POSTSCRIPT / August 21, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Senators' overreaction betrayed an inner fear

FACE to face with two witnesses retailing what sounded to them like fantastic tales, it should have been very easy for our senators to act senatorial last Friday during their joint committee hearings.

The senators missed that chance to listen from a higher moral plane the stories of Col. Victor Corpus, AFP intelligence services chief, and former police agent Ador Mawanay, on alleged high crimes of police boss-turned-senator Ping Lacson.

If decorum is demanded of the public in such legislative inquiries, with more reason must decorum be manifest in the language and demeanor of the honorable senators.

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THERE was absolutely no reason for anyone of them, including Sen. Loren Legarda, to froth in the mouth and hurl thundervolts at the witnesses who were actually their guests and not underworld characters hauled in for interrogation.

One interesting question is why some of the senators acted the way they did. It looked to us as a desperate act of self-defense. We think some of them were apparently moved by some inner fear.

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POSTSCRIPT POLL: We ask our readers to choose from this list what they think is/are the reason(s) for such behavior:

  1. They (some of the senators) expected a carpetbombing from Corpus and Mawanay and so had to defend themselves by taking the offensive.
  2. They feared Corpus, whose dossier-gathering includes even senators.
  3. They wanted to protect Lacson because he is one of the boys.
  4. They have some drug lord friends in their closets.
  5. They themselves have substantial dollar deposits abroad.
  6. Other reasons (please explain).

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FOR easier verification, respondents are requested to give their real names and addresses and not hide themselves. We also need their age, sex and location (not for publication) for statistical purposes.

If responding by email, please type Senate Poll on the subject line so the item does not get mixed with the other mail. If sending a response by mail or by hand, also write Senate Poll on the envelope.

Keep the explanation of your choice within 50 words. We reserve the right to edit messages.

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SECRET DEPOSITS: Regarding some senators being in the same boat as Lacson, there must be some way to force each senator to say under oath that he/she does not have any bank deposit abroad.

This is important because it might explain why some senators were falling all over themselves trying to block any inquiry into accusations that Lacson has foreign bank deposits running into millions of dollars.

There is nothing wrong per se in having foreign bank deposits if these funds were acquired, deposited and moved around without violation of law.

In the case of government officials, there is the added requirement for them to declare such money in their statement of assets and liabilities. Failure to declare such foreign deposits raises a red flag.

The media can ask each senator if he/she has any bank deposit abroad. It may not be under oath, but the official’s declaration is put on record in the public mind.

* * *

IF some of our so-called senators cannot have substance inside them, on the surface they should at least display a sheen of order and decorum, especially in official proceedings in full view of the public.

That direct admonition by playing coach Sen. Robert Jaworski to new team member Sen. Ralph Recto (erroneously referred to by us last time as Rafael and a lawyer) could have been avoided or mitigated if the basketbrawler who had strayed into the Senate hall observed the rules.

Senate President Franklin Drilon (where was he when the boys went on a rampage?) may want to call in the hardcourt bully and remind him that he is now a senator. He may also want to teach him the finer points of the rules of order.

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PARLIAMENTARY RULES: Jaworski has been in the Senate long enough to have learned the fundamentals — unless he has not been paying attention or could not grasp what’s going on.

He should have noticed, for instance, that the seasoned parliamentarians do not address one another directly on the floor. When they react to a colleague, they do not address him directly, but talk to him obliquely through the presiding officer.

So we hear them saying “Mr. President” or “Mr. Chairman” pretending to talk to the one presiding — although they are actually saying something meant for a colleague just a few feet away.

* * *

THIS is a good practice since it prevents direct clashes. The roundabout route of the debate helps lower the temperature and dull the barbs even at the height of a heated discussion.

But look at what Jaworski did. Hearing Recto starting to ask why Mawanay was being detained, he threw a curt remark directly to the Batangas solon reminding him that he is now one of the boys.

While teamwork even of the violent kind may have worked for Jaworski on the hardcourt, in the Senate and the rest of the civilized world, peer-loyalty stops where propriety begins.

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PROPER ROLES: No wonder G. B. Javellana of bojo@bcd.i-next.net, one of the many readers whose email on the subject clogged our mailbox, has this to say about some of the characters that our flawed system had transformed into senators:

“Let basketball stars stay in the hardcourt, radio/TV personalities in their announcer’s booth, generals in the barracks, and dancing queens in the ballroom.”

* * *

BEFORE we go deeper into the subject, we clarify that our comments on that Friday hearing refer only to the Senate committees’ handling of the testimonies of Corpus and Mawanay.

We are not saying that the two witnesses were telling the truth or that Lacson, Legarda and Sen. Vicente Sotto are guilty of the accusations leveled against them.

There cannot be a determination of guilt or innocence of anybody in the Senate inquiry because the committees are not the proper forum for deciding criminal cases. That function is vested exclusively in the courts.

* * *

SECOND PRESIDENT: El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde was reported to have referred to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the flock’s Saturday evening prayer as pangalawang pangulo, which can freely translate to vice president.

Velarde clarified in his birthday party yesterday that some reporters may have misheard him when he stuttered pang pangulo in his introduction of the President. We were waiting for him to point out that GMA was really the pangalawang pangulo or the second president for the 1998-2004 presidential term. She really is.

In any case, the President herself made no issue of it and went on to enjoy the party. She came out obviously pleased because Velarde told the press later that if GMA continued the good things she was doing, El Shaddai would support her in 2004.

* * *

ASSESSING GMA: Now listen to these assessments taken from the midyear economic and political briefing entitled The Economy Under Arroyo: Crisis and Bitter Pills by Rosario Bella Guzman, and Stiff Challenges Under the Arroyo Regime by Antonio Tujan Jr. presented on July 11, 2001.

“President Arroyo currently faces extreme challenges in her administration, not only because she owes many people and has to deliver the expectations of many different quarters. President Arroyo is most challenged by the very historical circumstance of her assumption to power. She is taking over the economic crisis in its exacerbated conditions — the long-term effects of neo-liberal prescriptions — and cleaning up the mess of her predecessors. She is committed to complete the process of economic liberalization and globalization but has entered during the most difficult part of the process. Yet, President Arroyo is tasked to deliver the expectations of the people — the Filipino out there — who have invested much in democracy and to whom she owes her mandate, and who now painfully feel the bite of the crisis.” (RB Guzman)

“Is there indeed a conspiracy to destabilize as the Macapagal-Arroyo administration claims? Or are the current problems the natural effects of economic crisis and political instability such that the Estrada-Marcos camps probably need not lift a finger to destabilize further? Or both” (AA Tujan Jr.)

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 21, 2001)

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