IT is easy for Robredo partisans to act desperate and irresponsibly, by threatening known critics like me with legal suits, or by moving that I be declared as persona non grata in Naga City.
They did not know what hit them.
Anonymous writers came from nowhere to bring havoc not only to Leni Robredo, but to Jesse too, and in the process revealed a narrative that in its first installment alone has already effectively destabilized the foundations of a myth. And to think that there are four more installments coming.
#NagaLeaks has become a riveting, raw, well-researched piece that tells about power, greed, corruption and murder. It talks of the Robredo-Villafuerte political dynasty, and how it took control of a city despite its own internal cleavages and fractures. It talks of how the Robredo brand has effectively created a mythology, of Jesse Robredo in his tsinelas and shorts, to cover up what was alleged by its authors as a tale of political corruption.
What is painted in the expose is a Jesse Robredo who branded himself as a paragon of good governance.
In political science, governance is defined to be good if it possesses three important characteristics – transparency, accountability and participation. On the surface, Jesse Robredo was imaged as one who championed these in Naga City. He became the darling of the intelligentsia as a shining example of what we can only teach as ideal text book constructs. Academic papers were written about him. One paper entitled “The Robredo Style: Philippine Local Politics in Transition” written by Takeshi Kawanaka, was published in Kasarinlan, Philippine Journal of Third World Studies, further affirming Robredo’s sterling performance. In fact, De La Salle University has renamed its Institute of Governance after him to honor his brand of governing.
In August 31, 2000, Jesse Robredo was conferred the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, in recognition of his brand of leadership, which the award-giving body saw as embodied in “his giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.”
Yet, #NagaLeaks appeared to have demolished the basis for this adulation.
Stories of hidden wealth and properties listed to dummies undermine claims that Robredo personified transparency.
It is also alleged that Jesse Robredo’s reign as mayor was almost like a functional dictatorship without the overt acts of tyranny, with him possessing full control of all political organs in the city. Dissent was allegedly meted out with exclusion and even persecution, and in the case of the unexplained disappearance of Emilio Aguinaldo, it may have even led to a political execution. If true, these would undermine any claim to accountability.
What could further undermine accountability are the reports, if true, of his inaction on the proliferation of illegal gambling, and his alleged tacit tolerance of the vices of his political allies, which, according to the report, could have even included drug use and trade,
It is claimed by #NagaLeaks that Jesse Robredo hand-picked his political lieutenants, from barangay captains to members of the City Council. He allegedly exacted loyalty. This clique mentality, if indeed true, could effectively prevent meaningful participation. Political participation could not just rest on voters giving him resounding electoral victories, where his ticket claimed victory after victory brought about by a city mesmerized by the public transcript of his political brand. Meaningful political participation also entails a process that truly accords dissenters their voice, that they are taken seriously, and that they are protected.
Allegations made in #NagaLeaks require further substantiation, and it has to be done since the claims are serious.
It is indeed easy for a Robredo partisan to dismiss the claims made in #NagaLeaks as mere political slander. It is convenient to accuse it as a craven attempt to besmirch the reputation of a dead icon in order to smear his widow who happens to be the Vice President of the Republic and a prominent member of the political opposition.
In the end, what will validate the allegations are the people of Naga themselves.
And already, people are coming out to validate the stories.
All over Naga City, people are talking, in cafes, in dinner tables, in sari-sari stores, in wakes.
Young people ask the old to tell them the truth. Older people grapple with the pain of being told of things which they knew about all along but just kept to themselves, perhaps due to fear, partly due to hesitation to blurt out an inconvenient truth and slander a popular brand.
But now they are talking, not only in whispers or hushed voices, but openly. Justice has finally come for Emilio Aguinaldo. That is what they say.
These are signs that monuments built on lies are beginning to fall. The foundations of a myth have been undermined.
It is therefore understandable that those who held Jesse Robredo up so high are now disoriented, and irrationally angry. If the allegations made by the writers of #NagaLeaks are true, then indeed they have been deceived.