As one has come to expect, there is little time to breathe between issues these days, and it’s not even because all of these issues are equally important. As it is, media itself cannot help but jump from one thing to another, quickly leaving the last story that gave them the needed online hits for the next “big” story that just might give them more.
It almost doesn’t matter who it comes from, or how it appears on our social media feeds -– with new websites popping up and mainstream media suffering the brunt of the credibility question, suddenly everyone is credible. It also means in fact that no one actually is.
Senators, witnesses, the President’s communications team included.
The unprepared madam
If there was anything I could not quite wrap my head around, listening to the Matobato statements at the Senate investigation on the current spate of extrajudicial killings, it was how badly contextualized the presentation was, and how badly prepared by Senator Leila de Lima.
The subject could have been contextualized in the statements made by one Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, long before he decided to run for president, when he himself admitted to being the Davao Death Squad (DDS), on Davao television. The footage of that is all over the Internet, and transcripts abound as well. That he won, regardless of these admissions, is also critical to any discussion that might be had in relation to the current spate of EJKs, given his history as Davao mayor.
Also, the senator could have at least prepared for Senator Alan Peter Cayetano’s tirades, something everyone expected, but which, it seemed, caught Senator De Lima flatfooted. What, she imagined that President Duterte’s running mate would sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of Matobato as witness? How naïve of her.
The senator could have also built a better case in relation to actually having Matobato speak to the nation that day, by explaining –- even in that press conference that she convened right after the Senate hearing -– how this is no different from the ways in which the Senate had “tried” government officials before, even those who are unimpeachable, because they are president.
Or vice president.
The defensive men
Not long ago, Senators Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes, along with Senator Koko Pimentel, were the tagteam to beat in the Senate. That is, they were the tagteam beating the heck out of Vice President Jojo Binay’s credibility, high up in the surveys he was, and poised to win the presidency.
A case of corruption in Makati was used to try VP Binay in the court of public opinion via the Senate. This is no different from the case of EJKs committed by the DDS in Davao, and how it is being used to hit the credibility and support base of President Duterte.
And contrary to what he might believe, no amount of hysterical defensiveness from now Senate President Pimentel will erase this fact: for close to a year before the 2016 elections, he was party to the way the Senate was used to discredit the second highest official in the land. And he, along with Cayetano and Trillanes, were part of that incredible process that shifted from investigating the Makati Parking Building II to critiquing the senior citizen services of Makati, to creating the fiction of Hacienda Binay, to denying the integrity of 11 Commission on Audit reports because there was one “special” report they wanted us all to believe in.
One does not care for the Senate President’s explanations at this point, about how that was different from what Senator De Lima now wants to do with Matobato and witnesses like him (surely there will be more to come). Looking at it as a citizen-spectator, I see no difference. It is the Senate of the Philippines scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Or is it the Philippines scraping the bottom of the Senate barrel?
The not-so-secret plan
Who benefits from these arguments does not even matter. When the Cayetano-Pimentel-Trillanes triumvirate started their anti-Binay campaign in the Senate, it was long before President Duterte spoke publicly about running for president. Then, it was clear, that ruining VP Binay would serve no one else but the Liberal Party.
Now, Cayetano points out that the surfacing of Matobato as a witness of Senator De Lima would serve no one but the Liberal Party, with VP Leni Robredo standing next in line for the presidency.
The Liberal Party, via VP Robredo, had spoken on the same day as the Matobato hearing: there is no Plan B, and she assured the Cabinet that there is no plan to oust the President. The following day, she said it was offensive and unfair that she was being implicated in this talk about ousting the President: “Ako tingin ko very unfair ‘yon. Unang-una, hindi naman kami nag-uusap usap. Hindi ko nga alam na may lalabas na witness. Hindi ko naman kilala ‘yung witness na ‘yon. Hindi naman ako kasali sa pagplano na ilalabas ‘yon. Kaya [sa]tingin ko, very unfair ‘yon. Saka kasi ‘yung pagkasabi, parang ino-operate na matanggal ‘yung ating Pangulo para ako ‘yung pumalit.”
Regarding Senator De Lima, it seems important for VP Leni to be a little more circumspect in coming out and delivering statements left and right about issues of the day, if only because in the process of defending herself and her party, there is a tendency to sound like some political neophyte who does not know how the court of public opinion operates, and who cannot believe how operations can be happening right under her nose, without her permission.
The pa-innocent, in-the-service of the public attitude is not something that sells at this point, not because we saw how Cayetano and Pimentel benefited from the results of their character assassination of VP Binay but also because VP Leni, for all the press releases, has yet to actually reveal that she’s doing anything at all for the housing sector.
As for Senator De Lima, I do appreciate her daring, but I cannot get over how she is deliberately sacrificing this man Matobato by her lack of preparedness. As pawn to this crisis of credibility we all face, Matobato will be the first to go.