What happened to Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay is not a simple case of implementing the rule of law. It is actually a case of bending the law to suit the self-serving interests of the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the person who should be removed first if we are really serious about nipping corruption in the bud.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
Watching the face-off between Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay and Local Government Sec. Ronaldo Puno on national television can either send shivers down your spine or make you froth in the mouth. When Binay pressed Puno to state the charges against him and show evidence, the latter merely replied that his office is still in the process of investigation. Puno added that he was just following the orders of Malacañang.
Malacañang said that there are no political motives in the suspension of Mayor Binay and even that of Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao “Pewee” Trinidad. The spokespersons of the administration said that they were merely implementing the law. A close scrutiny of what happened to Binay, however, shows that this is not a case of implementing the rule of law but of bending it to suit the self-serving interests of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
If there is anyone who should be suspended to facilitate an impartial and thorough investigation of cases of corruption and fraud, it should be Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In her case, the evidence stared us in the face (and irritated our ears as we listened to the “Hello Garci” wiretapped conversations). Even Macapagal-Arroyo could not deny it entirely and tried to mitigate the impact by admitting to an act of impropriety through a televised national address.
The charge against Binay is based on his alleged hiring of ghost employees. Granting for the sake of argument that these were true, the act itself and the amount of money lost to the government are dwarfed (no pun intended) by the magnitude of the cases being thrown at the Arroyo family, among them the Jose Pidal account allegedly owned by Mike Arroyo, the president’s husband; the bank accounts in Germany allegedly owned by the Arroyo family; the use of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) funds in the 2004 elections; the stealing of fertilizer funds; and the overpriced construction of the Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard.
Despite all these, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo refuses to step down, be suspended or be impeached. (Of course she would never be proven guilty of any wrongdoing as long as her ruling party has the numbers in the House of Representatives.) In Binay’s case, he was suspended even if his guilt has not yet been proven.
Pattern of repression
The significance of Binay’s case is not merely confined to Makati City. When taken in the context of the national situation, his ordeal reflects the pattern of repression being experienced by those who dare to be critical of the current administration.
The pattern of repression is clear. Opposition lawmakers are denied funds. Whistle-blowers, as well as media persons reporting on corruption cases, are charged with libel. Recalcitrant local officials are also removed. However, the most blatant and vicious forms of political repression are being experienced by the Left.
Rep. Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) is still technically imprisoned while government prosecutors are trying everything from deception to fabricating evidences and producing “witnesses” to keep him there. Reps. Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna (People First), Liza Masa of Gabriela Women’s Party-list and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, together with six other officials of these party list groups, are facing trumped-up charges of rebellion. As of this writing, there are 764 political activists killed since 2001 when Macapagal-Arroyo became president.
All those who seek the ouster of Macapagal-Arroyo from Malacanang are contained, harassed, intimidated, removed, imprisoned or even killed. On the other hand, those who support the continued stay of the administration enjoy the perks of being close to the powers-that-be.
Hell-bent or hell-sent?
The Arroyo administration is hell-bent (or hell-sent, depending on one’s perspective) on keeping itself in power.
It is determined to push through with changing the 1987 Constitution through a people’s initiative to give Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the power of both president and prime minister until 2010. After that, she could be declared prime minister for life.
Amending the Constitution to remove all restrictions to foreign trade and investment is meant to please the administration’s benefactors, particularly the U.S., as well as big foreign and local businesses. The removal of restrictions on the establishment of foreign military bases, the continued stay of foreign troops and the bringing into the country of nuclear weapons would please the U.S. even more.