The probe by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee into an allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building has cemented the perception of many ordinary Filipinos that the powerful investigative body of the Upper House has become a vehicle for members of the ruling majority to demolish their political opponents.
Unlike the pre-Martial Law blue ribbon committee whose investigations gained notoriety for its alleged shakedown of businesses and business folks, the post-EDSA Revolt reincarnation of the Senate’s Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations – as the Blue Ribbon Committee is more formally known – has attained infamy of a different kind: the public vilification of political adversaries.
Nowhere has this been more manifest than in the investigation into the multi-billion pork barrel scam, which culminated in the arrest and detention of Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile.
After the opposition senators were placed behind bars, blue ribbon committee chair Senator TG Guingona announced that he is no longer interested in resuming hearings on the PDAF scam. This even after the alleged pork scam ringleader’s confession that several other senators, congressmen and even some Cabinet officials had also participated – and profited – from the anomalous scheme.
Now, Guingona’s committee has set its sights on the 11-storey office and parking building project of the Makati City government during the term of then mayor, Vice-President Jojo Binay, and current mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay.
In a highly unusual move (probably a first in Senate history), Guingona allowed the creation of a sub-committee under the blue ribbon committee to be presided over by Senator Koko Pimentel, to handle the investigation into the construction of the controversial edifice.
Although Pimentel claims that the purpose of his sub-committee’s investigation is “principally legislative,” many Filipinos aren’t buying that line, and understandably so.
What makes the probe of Pimentel’s sub-committee highly suspect is that the construction of the building wholly financed by the local government of Makati is a purely local issue, not to mention an unprecedented departure from the blue ribbon committee’s historical and traditional task of investigating only matters of “national” significance.
Another thing that’s quite dubious about Pimentel’s investigation is that his panel’s main witness, lawyer Renato Bondal, is an admitted political foe of the Binays, having lost to Mayor Junjun in the 2010 mayoralty race.
It doesn’t help that the two Nacionalista Party (NP) senators quarterbacking the hearings – Senators Antonio Trillanes (who authored the Senate resolution calling for the investigation) and Alan Peter Cayetano – are known critics of the Binays. Incidentally, both senators have expressed their intention to run for higher office in 2016, making them potential rivals of Vice-President Binay in the next elections.
What also raises many people’s eyebrows is that the Ombudsman – which is the office tasked to investigate and file cases against erring public officials—already has an on-going investigation into the controversial building after Bondal filed plunder and graft charges against Vice-President Binay, his son Junjun and 23 others last month.
The parallel probe being conducted by Pimentel’s sub-committee does not serve any real legislative purpose except to provide a venue for budding opponents and critics to destroy the public image of Vice-President Binay, who has been a consistent frontrunner in presidential surveys.
We’re sure, however, that Vice-President Binay isn’t surprised by the apparent hatchet job against him.
As early as June this year (or more than a month before Bondal surfaced), Joey Salgado, the Vice-President’s spokesperson, had correctly predicted that a group of “serial losers” in the Makati local elections would be filing charges against the Vice President, Mayor Junjun and several city officials over a local project that had previously passed review and audit by the Commission on Audit (COA).
The political enemies of the Vice President “at the national and local levels have come to some sort of an arrangement to mount a full-scale demolition job on the Vice President and his family” preparatory to the 2016 national elections, Salgado revealed.
The way we see it, Guingona’s blue ribbon committee ought to be spending taxpayer money investigating issues that matter more to ordinary Filipinos such as the 64 non-government organizations (NGOs) not identified with Janet Napoles which received approximately P4-billion worth of pork barrel funds. That’s double the amount pocketed by Napoles’ shell foundations. Until now, the players behind these bogus NGOs have not been unmasked and brought to justice.
There’s also the exposé of rice trader Jojo Soliman who claimed that National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Arthur Juan extorted P15-million from him, to be divided equally among the NFA chief, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Presidential Assistant on Food Security Kiko Pangilinan. Soliman presented bank deposit slips to prove that money changed hands but the investigation seems to have been stonewalled.
And what about the frequent MRT breakdown reportedly being orchestrated by transportation officials pushing for a negotiated (i.e. no-bidding) contract with their favored maintenance contractor?
No wonder the Senate’s survey rating keeps on plummeting.