What do the Senate coup, the fertilizer and Euro generals scams, and the continuing extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and filing of trumped up charges against activists have in common? These show the rottenness of politics in the Philippines.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
Whodunit? Who was behind Sen. Manny Villar’s ouster as Senate President last Monday, November 17? Some say Malacañang was behind it as retribution for Villar’s approval of the arrest order on Jocelyn “Joc Joc” Bolante. Others surmise that Malacañang did it to pave the way for charter change that would perpetuate Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power beyond 2010. Suspicions regarding Malacañang’s hand in the Senate coup grew stronger with the revival of efforts at the House of Representatives, involving no less than Arroyo’s son Mikey Arroyo, to railroad charter change through a constituent assembly.
There are, on the other hand, those who think former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada was behind the Senate coup to kick Villar out of the race for the presidency to pave the way for a single opposition bet in 2010. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s acquiescence to the ouster moves, they claimed, revealed Erap’s hand. But eventually, Villar virtually absolved Estrada by saying that he did not harbor any bad feelings for the former president who he helped impeach.
Eventually, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, and Loren Legarda admitted that they were the core group that engineered Villar’s ouster, citing the C-5 insertions in the national budget – that would have increased the value of one of Villar’s properties- as the basis for their moves. Sen. Francis Pangilinan said politicking among the presidentiables was to blame, with Malacañang benefiting from it in the end.
Sen. Manny Villar’s ouster from the Senate Presidency did not come as a surprise, no matter who was behind it and for whatever reason. He had it coming. Sen. Manny Villar was elected to the senate because he joined and identified himself with the opposition. It would be remembered that the opposition ticket in the senate won overwhelmingly during the 2007 elections because of the Filipino people’s frustration over the Arroyo government. But upon assuming his senate seat, Villar – together with Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, and Jinggoy Estrada – coalesced with administration senators for the division of plum positions, with him securing the position of Senate President.
Because of that Villar straddled both the administration and opposition camps with no distinct position. In doing so, Villar exemplified the opportunist politics that have pervaded the Philippine political landscape since the Commonwealth government. Villar revealed his “trapo” self through and through. And if the Senate coup did not succeed last November 17, it would have been successful the next time around. Worse, Villar was replaced by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile who has rabidly defended all presidents since Marcos, conveniently shifting loyalties from one president to another.
Politics of dictators
Intolerance of dissent, total disregard for laws, due process, and rights, quick to censure criticisms, a volatile temper, and with no compunction about murdering and abducting people characterize dictators and the type of politics they practice. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo learned a lot from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in this regard.
The only difference is that Marcos did not conceal his dictatorial ways. He padlocked Congress and ruled by decree; he arrested all those who opposed his rule, including government officials, replacing them with his cronies; he closed all media outlets; he removed all the rights of the Filipino people then arrested and detained people without due process, tortured political prisoners, forcibly abducted people and made them disappear without a trace, committed extrajudicial killings, and forcibly displaced communities.
Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on the other hand, claims to rule democratically but runs roughshod over people’s rights – implementing a systematic program of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances targeting activists, torturing political prisoners, militarizing and terrorizing communities, and bending laws and due process to file trumped up charges against political dissenters.
She is also wont to censure media and threaten journalists with sedition and libel cases. However, she still tries to conceal her dictatorial ways. She did not padlock Congress. She also does not remove or arrest government officials, she threatens and bribes them.
Politics of bribery
The Arroyo government has perfected the art of bribing government officials to quell moves to impeach her or remove her from Malacañang through people power. She involved then Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. in the $329.5 million National Broadband Network deal with ZTE of China, which involved millions of pesos in bribes.
In the P728 million fertilizer scam, P5 million ($89,223 at the 2004 average exchange rate of $1=P56.039) was allotted to congressmen and local officials who are allies of the government. Top ranking police officials who went to Russia had access to P6.9 million (105, 000 euros) as “contingency fund”. When another impeachment complaint was filed in 2007 and the then House Speaker Jose de Venecia was dilly-dallying regarding what to do with it, the Arroyo government was caught distributing P500,000 ($10,834 at the 2007 average exchange rate of $1=P46.148) to administration allies right inside Malacañang.
Perhaps, this is why there are so many corruption scandals hounding the Arroyo government. While the Marcos family kept the loot among family members and a few cronies, Pres. Arroyo had to share it with the family’s allies to keep her in power.
The prevalence of the politics of opportunism, dictatorship, and bribery reveal the rottenness of the country’s political system. The Arroyo government has not only plundered the nation’s coffers, and brought the economy further to a state of backwardness – through its aggressive implementation of the policies of deregulation, liberalization, and privatization – it has also corrupted the country’s institutions and processes. With the rottenness of the political system, the backwardness of the country’s economy, and the scandalous plunder of resources, which are meant to uplift the lives of the Filipino people, it is no wonder that the lives of majority of the Filipino people continue to sink deeper into the quagmire of poverty.(Bulatlat.com)