The Senate committee inquisition being staged by Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III against Vice President Jejomar C. Binay appears to have at least three main goals.
One, to force Binay to abandon his plan to run for president in 2016.
Two, to provide a diversion from the continuing scandals rocking the Aquino administration. Three, to catapult either Trillanes or Cayetano or both to higher elective positions.
These are bound to fail, if they have not already failed.
As the demolition job intensifies, the more determined is Binay to run, and the more rabid are his supporters (hopefully also his funders) in expressing their support for him. So focused, however, are they on his running that they do not seem to mind how the playing field looks today, and how it would look by 2016.
This, to me, is the more important—prejudicial—question.
Can President B. S. Aquino 3rd guarantee a clean and honest election? Or does he expect us to simply settle for what the National Transformation Council sees as a cheap rerun of the 2010 and 2013 “hocus PCOS” operations, using Smartmatic’s precinct count optical scan machines, on behalf of the administration?
For now, Binay has outplayed his tormentors, as far as the political play is concerned.
By naming a young Nacionalista Party leader, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, to speak for him, and by making it known that he is considering former Senator Manny Villar, the NP chief, as his possible running mate, Binay has effectively pulled the rug from under the feet of Cayetano and Trillanes, who are both dreaming of running for president or vice president under the NP banner.
But this is not the main topic of this column.
Contrary to the growing preoccupation of many, I see no point in discussing anybody’s presidential prospects at this time. I refuse to be drawn into that corner. I believe the real question for now is whether we could survive another two years of Aquino’s constitutional crimes, and still hold a decent election by 2016, not merely a rerun of the “hocus PCOS” operations of 2010 and 2013.
Unless and until such elections could be guaranteed, those who want to see our political institutions rise again will have to seriously consider the NTC Lipa position that Aquino should step down now, without being immediately succeeded by any presumed constitutional successor, but to be replaced provisionally instead by a non-partisan, morally and spiritually directed council whose job will be solely to fix the broken system so that we could elect a new set of leaders in a clean and honest election later.
As the presumed constitutional “successor,” Binay cannot possibly be expected to agree to such a transition. But neither can he disagree that the electoral system is rotten, and that the need of the hour is to clean it up as a first step in reforming the constitutional and political system, which has been thoroughly degraded by Aquino’s one-man rule.
At Lipa last week, the NTC’s Catholic, Protestant and Muslim spiritual and moral leaders took the position that the 2010 and 2013 elections were not only fraudulent but above all illegal, having been conducted by a private Venezuelan corporation, using tampered PCOS machines, rather than solely by the Commission on Elections, which has the exclusive constitutional authority to conduct elections.
In their view, the Aquino government is but a de facto rather than a de jure government. Thus inserting an interim non-partisan council, and one supported by a broad national consensus, would not deprive anyone of his constitutional “right” to succession.
Binay’s tormentors are no supporters of the Council. Their attack on Binay is meant to force him out of the presidential race, which they seem to believe has already started, and should be concluded in 2016, whether or not the prostituted electoral system is changed. Although all is fair in love and war, what the three senators are doing is truly in violation of the Constitution and the rules on inquiries in aid of legislation.
What they are investigating are allegations already filed against Binay before the Ombudsman. The investigation is not in aid of any proposed or hypothetical legislation, but is prosecutory in nature. It is meant to try Binay by publicity through the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing.
We do not need to be law professors or lawyers to know this is flat wrong. The Constitution, the rules of the Senate and common sense will tell us the Senate blue ribbon committee is not the proper forum to investigate any alleged crime, especially if it is already being investigated by the Ombudsman. Senators themselves are not meant to be criminal investigators or prosecutors.
This is a tired subject, which I have tried to address so many times before. A few Saturdays ago, at the Kapihan at Anabel’s (Quezon City), I had a brief exchange with Trillanes on this question. I said then what I am saying now, that first, we shouldn’t be talking of who should be running or not running in 2016 at this time but rather of how to reform the rigged electoral system so that we could have clean and honest elections; and that the senators, having been so dirtied by the pork barrel scandal, have lost every right to investigate anybody else outside of themselves.
I tried to tell Trillanes that as Senate Majority Leader to five Senate presidents during my two terms in the Senate, I was a member of all standing committees. But I avoided those inquiries “in aid of legislation” which tended to be accusatory in character, and habitually turned into noisy police proceedings. I thought it was a grave abuse of parliamentary privilege for a committee or senator to “investigate” anybody who was already being investigated by the Ombudsman on the same allegations. This is exactly what the three young senators are doing to Binay.
Instead of showing my position to be flawed, Trillanes said it was “the refuge of the corrupt.” It was an offensive statement, and I had to tell the brash younger man that in my long years in public life–I was a Cabinet minister for 10 years from age 29 (the youngest on record), a legislator for 15, and continuously a writer-journalist for 50 now–I have never been involved in corruption.
He corrected himself by saying he was not referring to me at all, but said that I wasted my time as a senator by not participating in “investigations.” (Indeed, I failed to grandstand or shake down some people.) He seemed to believe this was the real duty of a senator. I said a senator could do much better by speaking to important public questions on the Senate floor.
There a senator could perform what Walter Bagehot (in The English Constitution) calls the “expressive function,” to express the mind of the people on all matters that come before the Senate; the “teaching function,” to teach the nation what it does not know; the “informing function,” to inform the Executive of the grievances of various sectors and what was wrong; and not least, the “legislative function,” to dissect and act on bills, memorials, and resolutions.
By using the plenary hall, I told Trillanes, I had managed to produce two fairly readable books of substantial speeches delivered on the Senate floor–a record of sorts in the last 30 or 40 years. After that brief run-in, I told some of his friends I would let the incident pass without further comment because he probably did not know what he was doing. But because the inquisition has become such a scandal, I am compelled to amend my position.
The bottom line is this: the three senators, having each received P50 million in Disbursement Acceleration Program “incentives” from Malacañang after convicting Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial, do not have clean hands. Not only do they have no business investigating anybody outside of themselves, they have no business remaining in the Senate and using our money to project themselves obscenely and dangerously for higher elective office.