In applying a double standard in our society and in our public life, President Corazon Aquino set the bar when she ordered the inclusion of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law that became law in 1988 when she signed it.
As everyone knows by now, the SDO enabled the Cojuangco family of President Cory to escape from the land reform act with their Hacienda Luisita (all 6,500 hectares of it) intact and free from the clutches of the law’s intended farmer-beneficiaries.
In the annals of government in this country, no law perhaps was more patently discriminatory than CARL. And no president staked more of her prestige and influence for the sake of family and kin than President Cory.
While President Cory set the bar, her son, President Benigno Aquino 3rd, is equally earnest in applying a double standard under his government. He could still set a new standard in the final years of his term if he gathers all his wits and guts about him to hammer out a law that will drive this nation nuts.
Comedian Joey de Leon has memorably posterized the administration’s standard of justice with a T-shirt proclaiming “no one is above dilaw.” Dilaw is the Filipino word for yellow. It deftly seduces the yellow crowd to fall on their own sword.
On stark display now is the way this administration is applying a double standard in the treatment of public officials who have been tagged by whistleblowers as being involved in the multi-billion pork barrel scam.
While two opposition senators, Senators Jose Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla jr., are already under custody in Camp Crame, the justice department, the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan have not proceeded with the same dispatch in dealing with legislators and administration officials who have been named by the same whistleblowers, and whose loot may have been even larger.
In protest against their indictment, Estrada and Revilla have accused the administration of “selective justice,” meaning that the government chose to prosecute them and spared politicians and officials allied with the president.
“Selective justice” is not in the lexicon of political science, but “double standard” is a well-recognized concept in public service ethics.
Violation of modern jurisprudence
Using the ever reliable Wikipedia, I extracted the following definition and explanatory note on “double standard” from the website:
“A double standard is the application of different sets of principles for similar situations, or by two different people in the same situation. A double standard may take the form of an instance in which certain concepts (often, for example, a word, phrase, social norm, or rule) are perceived as acceptable to be applied by one group of people, but are considered unacceptable—taboo—when applied by another group.
“The concept of a double standard has long been applied (as early as 1872) to the fact that different moral structures are often applied to men and women in society.
“A double standard can therefore be described as a biased or morally unfair application of the principle that all are equal in their freedoms. Such double standards are seen as unjustified because they violate a basic maxim of modern legal jurisprudence: that all parties should stand equal before the law. Double standards also violate the principle of justice known as impartiality, which is based on the assumption that the same standards should be applied to all people, without regard to subjective bias or favoritism based on social class, rank, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age or other distinctions. A double standard violates this principle by holding different people accountable according to different standards.”
A Machiavellian strategy
Filipinos instinctively recoil from the use by two Aquino presidents of a double standard. One brazenly employing it is shocking. Two is sickening. Is it a genetic trait?
We are being asked to tolerate the violation of an immemorial tradition of equality of citizens before the law that is embedded in our Constitution and our culture.
The current policy of the government is repugnant because it is targeting top leaders of the political opposition, and young political leaders who aspire for higher office in 2016.
I can understand why there are many who are not exactly sorry that Estrada or Revilla are now being prosecuted or persecuted, because they apparently feasted on their PDAF allocations with gusto, and on the DAP funds that were dangled before them.
What is frightening is the way the cases of Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala have been swept under the rug, with no investigation at all. After initially including TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva in the batch of officials for indictment, the justice department has relented and cleared him.
This tells us how partial President Aquino is.
And this suggests the fate of the countless other cases involving other legislators and administration allies who have been named on the lists of Janet Lim Napoles and Benhur Luy.
If the expose and their testimony were good enough to justify the indictment of the opposition leaders, why are they unconvincing with respect to the allies and partymates of President Aquino.
The more I look at the pork barrel scam and the many disclosures slowly oozing out, the more I am convinced that there was a Machiavellian mind directing and orchestrating this caper from the beginning—encompassing Napoles and her agents, the DBM officials and the officers of government corporations.
Machiavelli believed that politics is amoral, merely a process of obtaining results through the effective use of power.
There is a Machiavelli in this administration, in charge of puppeteering.
I suspect that the objective is to preserve/consolidate the power of the President and the Liberal Party, and to ensure its succession in the 2016 elections.
To ensure this goal, the plotters would stop at nothing.
And they counted on the corruptibility of politicians to advance their project, and on their control of the justice department and Ombudsman to crush the opposition and protect their allies.
But such cynicism presumes an environment and a public that would just lie supine before the reality of corruption. It depends on a media watchdog forever sleepy and noynoying.
But thankfully, Rip Van Winkle has awakened. The public and the media have not only wakened in outrage over the plunder of public funds, they are starting to remember their better selves, when purpose and principle counted in our national life.
The Aquino family standard of double standards will fall.