down by Moses.
At first, Jesus did not heed them, but with their insistence on a response, Jesus lifted himself up and said unto them, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”
The chapter closes with the famous verse: ”If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Conscience–stricken, the scribes and Pharisees left Jesus one by one.
Trillanes as grand inquisitor
These stories ameliorate the discomfort of contemplating the melancholy spectacle of Congress turning to discredited members to execute its ignoble assignments from the Aquino administration.
In the Senate, Senator Trillanes with evident relish plays grand inquisitor in the Senate investigation of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, and the alleged over-pricing of a Makati government parking building. The inquiry is plainly designed to destroy Binay’s lead in the race for the presidency in 2016.
Trillanes’s principal sidekicks in the anti-Binay project are Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel II, two key recipients (No.8 and No. 11 in the list) also of DAP funds, P50 million each.
In the House, Tupas has the entire House committee on Justice to back him up in bullying the Supreme Court, and the rest of the chamber as reserves if he cannot get the job done.
Because the High Court is chock-full of bar topnotchers and legal luminaries, Tupas, a neophyte in the law in comparison, needs all the help he can get. He needs the ammunition that only Aquino can provide, such as the threat of BIR investigations of individual justices and the curtailment of departmental budgets.
If these missions are so important to the administration and to the Liberal Party, why did Drilon and Belmonte entrust these tasks to the likes of Trillanes and Tupas.
If these are important institutional objectives of the Senate and the House, why did they tap riff-raff for the execution.
To paraphrase our Lord’s counsel, why not deploy the most able and the most credible Senate and House members for the task?
Why not tap lawmakers who are DAP-free and have the vocabulary to defend the cause?
Oddly, it is not because the Congress has no good apples left.
Miriam Santiago and Bongbong Marcos
In the Senate, there are two senators who are indubitably free of the stench and smell of DAP, because they voted to acquit Corona at his impeachment trial, and because they clearly did not receive a single peso of DAP funding then or since.
These DAP-free senators are Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Also still DAP-free because they were not yet senators at the time of the trial are the new senators elected in the 2013 midterm elections. These are senators Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Juan Edgardo Angara, JV Ejercito, and Cynthia Villar.
Two of these require an asterisk.
Angara inhibited himself from signing the impeachment complaint in the House because his father, Sen. Edgardo Angara, would be a juror in the impeachment trial. The elder Angara would be one of the bribe-takers, with a P50-million loot.
Ejercito signed the impeachment complaint, and got the P10-million reward for signing. He has since pledged to return the money to the treasury.
In the House, I’ve learned from Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz that there are over a hundred lawmakers in the 16th Congress who did not receive any DAP funds. Many won reelection (and did not sign the Corona impeachment complaint), and many are totally new at the job.
And yet, many of these DAP-free lawmakers are part of the majority coalitions in the House and Senate, that are nominally headed by the Liberal Party.
In the case of Miriam and Bongbong, it is highly unlikely that they will agree to throw stones at the Supreme Court and VP Binay. They are more likely to cast stones at the administration and their colleagues.
In the House, the DAP-free lawmakers can be the force for institutional renewal.
Disguising the true agenda of power-seeking
The stoning of Jojo Binay and the bullying of the Supreme Court are tawdry projects that degrade our public life.
By putting up disreputable lawmakers as accusers, the administration does not raise its public standing. But perhaps this is by design. It seeks by this to disguise its true agenda of power-politics and Aquino’s absolution.
To the drama of trying Arroyo, Corona, Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, they have added the absurdity of Tupas, Trillanes and Cayetano as champions of ethics and morality.