Robert J. Shiller, the Yale University professor who famously warned of a coming burst in housing prices in 2005, received news early this week that he was one of the three economic Nobel winners of 2013. He called his brother in Detroit to ask: “Have you heard the news?” He was referring to his newly-minted Nobel prize.
Yeah, the brother said, “The (Detroit ) Tigers lost.”
That was how, Shiller probably deadpanned, his Detroit-based brother treated economists , even Nobel laureates. The loss of the Detroit Tigers, the hometown team now in the MLB playoffs, in Game 2 of the ALCS (courtesy of David Ortiz of the Red Sox), was the news, not his brother’s Nobel win .
The self-depreciating bent of truly-accomplished men like Shiller comes to mind as we are witness to the sense of exceptionalism of our local artistas cum politicians currently dragged into the most revolting corruption scandal in Philippine politics. This is the accusation that they and several others, cashed in on their congressional pork, in a brazen SARO-for- Cash exchange, an act so revolting that—in a country already immune to monumental acts of corruption—still delivered shock and anguish.
(Usually, it was about commissions. From their pork, some just received 10 per cent of the total for the BKL – binyag, kumpil, libing – expenses, plus other extra costs such as fiestas and basketball tournaments. The greedier ones got anywhere from 30 to 40 per cent, which led to the construction of sub-standard infrastructure. Or the construction of five kilometers of concrete for an allocation of 10 kilometers. The alleged Napoles payoffs, SARO-for-Cash with zero deliverables, had never been tried before.)
How have our artistas reacted to the charges that they have plundered public money?
Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., the number one vote getter in the 2010 senatorial election and candidate for president in 2016 were it not for the Napoles stink, stuck with a known formula—“the charges are all lies.” The demonization of Bong Revilla, he claimed, is all tied to dirty politics.
He is now refining the message and wants to file charges against the whistleblowers that accused him of exchanging his SARO for duffel bags of cash.
No remorse, no sense of contriteness, no apologies to the Filipino people. He is still on TV telling his “ amazing stories.”
Revilla Jr., however, has been a profile of moderation once compared with a fellow artista also charged with plunder – Senator JinggoyEstrada, the number two vote-getter in that same election. In what he probably perceived as taking the high road, Estrada alleged in a speech that the pro-administration and pro-PNoy senators received tens of millions of incentives for voting to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The fresh bomb delivered by Estrada threw the Aquino administration on the defensive and public wrath is now split between the Napoles NGOs and the legislator-cohorts and the Aquino administration that supposedly bribed senators to impeach an innocent chief justice.
A disbursement policy called DAP is now regarded with the same scorn as Napoles and her fake NGOs, never mind if the DAP was not a money pool, but a scheme for identifying fresh projects to fund from budgetary savings.
The bungling pool of presidential communicators, who take themselves and their righteousness too seriously , never faced one like Jinggoy, casual but lethal, and who regard facts and context as inconvenient when in pursuit of an agenda.
The emperor is naked, so claimed Jinggoy. And DAP became the stuff of headlines and object of the public wrath. The Left has now added the impeachment of the president on its wish list. The president’s approval rating is now down 15 points. And the next public polling may bring more distressing news to a now-embattled presidency.
The explosiveness of Jinggoy’s speech was almost neutralized by another artista, who like Jinggoy has long and deep political and showbiz links, Sharon Cuneta. Cuneta, the wife of former Senator Francis Pangilinan, issued an angry tweet after the speech. Jinggoy named the former senator as a recipient of the impeach-Corona funds.
Cuneta tweeted something like this: P10 million to anyone who can prove my husband got involved in official corruption. A timely advise—that she should not put her showbiz gravitas in the middle of a controversial and very weighty issue—calmed her down and the tweets ceased. Had she not heeded counsel, she could have stolen the thunder from Jinggoy, as her tweets, not the speech, would have grabbed the public attention .
It is the sense that they are way, way above the ordinary mortals – that they are exceptional—that drives artistas to behave that way. The other personalities charged with plunder mostly kept their peace and kept to themselves—then sought help from good lawyers. There was probably some expression of regret and remorse.
Not the artistas, who live in towering clouds above the rest of us. The only issue is for how long.
It is with some sadness that people from my town remember the election of 1984 for Batasang Pambansa. Movie great and former Senator Rogelio de la Rosa, the first movie actor who ambitioned for the presidency, was in the KBL slate for Pampanga. He was then an old man, his movie greatness almost forgotten, the awesome physical gifts that made an entire generation swoon over him no longer there.
He was also blissfully unaware that he was running under a party that was on the wrong side of history.
Now, I can hazard a guess on why he made that desperate political run. It was this sense that he was Roger de la Rosa—truly exceptional, unbound from morality and ordinariness.